PHILADELPHIA – Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority Route 47 runs for ten miles, connecting north and south Philadelphia. It’s the longest bus route in Philadelphia County, carrying 17,000 passengers daily through a medley of immigrant and ethnic communities. Riders include people born in the U.S., Korea, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Haiti, Cambodia, China, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Mexico, and Vietnam.
In the fall of 2016, artists Laura Deutch and Shira Walinsky emblazoned a single 47 bus with the message “We Are All Migrating Together,” and wrapped it—inside and out—with quotes from riders and images of landmarks and businesses along the route, including a Cambodian restaurant, a Mexican bakery, and an African hair-braiding salon.
47 Stories introduces passengers to Philadelphia while revealing the normally unspoken parallel experiences of those who quietly travel together daily. The bus-borne stories weave together lives, languages, and cultures: a bus driver who helped a blind passenger, a young person who yielded a seat to a senior, an artist whose sculptures enliven a stop on the route. Newcomers share their anxiety about how to ride the bus; one rider revealed to Deutch that he often overpaid because he didn’t know the fare and didn’t want to cause trouble.
The idea behind 47 Stories, say the artists, is to break down neighborhood barriers and reveal not only which places along the route are important to the participants, but also what they love and value about their community.
Cosponsored by Mural Arts Philadelphia and the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, and supported by foundation grants, the project also includes a series of short audio interviews with riders, and songs gleaned from them—a Route 47 playlist. All of the content can be accessed at tinyurl.com/47stories.