Over the past few months, I’ve been noticing something. Payphones are disappearing. We all know they are “dead” already. For years, we have been fed stories online and otherwise that payphones are phased out, the phone companies are taking them all away because they are too expensive to run, and other similar stories. Honestly, I didn’t see any of this until February. For the longest time, I still saw phones where I’ve always seen them (the exception being public schools, but that’s another topic). Phones at the corner store, by the post office, on the street in the city; they were all there.

Here stands an empty phone kiosk in Philadelphia (the corner of JFK and Market it you want to be precise). I remember there being a phone here, but it’s gone now. I was by this spot not three days ago, and the kiosk still stands, but seems more or less forgotten in plain view. Just another eyesore of the city. A monolith to inefficiency in the modern world, but everything at one point in life.

This next image is from Philadelphia again, at 30th Street Station (At the regional rail platforms). I wanted to take a picture of the empty kiosks I saw, but by the time I showed up, only the outlines of the bases were left. Now, the station is still full of pay phones. Banks of them line a wall leading to the police station. Cubes of them are situated near customer service. Two are outside the food court bathroom. While I’ve been to this station several times a day over the past year, I can’t see I’ve seen them used much, but there they stand, ready for your quarters.

A few months later, I noticed that payphones were disappearing from other places as well. The local train stations had them gone over night. Not even silhouettes or outlines of old paint. No exposed cables or junction boxes leading to nothing, just no record of them ever being there. While I’m not opposed to the concept of removing payphones (considering that is how I got a few), I’m wondering just how long it will be until all record of them are wiped from view. Will there be a day when I can walk the length of a city and not see a burned out kiosk or a graffiti covered blue “Phone” sign hanging off an awkward steel post? Only time will tell, but they don’t seem to be completely disappearing any time soon; just slowly and silently fading away.



Developer, Hacker, Tinkerer, Archivist, Retro Technologist.


2 thoughts on “Payphones

  1. One thing to consider is, people steal phones. They contain a lot of change, and with the economy the way it is, people know they are easy targets. I’ve seen people steal the entire thing, including the housing, by pulling them down with chains and big trucks. They drag them away and loot what they can and dump the rest somewhere.

    In cities like Philly, and Camden, drug dealers use them on street corners to take calls, since many pay phones can still receive incoming calls if you can unblock it on caller id. So its possible they may have been removed to help crack down on loitering and drug deals in bad areas.

  2. This is one of the reasons why I started to inventory the payphones that I come across on the NYC transit system. Although I end up at the same stations most of the time, so have not really added much new content to the site in a while. Although I did just add a photo of a payphone where someone stole the coin box, not really sure how much $ you could steal out of a payphone now-a-days, but I guess that will likely lead to the removal of that phone.

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