The parade is rolling and so is WHYY/ PlanPhilly’s live coverage. Please read the story as it unfolds in real time at whyy.org.
Updated, Thuursday, Feb. 8, 8:51 am.
SEPTA’s City Hall and Walnut Locust stations are completely closed and riders cannot transfer between Broad Street and Market-Frankfort lines there.
Updated: Wednesday Feb. 7,1:40 p.m.
PATCO announced ticket sales will be suspended at or around 7 p.m. Wednesday night due to an overwhelming surge in advance ticket sales. Tickets will not be sold in stations on Thursday.
If you are a FREEDOM Card holder, you are advised to arrive at your departure station early, as having a ticket does not guarantee service, the authority says. If you don’t make your train, you will receive a full refund.
Updated: 1:20 p.m.
SEPTA has confirmed that all Eagles Parade $10 rail passes are sold out.
John Lennon infamously said that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus.
In Philly, city officials are assuming that the Eagles are bigger than the pope.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flocked to Philadelphia for the papal visit in 2015, but millions are expected for Thursday’s Super Bowl victory parade, and about a quarter of them are expected to rely on the city’s trains, buses, and trolleys to get there.
“If you had a parade crowd of 2.2 million people at the event, we can carry one out of every four,” said Jeff Knueppel, SEPTA’s general manager.
Estimates for the 2008 Phillies crowd vary, but the best bets placed the number somewhere between 350,000 and 600,000. Many media accounts at the time cited a two million figure that experts later debunked. Still, city officials expect a larger crowd for the Eagles’ victory celebration.
SEPTA will run modified schedules, similar to what they did for the pope when an estimated 142,000 visited for a papal mass on the Ben Franklin Parkway. (The city prepared for 1 million.) This time the regional transit agency expects that its modified service will move 500,000 to 550,000 fans to and from the spectacle. That’s around double its usual weekday ridership of 267,525.
The parade will begin at 11 a.m. at Lincoln Financial Field and will head up Broad Street to City Hall, where it will wrap around and then head down the Ben Franklin Parkway for a celebration on the Art Museum steps scheduled for 1 p.m.
The route reverses what the city did for the Phillies World Series parade in 2008, which started at 20th and Market and ended at the stadiums. That’s on purpose.
“SEPTA has had experiences with big events,” said Knueppel at a press conference Tuesday morning. “There was the 2008 Phillies world series parade. That was not exactly a good day for SEPTA; I’ll be honest.”
In the suburbs, hundreds of fans railed against SEPTA after they couldn’t board overpacked Regional Rail trains into the city. After the parade, the subway was overwhelmed.
At a press conference Tuesday morning, Mayor Jim Kenney explained what went wrong. “What happened with the Phillies was that everyone was at the sports complex when it was over — everybody flooded the subways,” said Kenney. “They could not function, people could not get on the platforms.”
Philadelphia handled the pope’s visit in 2015 better than the Phillies parade. So, that’s the game plan here — encourage the crowds to come and go as they did when Pope Francis graced the city. So that’s why the parade will end at the Art Museum, instead of the stadiums. From the Art Museum, officials expect the crowds to dissipate in multiple directions, instead of crowding just one or two transit routes.
SEPTA, which tried to run mostly normal service in 2008, learned from its mistakes and will operate on a highly modified schedule from open to close on Thursday.
Thanks to a $300,000 sponsorship deal with Independence Blue Cross, the Broad Street subway and Market-Frankford El will be free all day. Knueppel urged riders to rely on the two heavy rail lines, calling them the “best bet.”
Some stations will be closed to speed up service, including City Hall station. SEPTA officials say passengers will still be able to transfer between the Broad Street Line and the Market Frankford Line there, but riders planning to make the transfer should check with SEPTA employees before boarding the system.
On the Market-Frankford Line, the Frankford Transportation Center, Arrott Transportation Center, Erie- Torresdale, Allegheny, Huntingdon, Girard, 2nd Street, 8th Street, 13th Street, 30th Street, 40th Street, 46th Street, 52nd Street, 60th Street and 69th Street Transportation Center will be open.
On the Broad Street Line, Fern Rock Transportation Center, Olney Transportation Center, Wyoming, Erie, North Philadelphia, Cecil B. Moore, Girard, Race-Vine, Walnut-Locust, Ellsworth-Federal, Snyder and AT&T stations will be open, although officials warned that Walnut-Locust may close if the crowds above on Broad Street are too thick to let passengers out of the station.
Only 37 outlying Regional Rail stations will be open for the parade, and the Cynwyd and Chestnut Hill West lines will be shut down completely. In the morning, Regional Rail trains will only be running in one direction: into the city. In the afternoon, regional trains will again be uni-directional, headed back out into the suburbs, so around 6,000 reverse commuters will need to find a different way to work on Thursday. The Airport line will be an exception and will continue to run service both ways throughout the day, but on a limited, one-train-per-hour schedule.
Trains heading into the city will only stop at either 30th Street Station or Jefferson Station. Suburban Station will be closed Thursday. Riders heading back after the parade will be required to board at the same Center City station they departed from.
No Regional Rail tickets will be sold the day of the parade — riders will need to have a daily, weekly or monthly pass in hand before they get to their station. SEPTA is selling 50,000 special one-day Independence passes for the event at a discounted price of $10 instead of the usual $13.
At the press conference, Knueppel emphasized how few fans Regional Rail trains could handle: Even with the changes to increase capacity, Regional Rail can only handle around 70,000 riders on Thursday.
In South Jersey, PATCO will also close most of its stations on Thursday. And, like Regional Rail, PATCO will run one-way service for most of the day. Only Lindenwold, Woodcrest, Ferry Avenue, Broadway will be open in New Jersey. Starting at 6:00 A.M. Thursday, PATCO will only run westbound service into the city. Then, starting around 1:20 P.M. and continuing until 8:00 P.M, PATCO trains will only run eastbound out of 9th/10th and Locust Street Station. Unlike Regional Rail, PATCO riders will be able to purchase tickets at the open stations on Thursday.
Bikes will not be allowed on PATCO, Regional Rail, or the subway. The Benjamin Franklin Bridge South Walkway will be open throughout the day and into the evening for South Jerseyans willing to hoof it to the parade.
All other SEPTA modes will run closer to normal and charge regular fares. Because City Hall will be closed, the subway-surface trolleys will only run to 19th Street and 22nd Street, but will make the rest of their regular stops. The Norristown High Speed Line will run rush hour headways of every 15 minutes all day and will make all stops.
Buses along the parade route will be detoured: Routes 2, 4, 7, 9, 12, 16, 17, 21, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33, 37, 38, 40, 42, 43, 44, 45, 48, 64, 68, 79, 124, 125 and G. Roads all along Broad Street and the the Ben Franklin Parkway will be closed and parking in those areas will be restricted for the parade.
Officials warned that parking at SEPTA’s stations will also be limited and encouraged riders to get dropped off and picked up instead of driving themselves. There will be no parking at the stadiums.
The PPA will not be enforcing meters, kiosks, or time limits citywide on Thursday. Parking enforcement will resume on Friday morning. Cars parked in the parking-restricted areas along the parade route, though, will be towed. Fans driving into the city for the parade may want to consider parking near a subway stop and using the free service to get closer to the route, as Center City will be packed.
SEPTA Police Chief Inspector Tom Nestle III warned that SEPTA would continue to enforce public drinking laws on Thursday and would confiscate beer that riders tried to bring on SEPTA’s vehicles on Thursday.
NJ Transit officials did not respond to inquiries about service changes into Philadelphia on Thursday.