Many people changed their plans with Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia on the weekend of Sept. 26-27. Attendee numbers were not as high as they were expected to be. According to the Associated Press, “Train ridership into Philadelphia was much lower than expected. The main commuter rail agency said only a little more than half of the 53,000 who bought passes used them.” Tens of thousands of individuals were present for the historic weekend, but numerous city workers and college students left the busy city.
Ember Schaeffer, a sales associate in Philadelphia, stayed away from the weekend chaos. “I’m working in the Jenkintown office Friday, and I think the Towson, Maryland office Monday,” Schaeffer said. Schaeffer was visiting her significant other in Towson for the weekend, and she figured she would stay there since Philly traffic would be bad. While Schaeffer has been managing, she stated, “This Pope stuff is a real inconvenience.” Like many people, she still had to work. “I can’t even walk across my street at work,” Schaeffer said. According to Schaeffer, who snapped a picture from her office window on Thursday at 2:15pm, people “were already lining up for Saturday mass.” About 18,000 people gathered for Saturday’s mass, inside “the largest Catholic Church in Pennsylvania,” based on an NPR article.
A commuter school, located on North Broad Street in Philadelphia, Temple University closed on Friday for Pope Francis’ visit, and decided to open back up at 1pm on Monday, Sept. 28. Ryan Roffman, a freshman who lives on campus, left school early on Thursday to go home for the weekend. “I have a 4 p.m. class Monday so I’m going to leave around 12 just in case SEPTA is bad,” Roffman stated.
The Philadelphia Inquirer found that SEPTA transported fewer riders than expected for the Pope’s visit. SEPTA had 164,000 papal passes available for regional rail riders to use on Saturday, but it sold 55,464 of the passes. Of the passes purchased, 28,575 were used for travel into the city. A lot of people wanted to avoid the chaos. Francis Murphy, 53, an interviewee for The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “‘We kept hearing it was going to be very busy—We won’t use [the passes]. We tried to give them to other people but they weren’t interested.’”
Based on data which Septa provided, the percentage of Papal passes used from the ones sold varied across Regional Rail lines. Trenton (Croydon), Lansdale/Doylestown (Ft. Washington), Fox Chase, Trenton (Levittown), Paoli/Thorndale (Paoli), Lansdale/Doylestown (Pennbrook), Paoli/Thorndale (Radnor), Warminster, Wilmington/Newark, and West Trenton all had between fifty and sixty percent of sold passes get used for the Pope’s visit on Saturday. Chestnut Hill West, Trenton (Cornwell Heights), Airport (Eastwick), Wilmington/Newark (Marcus Hook), Media/Elwyn, and Manayunk/Norristown lines all had user percentages between fifteen and forty-three percent.