Philadelphians and visitors to the city for the World Meeting of Families and visit by Pope Francis should be prepared to walk for miles when the events take place, Mayor Michael Nutter said Tuesday.
"Private vehicles will not be a viable option," the mayor said as city leaders and event organizers detailed some of their transportation plans for the events set for September 22-27.
City officials expect an additional 1.5 million people to visit — many coming to see the pontiff over the weekend of September 26 and 27.
The use of public transportation was stressed. SEPTA will operate its normal service during the World Meeting conference, but once the weekend arrives that all will change.
"During the weekend, it will present a significant challenge for us," SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey said.
The transit authority will close 251 of its 282 rail stations — subway, regional rail and trolley — to essentially convert the network to express service. Trains will be fully-loaded at one of 31 stops and travel directly into Center City Philadelphia. The empty train will then be turned around and sent back to pick up more people.
Casey said this will allow SEPTA to double capacity. The drop-off locations in Center City have yet to be announced. SEPTA officials said they are working with security officials to decide the best locations.
Passengers of the subway, trolley and bus lines are being offered an unlimited three-day ride pass for $10. On regional rail, however, the passes will only be good for one day.
Increasing parking capacity at suburban regional rail stations is another issue SEPTA is working on, Casey said.
PATCO will be providing similar express service into the 9th and Locust Station in Center City from its Lindenwold, Woodcrest, Ferry Avenue and the Walter Rand Transportation Center.
Amtrak plans to add cars to trains and will require reservations for seats. Philadelphia International Airport officials expect to see a similar number of passengers as a typical Thanksgiving weekend.
As for road closures around Philadelphia, officials were not ready to release that information.
Donna Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families Philadelphia, said the conference is creating two public information campaigns to help residents and visitors get around the city.
The 'Know Before You Go' campaign will provide transit schedule information and walking routes for visitors, Farrell said. They're also creating a 'Papal Visit Playbook' for citizens to help them get around the mess. The playbook isn't ready, Farrell said, and would be coming later.