Thursday, August 27, 2015

Preparing for September's Papal Traffic and Transit Disruptions

(Pterodactyl Map by Bradley Wrenn; source: PlanPhilly on Facebook)

Exactly a month from now, the city of Philadelphia will be hosting the World Meeting of Families, starting Tuesday, Sept. 22, and concluding over the weekend with a two-day visit by Pope Francis and a Catholic Mass on the Parkway. Security measures are being put in place to regulate the roads and the ridership of SEPTA, particularly throughout the long weekend. We are expecting a lot of disruption at this time, both with people who want to leave Center City and people who will not be able to enter (or re-enter) it.

So, we up here in the Northwest would like to help. The Big Blue Marble is offering our second and third floors as a haven for those who are unable to get to work on Friday, September 25, due the added security. Come to the bookstore for refreshments, WiFi, a pleasant place to hang out during the day, and possibly a sympathetic ear.

We also recommend that people who are planning to come from beyond the neighborhood to our YA book club/Terry Pratchett Tribute on Thursday, 9/24, or Poetry Aloud & Alive on Friday, 9/25, check their routes before proceeding!

And now, here is a clearinghouse of sorts, with links to the current information the City has provided about the traffic and transit security. Will try to update, as much as possible.

latest update: 9/22/15 - City Ave. more closed than we thought (but not continually?), Schools closing Monday too, Museum and Zoo schedules and exchanges, more timelines, bicycles, and info for Northwest Philly.

compiled by Jennifer Sheffield

1) "One Map to Rule Them All," Plus Three Websites of the Elves, or maybe it's Six of the Websites of the Dwarves?

A local data scientist named Lauren Ancona has put together an interactive mega-map, where you can scroll around the area, zoom in and out, and toggle on and off the features you want to see. The transit section isn't complete, but there are state roads, "festival grounds" entrances, hospitals, the "pope ride bike routes" (?), parking/towing zones, locations of the jumbotrons, and more! Here's the direct link to the map.

Update 9/19: Three websites to know:
A) From, a compendium of interactive maps. Note the little tabs above the first map, toggling through different modes of transport. The second map toggles through the security countdown, starting 9/20.
B) From PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, There's even a "Current Conditions" traffic section! (Though it claims the Parkway is open and slow, when I thought it closed this morning.)
C) From a private bus service business, Shuttle buses from locations in PA, NJ, DE, and MD, to the nearest open SEPTA stations, on the weekend of the Pope's visit.

Update 9/22:
D) Security Timeline as brief bar graph.
E) Security Timeline as detailed list (as of Monday, 9/21).
F) The List of Prohibited Items. In case anyone missed it before, because it's way down this page, ONLY PLANTS AND MINERALS (AND SEEING-EYE DOGS) MAY SEE THE POPE! Among the "Prohibited Items" are "Animals, except for service animals". Proceed with care.

2) In Northwest Philly

Information that may be useful for those of us staying in or traveling through the Northwest. Much of this (but not all) appears elsewhere on this page.

A) The Place for Displaced Workers Lounge! Reiterating the bookstore's Friday (9/25) plan above to welcome displaced workers with WiFi and snacks.
B) Chestnut Hill West Regional Rail Station. Here is what access to the station will look like on Saturday and Sunday. See the SEPTA section below for more info on Regional Rail, etc.
C) The Chestnut Hill Growers' Market at Germantown Avenue and Mermaid Lane is planning to be open on Saturday, September 26. There will be fewer vendors, and they cannot guarantee prompt arrival, but they do intend to be there!
D) Papal Mass. For those wishing to see it from within the neighborhood and with your neighbors, the Unitarian Society of Germantown will be live-streaming the Papal Mass in the Sanctuary at 4pm Sunday (preceded by a 3:30 primer).
E) Trash Collection. This is actually city-wide: according to the Streets Department, collection will be cancelled Friday and Monday, with trash being held for one week, rather than shifting to later in the same week. So mid-week collection days will be unaffected.

