Mayor Nutter: Don’t Worry, Be Happy About the Pope’s Visit!

Rebranding the traffic box as the "Francis Festival Zone."


Maybe you’re not all that jazzed about Pope Francis’ visit next month. You’re not sure how you’re going to get to work, what with the road closures and limited SEPTA service. Or you’re unconvinced the event is worth all the trouble that the city is going to. Or you just don’t like crowds.


That was the general message of a press conference Wednesday held by Mayor Michael Nutter, World Meeting of Families executive director Donna Farrell, and other officials. “Now is the time for all of us to get excited!” said a totally stoked Farrell. “Now is the time of all of us to declare, ‘I’ll be there!'”

“I’ll Be There,” as it turns out, is the name of a new campaign aimed at getting residents and businesses excited about the papal visit. What does it entail? Well, Farrell said the area heretofore known as the “traffic box” — where personal vehicles and SEPTA buses will not be allowed to enter beginning on Friday, September 25th — is being “reimagined” as “the “Francis festival grounds.”

We’re not kidding.

“SEPTA and PATCO will deliver you right into the festival grounds!” said Farrell, noting that people who take either will not have to walk for more than one mile to get to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway or Independence Mall. That’s a pretty nifty approach to explaining all of the myriad ways that public transportation will be restricted during the event.

Farrell also said the “I’ll Be There” campaign will deliver buttons and signage reading #OpenInPHL (a hashtag coined, by the way, by Foobooz back in 2011) to businesses that plan to say open for the papal visit.

And there are prizes. Companies that display the signs will be entered into a sweepstakes for a free family trip to Rome. So too will patrons who post images of themselves at participating business on social media using the #OpenInPHL and #RomeContest hashtag.

So there’s that. There was also some news announced at the press conference:

  • The Reading Terminal Market has decided to stay open during the pope’s visit. Anuj Gupta, general manager of the market, was thinking about closing the beloved attraction during the event because merchants were unsure about how to get their employees to work and whether there would be enough food deliveries.
  • There will be 40 — 40! — Jumbotrons placed in the city so that pilgrims and residents can watch Pope Francis make his way throughout Philadelphia. They’ll display his arrival at the airport, his address at Independence Mall, the papal mass and more. Officials said their exact locations will be announced “very soon.”
  • The World Meeting of Families will launch a website next week aimed at demystifying the transportation options available during the pope’s visit. It will be available at
  • Business owners within the traffic box — er, the #francisfestivalzone — who have questions about trash pickup and delivery logistics, rest easy. Nutter said he will make an announcement about those issues in the next few days.
  • When asked by a reporter if there were any protests planned for Pope Francis‘ trip, Nutter said he was not aware of any.
  • Nutter said the city’s business resource center, which is tasked with helping companies figure out how to stay open during the World Meeting of Families, has received 250 calls. He said the call center has an “80-plus percentage rate” of being able to answer businesses’ questions.
  • The ride-sharing service UberBLACK is allowed inside the #francisfestivalzone until 2 a.m. on Saturday, September 26th and can come back inside beginning at 3 a.m. on Monday, September 28th. UberWAV, a wheelchair-accesible arm of Uber, will be allowed inside the entire weekend.