Public transit users will need to get extra lucky in order to get around Philadelphia during the pope’s visit.
SEPTA announced on Wednesday that it will use a lottery system to sell 350,000 Regional Rail Passes for the weekend of Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia. The lottery, which will be hosted by Amazon, will be held through the SEPTA website on Monday, Aug. 3, from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said in the July 28 press conference that everyone has an equal chance of receiving a pass and that applications are not impacted by the time of submission.
TicketLeap, a Philadelphia-based online ticket sales and marketing company, will review all entries once the lottery is closed to remove fraudulent and suspicious entries.
Interested riders can only submit one entry, but, if selected, can purchase up to 10 tickets for $10 each. Applicants will be able to enter their top three preferred rail stations, however they are limited to only the 18 Regional Rail Stations that will offer train service the weekend of the pope’s visit. All other Regional Rail Stations will be closed.
Emails will be sent out on Aug. 6 to the SEPTA lottery winners notifying them that they have three days to purchase the tickets online.
SEPTA’s preparation for Pope Francis’s visit on the weekend of Sept. 26-27 began once the pope confirmed in November of 2014 that he would attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
On June 16, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, along with officials of SEPTA, Amtrak, PATCO and other agencies announced that Regional Rail trains, subways and trolleys would run truncated routes that weekend, stopping at only 31 of the usual 282 stations.
Their plans went quickly awry.
SEPTA originally planned on selling interested Regional Rail passengers a $10, one-day special pass for each day of the Pope’s visit on their website beginning July 15. SEPTA officials said at the time that sales would be limited to about 150,000 Regional Rail passes.
However, by July 15, sales for the one-day Regional Rail passes were pushed to the following Monday, July 20, with officials stating that 175,000 passes would be sold at $10 each, with sales limited to 10 per purchase and available only online. Officials also stated that 750,000 three-day papal passes for subways, trolleys, and buses for non-rail passengers on September 26-28, would go on sale online on July 27.
The online sales of train passes were further delayed the morning of July 20, when SEPTA’s website was rendered inoperable shortly after the online sales of train passes began. After opening the sales on their website at 9 a.m. that day, the transit agency was forced to suspend them because customer demand overwhelmed their website’s capacity. Williams stated that most papal Regional Rail passes remain unsold.
The following day SEPTA announced that it would not sell the papal Regional Rail passes for the remainder of the week, without confirming whether it would fix the site or hire an outside vendor to sell the passes online.
SEPTA redirected the Daily Pennsylvanian’s request for comment to a press conference on July 27, where officials could answer questions by the media. Only an hour before the 3 p.m. press conference, SEPTA cancelled it without explanation, with SEPTA announcing a plan to reschedule in the future.
The following day, SEPTA finally announced its plan for resuming online sales of the papal passes through the lottery system. It is also set to announce information on about 50,000 papal passes available for the Norristown High Speed line and the 101 and 102 trolleys as early as next week.
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