by Si Saffron

Mayor Michael Nutter is calling it “the largest event in the city of Philadelphia in modern history.” The World Meeting of Families claims it has “the potential to be one of the largest events ever held in the United States.”

The World Meeting of Families and papal visit Sept. 25-30 will bring 1.5 to 2 million visitors to Philadelphia, and along with them significant demands on the city’s ability to safely and efficiently get them to and from the event.

The World Meeting of Families will not impact Septa’s planned service, but the Pope’s planned appearance at the Saturday festival and Sunday Mass on Sept. 26 and 27 has prompted a drastic plan for the system’s regional rail, subways, trolleys, and buses.

A special $10 one-day pass for each day of the weekend will be sold by SEPTA, which expects to cap sales at approximately 150,000. Those go on sale July 15. But to be able to transport those 150,000 fares, SEPTA will run trains to only a few select stations – one or two key points for most lines. For Chestnut Hillers, Chestnut Hill West will be the only stop open in the neighborhood, and the second-closest will either be Fort Washington Station on the Hinsdale Downtowner line or Fern Rock Transportation Center on the Broad Street Subway line.

The plan stresses that parking at these select open stations will be easily overwhelmed, and recommends that passengers get dropped off at their station rather than try to park and ride.

As for the Germantown Avenue 23 bus, which continues into the city down 12th Street, it is unclear at this time whether this service will remain open. Cutter’s plan only mentions that at least 26 bus routes through Center City will be altered for the event.

The plan also includes plans for express service on the city’s two subway lines, and those will be expected to carry 200,000 people for each day of the pope’s stay.

NJ Transit and PATCO are also getting in on the action. Both released their own preparations for the event. Even Amtrak has said extra service to Philadelphia is a possibility. With tour buses bringing an expected 250,000 extra, Philadelphia hopes to have found a reasonable solution to transport millions to the city, if not all the way to the Parkway. Said Nutter, “Be prepared to walk at least a few miles or more.”