PPA Says: No Center City SEPTA Bus or Rail Service for Pope Visit, “Significant Security Perimeter” From Girard to South

At a board meeting of the Parking Authority, key new details were revealed.

The gist: More and more logistical details are spilling out about Pope Francis’ September visit to Philadelphia. This thing is just too big, with too many people involved in pulling it off, for the news to stay contained as long as city officials and event organizers would like. For instance, PlanPhilly’s Jim Saksa covered a board meeting of the Philadelphia Parking Authority yesterday, and heard an avalanche of new information about the visit. According to the PPA:

  • A “significant security perimeter” will extend from Girard Avenue to South Street, river to river. It wasn’t clear what that perimeter would look like.
  • SEPTA trains will not make stops within Center City. Likewise, SEPTA buses won’t be operating in Center City. Saksa confirmed that with SEPTA. No word on the subway.
  • 50 Jumbotrons will be set up throughout the city to broadcast the papal mass.
  • The Parkway can hold “about 700,000” people, which is significantly less than the number that are expected to visit the city while the pope is in town.

Read the PlanPhilly piece for more brain-melting logistical details. An important caveat? All these plans could change.

Why it matters: Apart from the obvious news value, there are two reasons why this story is important. First, the fact that so many pope logistics are coming out in these sort of drips and drabs doesn’t seem to be shoring up public confidence (or enthusiasm) in this epic event. City officials and the World Meeting of Families would no doubt like a controlled release of information on their own timetable, but that’s proving impossible, as the PPA board meeting showed.

Second, if it wasn’t clear already, the Pope’s visit seems certain to push a wide array of government agencies to their limits (and potentially beyond). SEPTA and the police are obvious. But just imagine how a cordoned off Center City will test the PPA. Demand for parking on the outskirts of that cordon will be off the charts. Managing that crush and ensuring that people don’t just end up parking on the middle of Broad Street (ok, bad example) will be up to the PPA and its fleet of tow trucks. Social service workers will have their hands full helping homeless residents. City sanitation workers will have a gargantuan mess to clean up. There are always public health concerns when so many people gather in a single place. Francis even plans to check out a city prison. The point is that an event of this scale will be a high-profile, high-pressure test for city government in ways that go way beyond security and transportation.