3) Security Perimeter Maps, by Date and Time

This is a series of eight maps, from Thursday at 10pm to Sunday at 6am, showing exactly where the different perimeter lines will be when and what they mean. Color coded and nicely detailed. Answers questions like "Exactly when does West Philly get involved, and to what extent?"

NOTE: As of this writing, these maps still say "Traffic Box" on them. Be cautioned that the term "traffic box" has now been banned, according to this article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer (8/27), in favor of the more welcoming term "Francis Festival Grounds".

Here also is a summary of information from a security briefing on 9/10, including parking, bikeshare, and trash collection.

4) Parking and Towing Within Perimeter

There is now a schedule of parking restrictions/towing plans in the most vehicle-secure areas, starting the weekend *before* the Meeting, on 9/20. The article includes some alternative parking options for residents, some of which allow cars to stay in place until 9/24.

Updates 9/19:
A) Easing of parking restrictions: Certain resident parking permits will be honored on "any permit-parking block in the city" while the no-parking rules are in effect. (Caution: Does this mean any block outside the restricted zone, or any block at all? Not clear from the way it's stated.)
B) Towing plans finalized.
C) Parking Authority's web page on Where and How to Park During the Papal Visit. Includes links to the parking garages with open spaces for sale (fee waived for those with valid resident permits.

5) State (and some local) Road Closures

A map of state road closures during the papal visit.
According to the Playbook (see below), these roads will close at 10:00pm on Friday, Sept. 25.

Update 9/22: City Avenue (Rt. 1) will be more closed than what's posted on the road closures map! According to this Inquirer article (9/22), the stretch between 76 (which I take to include the City Avenue Bridge) and Belmont Ave. will be open only at "certain unspecified times," and only going southwest. Other than that, the road is closed off. By the way, traffic will be allowed to cross City Ave. at Belmont, Conshohocken State Road, and Lancaster (Rt 30).

Further Update 9/22: Slightly different information about City Ave from Channel 6 ABC. (You'll need to scroll or search to find it.) Not sure whether they actually conflict. Very detailed article, though, with maps, and also includes a list of streets and sections of streets in Center City to be closed, and a current traffic map.

Okay, while we're at it, here's what's going on with the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and River Drives. Note that this article is from 9/19, so when they say "Friday" and "Saturday" they mean this past weekend.

6) SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) Transit Changes

Lots of detail on the SEPTA website's special papal visit page. Buses, trains, trolleys, regional rail, station details, ADA accessibility, etc.

Specific information on the Airport Line from today's Inquirer (8/27).

Map of walking distances from various SEPTA stations (pictured here).

Update 9/10: SEPTA will be expanding service for the Market-Frankford El and the Broad St. line. Here's a map of the revised station options and an accompanying article (9/9) describing the changes in stations, timing, and fares in more detail.

Update 9/11: New, more comprehensive interactive station map, on which all the active Regional Rail stations are linked to individual station maps (here's Chestnut Hill West) showing parking, road closures, and station access.

7) PATCO (Port Authority Transit Co.), South Jersey, and the Ben Franklin Bridge

Map, operating stations, fares, and parking information on the PATCO website. There's also information on the Ben Franklin Bridge closure. Spoiler: pedestrians only. (Editor's note: I saw an article that said "If you're planning to walk across the bridge, get an early start," to which my sweetie replied, "Like about three weeks.")

Here's a article (8/27) on road closures in South Jersey.
Find information on New Jersey buses and rail lines at the NJ Transit website.
You can also get to (and from) Center City that weekend by Riverlink ferry from Camden.

Update 9/19: Waterfront parking in Camden is now available. Article includes a link to purchase parking permits for 9/26 and 9/27 (daytime only).

8) City Government Website has a special papal visit page. Even more maps! Includes some of the maps listed here, along with maps of details like walking distances to the perimeter, locations of grocery stores and hospitals, etc.

