Watch CBS News

Philadelphia Officials Expect Papal Visit to Overwhelm City's Mass Transit

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- "Be prepared to walk."

That's the message from Mayor Nutter and other officials who today spelled out transportation plans for September's World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis.

Mayor Nutter had a simple message to city residents for the week of September 22nd:  be ready to have your transportation plans disrupted.

"This will be the largest event in the city of Philadelphia in modern history," the mayor said today.  "Folks should start thinking ahead and making accommodations now, because this event will impact the everyday life of many in the city of Philadelphia in one way, shape, and form."

In some cases, the mayor admitted, you'll have to hoof it.

"Be prepared to walk at least a few miles or more."

Hear the full WMOF press conference in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 40:36)...


The biggest changes involve SEPTA.   General manager Joe Casey says they're getting ready to handle extraordinary levels of crowds.

"On a normal weekday we carry about 300,00 people.  We expect to more than double that," he said.

For the two days of the pope's visit, September 26th and 27th, only 31 of SEPTA's 282 train, subway, and trolley stations will be open -- for boarding only (see map below).

(Septa said only the indicated stations will be open during the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia. Image provided)


The Regional Rail lines will sell special tickets for those two days, on a limited basis, and Casey expects those tickets to sell out.

"The Regional Rails will have a capacity of 180,000 people.  We need to restrict that because we don't want half a million people show up at the rail station and not be able to get on the train," he said.

Later this summer, the World Meeting of Families organization will offer two guides about getting around.  Donna Farrell, executive director of the event, says one guide is for visitors and the other is for residents.

The visitors' guide is titled "Know Before You Go," and Farrell says its goal is clarity:

"We have to make sure that everything we communicate will be clear and easily understandable to someone who is coming from Peoria, San Francisco, or Ghana."

The other guide, for residents, is called the "Papal Visit Playbook," and includes a list of dos and don'ts for getting around.

"The playbook will outline a general overview of how city residents can prepare for an event of this scale, and at the same time enjoy all of the offerings and events that Philadelphia has to offer," Farrell says.

One to two million visitors are expected that week, essentially doubling the city's population.  But Mayor Nutter admitted that they just don't know how many people will actually arrive, and he says it could be far more.

"This is a very different event," he warned.  "So, what you would normally do to go to an Eagles' game or something -- forget that.  This is different."

More info at and



View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.