SEPTA is patting itself on the back for what it says was a successful papal visit.
“Service went extremely well on both days, with no issues or problems other than a few delays,” SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said in a statement.
The transit agency said that after the papal mass, it moved 40,000 riders on the Broad Street Line from Center City to the sports complexes on Pattison Avenue where charter buses had parked. It did this in two and a half hours. The previous ridership record was set earlier this year, when 17,000 people took the subway after the conclusion of the Eagles home opener on Sept. 20. SEPTA ferried another 8,500 pilgrims on one of 32 buses used to move people out of Center City.
Throughout the run up to the papal visit, planners stressed that the real test of the transit system would not be getting people into the city, but getting them out. That proved true. Pilgrims started arriving early in the day to see Pope Francis hold Mass at 4 p.m. but they all left at the same time.
The planning success during a time of transition for SEPTA. It’s general manager, Joe Casey retires Wednesday.
“SEPTA’s very successful transportation plan is a perfect way for Joe Casey to end his tenure,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said Monday.
Lines at the 30th Street Station and Jefferson Station for regional rail riders were about one hour long — though on some lines people were able to get on trains within minutes.
One thing that may have shortened lines were out of SEPTA’s control. Thousands of people who could not get through security checkpoints simply turned around and headed back to 30th Street before the conclusion of the papal mass.
SEPTA said 34,000 people used the train system on Sunday and that the crowds were cleared out by 8:30 p.m.
Rosemary Tragemann, who took the regional rail line from Montgomery County on Saturday to see Pope Francis speak on Independence Mall with her daughter Julie Kwok and grandsons Kevin and Connor said their ride went smoothly.
It’s was unclear though, whether a difficult trip would have made a difference to them.
“We’re here, we made it, we love it,” Tragemann said.