SEPTA to sell papal train passes via lottery

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  Everyone will have the same odds of winning the chance to buy up to 10 passes, says SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams. (Tom MacDonald.WHYY)

Everyone will have the same odds of winning the chance to buy up to 10 passes, says SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams. (Tom MacDonald.WHYY)

After a major crash of the website designed to sell regional rail passes for September’s papal weekend, SEPTA has come up with a new plan to get 175,000 of the highly sought tickets to the public for each day of the visit. 

The SEPTA website crashedlast week just after sales of the $10 rail passes opened to the public because of overwhelming demand. 

The experience taught the transit agency a lesson, said spokeswoman Jerri Williams.

“What we’ve learned is when you have a high demand and a limited quantity of passes, a real-time sales model, e-commerce site is not a viable solution,” she said.

After reviewing their options, officials decided on a lottery to begin at 12:01 a.m. Monday and run for 24 hours.  Everyone will have the same odds of winning the chance to buy up to 10 passes, Williams said.

“Everyone has the same chance of being selected, no matter what time you make your entry.  There’s no need to set your alarm clock for midnight, and be standing beside your computer so you can log on to enter the lottery,” she said. “You can do it any time during the day.”

The lottery will be overseen by Ticketleap, a broker with experience is selling tickets for major events, said Bill Zebrowski, SEPTA’s director of information technology.

“They are a local ticket agency. and they have sold tickets for organizations like Comic-Con and local festivals,” he said.

SEPTA will handle sales and distribution once the lottery winners are selected and notified.

The transit agency, which is spending about $400,000 on the project, plans to use the enhanced e-commerce site for future ticket and pass sales.  Without the crush to buy the tickets and process credit card transactions, SEPTA officials do not expect another website crash.

As for the city transit division, sales for the Sept. 26 and 27 papal weekend are on hold until after the rail pass lottery is completed.

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