Helpful Inquirer article from back in August (8/20): "City to residents: We will help you with pope security restrictions". There's some good general information in the article, with details about the 311 hotline and the "Papal Visit Playbook" mentioned below, and other useful facts: "Residents can drive within the box, though Nutter cautioned that streets could be filled with people." Hmm.

9) The Papal Visit Playbook

The Papal Visit Playbook contains lots of useful information, such as the following, from the How to Prepare page:
You may want to think of the Papal Visit weekend as a snow weekend, where moving around the city will be difficult. Expect busy hotels and restaurants. Food delivery may also be limited due to the vehicular traffic restrictions from Friday, September 25 – Monday, September 28.

To avoid walking through large crowds to get to grocery stores or local eateries, be sure to stock up on food essentials prior to the weekend. Daily life should only be impacted for a few days, but it never hurts to be prepared and avoid any unnecessary hassles. You may want to consider stocking up on basic household essentials in addition to your regular grocery list – pantry staples, specialty food for infants and elderly, medications, and hygienic supplies. Also, make sure you don’t forget your pets – keep an extra stock of supplies and pet food for your loving four-legged family members!
Topics on the How to Prepare page include bicycles (okay in the traffic box Francis Festival Grounds but not the secure area...and you can take bikes across the BF bridge if you walk them) and Amtrak (which is requiring reservations for that weekend).

Update 9/15:
A) Hard copies of the Papal Visit Playbook were distributed this past weekend in Sunday's Inquirer and Daily News (9/13). So if you have a copy of the newspaper, or know someone who does, you can extract the nicely laid-out insert to read (and carry with you) on actual newsprint.
B) According to the paper version, there is a Go Philadelphia! mobile app. searchable on Google Play and iTunes. This seems different from the AlertPA/GoPhila app. mentioned in the online version, which is for emergency alerts.
C) ONLY PLANTS AND MINERALS (AND SEEING-EYE DOGS) MAY SEE THE POPE! Among "Prohibited Items" listed in the playbook are "Animals, except for service animals". Proceed with care. Also "Structures". Structures?

10) Schools

The School District of Philadelphia will be closed from Wednesday, September 23 (Yom Kippur) through Monday, September 28. (Monday recently announced.)

For information on other districts/schools, check their individual calendars.

11) Farmers' Markets

The Chestnut Hill Growers' Market at Germantown Avenue and Mermaid Lane is planning to be open on Saturday, September 26. There will be fewer vendors, and they cannot guarantee prompt arrival, but they do intend to be there! Check the Farm to City website for closure plans for Farm to City markets. I don't see any indication yet one way or another on the Food Trust market site.

12) Bicycles

Here is The big list of where you can and can’t ride your bike in Philly during the Pope’s visit. Includes bike racks, bike share, perimeters, SEPTA, and a brief mention of the Schuylkill River Trail. Also links to the organized Pope Bike Ride and information from the Bicycle Coalition.

13) Museums and Zoos

There are lots of Vatican-related exhibits at the local museums in honor of the papal visit. The Franklin Institute Science Museum opened its Vatican Splendors exhibit on Saturday, and in the main atrium they have, perhaps coincidentally, connected this exhibit to the Art of the Brick exhibit with a Lego Vatican (see photo below)!

However, the FI and other museums will not necessarily be open during the weekend Here's a schedule of museum and library closures.

The Philadelphia Zoo will also be closed to the public on Saturday and Sunday (plans still unclear for Monday). Meanwhile, the nearby Elmwood Park Zoo has announced (in the same City Ave. article mentioned above, though I haven't found it on their website yet) that they are offering free admission to Phila. zoo members during the weekend.

Left: Cardinal in my front yard.
Right: Lego Vatican at Franklin Institute.
Photos ©2015 by Jennifer Sheffield.


Suzanne Fluhr said...

This is a great compendium of all the Popeapocalypse information people will need. Here's my take. (Feel free to remove the link if it's against your blog policy.)

Big Blue Marble Web said...

Thanks, Suzanne, and thanks for your perspective! (-: