Parking and traffic in Philadelphia is normally a challenge; expect it to get a lot more complicated September 22nd when the World Meeting of Families will commence at the Convention Center and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The convention will be capped by Pope Francis‘ expected visit on September 27th, which is expected to draw as many as 2 million people to the city, and a whole fleet of buses.
And how will all those pilgrims get here? Some 4,000 to 5,000 buses are expected to roll into Center City that week, with the heaviest volume expected for the Papal visit.
The World Meeting of Families recently announced its partnership with GO GROUND, a bus management company, to handle registration and facilitate parking for the event. “While the exact number of buses is unknown at this time,” said WMOF 2015 executive director Donna Crilley Farrell, “early indications suggest it could go as high as 4,000 – 5,000. We have every confidence in the experience, skill and unique resources GO GROUND brings to this historic assignment.”
A parish in New Hope, Pa. — St. Martin of Tours — has reportedly already reserved five charter buses for the events, according to the Bucks County Courier-Times.
Making things even more complicated is the fact that the convention is designated a National Special Security Event by the Department of Homeland Security, which will likely mean restricted access to certain roads and highways when dignitaries, such as the Pope and other notable people, are on the move.
Richard Dickson Jr., deputy executive director of the PPA, said in a statement that the Philadelphia Parking Authority is working with the City of Philadelphia and the WMOF to develop a comprehensive transportation plan, adding that the city will provide updates as plans are finalized. A spokesperson for the WMOF added that meeting organizers are working with vendors and will release more substantive logistics updates in the weeks ahead.
Bill Maulsby, CEO of GO GROUND, said that 4,000-5,000 buses is a fair estimate at this point, but noted that “there are 56 million Catholics and over 15,000 parishes east of the Mississippi” and that GO GROUND receives “scores of new [bus] operators every day” registering for parking space for the event.
In terms of space, Maulsby mentioned that GO GROUND is in the process of acquiring the real estate necessary to park all of the buses, and already has 3,000 spots available. He expects there to be ample parking space come the event, noting the help that the PPA and other organizations have provided thus far: “Everyone involved is doing their part to make this event happen.” GO GROUND anticipates dealing with thousands of buses coming from all over and must provide directions, parking, transportation to and from the event, and bus departure, as well as back-end logistics.
“There are a lot of moving parts involved with putting on this event,” Maulsby said. “There’s never been an event like this before, period.”
According to Maulsby, bus registration is open until the end of July, and a comprehensive transportation plan from GO GROUND is expected to be in the works in August.
SEPTA is also discussing plans for the event, and could release them in the near future. Trains could prove to be a more efficient option for many groups.