New Jersey transportation official are urging people going to Philadelphia for Pope Francis' visit next month to be prepared and be patient — or, possibly, stay home.
They laid out plans Thursday for the Pope's visit at the end of September.
More than a third of the projected two million people going to Philadelphia for the weekend of Sept. 26-27 are expected to pass through New Jersey, officials said Thursday at Newark's Penn Station. More than half of all attendees will be senior citizens, said Sam Schwartz, a traffic engineer and former New York City Traffic Commissioner.
Schwartz recommended that trekkers make sure to have cellphones charged, carry flashlights for a return walk likely to be in the dark, bring comfortable shoes, light clothing and extra medicine.
"We want people to come, but we want them to be prepared," he said.
"With nearly two million people expected to attend the World Meeting of Families and Papal visit in Philadelphia, NJ TRANSIT will accommodate as many passengers as its system safely allows," said NJ Transit executive director Veronique "Ronnie" Hakim. "Unfortunately, these safety and capacity limitations mean only a fraction of the anticipated passenger demand can be met. We have put forth a transportation plan that will get as many people as possible, as close as possible to Philadelphia, all with an eye on safety."
New Jersey Transit will add trains and buses and adjust service to accommodate more riders.
Customer service ambassadors will be stationed throughout our system, including NY, to help our customers reach their destinations #NJTPapal
— NJ TRANSIT (@NJTRANSIT) August 13, 2015
Click here for ticketing details for riding the Atlantic City Rail Line, River LINE, Access Link and buses while the Pope is in Philly. Purchase tickets ahead of time because sales will end once tickets sell out or Friday Sept. 25 (whichever comes first).
"It's also important to note for people new to our system and especially our regular customers that this will not be a typical weekend travel experience, and we urge everyone to plan accordingly," said Hakim.
Many papal pilgrims will be funneled through Camden, where buses will park but where no car parking will be available at the waterfront lots. Attendees will be required to walk several miles from Camden over the Ben Franklin Bridge and to the site of Sunday's Mass on Ben Franklin Parkway.
Officials announced Thursday that a three-mile stretch of the road that leads to the Ben Franklin Bridge on the Camden side, Admiral Wilson Boulevard (U.S. Route 30), will be closed from Baird Boulevard to the bridge while Francis is in the area.
About 10,000 buses are expected to descend on the area, officials said. About 1,100 parking spaces will be available in Camden, according to Sal Cowan, the state DOT's director of traffic operations; there will be "several thousand" more in Philadelphia but only for those that have registered, he said.
Given the possibility that not all buses will have registered and be able to find parking spots in Camden, officials said it was conceivable that they would have to park outside Camden, adding to the distance people would have to walk.
Fox and others urged groups planning to travel by bus to register with the World Meeting of Families, which is sponsoring the event.
Officials said New Jersey residents and motorists passing through who aren't headed to Philadelphia should stay at least 50 miles away to avoid traffic jams.
The Pope is also holding an invitation-only event at New York's Madison Square Garden on Sept. 25.
Adding to the mix, the U.N. General Assembly meets in New York that week and the New York Jets (against the Philadelphia Eagles) and New York Giants have games at MetLife Stadium.