For many pilgrims, Sunday’s Papal Mass was sandwiched by long periods of not much: waiting to get through security, then waiting for transit to get home.
After the massive service, people walked quickly from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to be at the front of the line at Jefferson Station in Center City.
Weary pilgrims clogged 30th Street Station and for more than two hours, the lines snaked well beyond the West Philly transit hub’s doors.
Crowds for SEPTA’s regional rail lines were particuarly long.
Olivia Taylor and her family from Mt. Airy were watching their hopes of getting home at a reasonable hour grow dim.
“It looks like a city evacuation and there’s some like disease or something wrong is going on,” she said.
SEPTA says more than 50,000 riders took regional rail Sunday.
About 90 minutes after the Mass ended, the queue for the Landsdale/Doylestown Regional Rail line stretched more than three blocks. Bucks County resident Amy Maginnis saw waiting as just part of the bargain.
“I mean it’s long but I guess it’s a test of patience,” she said. “You know there’s only so much you can do, the Pope came to the city, so if I have to deal with a long line…if this is the worst that happened to me today, I’m having a pretty good day.”
There were six lines stretching down the sidewalks flanking 10th, 11th and 12th streets, each for a different train route. SEPTA’s George Spellman said they were keeping people waiting outside until a train stopped at a platform.
“The reason we don’t want to have them on the platform is, we just don’t want to have that danger, our goal is to get everybody home safely.”
Spellman expected it to take several hours to get thousands of riders home on the Landsdale line, its busiest.
Many pilgrims leaving Philadelphia for New Jersey after the pope’s Mass on Sunday night opted to take PATCO, which will be running on special schedules through Thursday.
Only one station was open in Philadelphia, and despite the high volume of foot traffic the lines moved quickly.
Joseph Naccarato said he wasn’t surprised by the short waits because Sunday’s papal Mass wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded.
“You know I didn’t expect it to be that long of a wait because of the event,” he said. “I really didn’t. But holiness, it was joyful!” he said.