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SEPTA trains ran normally on Tuesday, November 9, 2005 with the strike no longer in effect. A subway on the Market-Frankford line leaves the 40th Street station, Credit: Raffi Holoszyc-Pimentel , Raffi Holoszyc-Pimentel

Yesterday, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., SEPTA partnered with Miller Brewing Company to offer unlimited free subway rides on its Broad Street Line — which services Lincoln Financial Field — for the Philadelphia Eagles’ first home game of the season.

The morning of the opening game, SEPTA employees said they anticipate increased rider traffic on the Broad Street Line any time there is a sporting event, but did not expect that the elimination of fares would cause unusual congestion in the system.

Related: SEPTA raises daily fares from $2 to $2.25

As kickoff time approached, their predictions proved correct. While trains became noticeably more crowded in the 90 minutes leading up to 1 p.m., crowding never reached a point where trains were unable to take on more passengers at each stop.

“It’s generally about this crowded on game days,” said Center City resident Sully O’Neal. “But it’s a lot cheaper than [stadium] parking passes, and if they’re giving away free rides, I’m not going to complain.” Some fans who drove to the game said that above-ground traffic was at usual levels as well.

The SEPTA Transit and Philadelphia police departments maintained a highly visible presence in the system throughout the day, with officers stationed both on platforms and inside rail cars. A SEPTA steward at 15th Street and City Hall Station described this as a normal security precaution for major events, but noted that police generally end up dealing with rowdy and drunken behavior rather than any serious threats.

Miller Lite sponsored the free rides as part of an ongoing “effort among Miller Lite, transit systems, community organizations, law enforcement agencies, civic organizations and others to help keep our streets safe and prevent drunk driving on major holidays and throughout the year,” according to the Miller Lite Free Rides website. The program previously sponsored free bus rides to the 35th Annual Valparaiso Popcorn Festival in Valparaiso, Ind.

Philadelphia Police officers working at the event said they could not predict whether the free rides program would reduce drunk driving after the game, but said they appreciated any effort to provide fans with an alternative way to get home.

For riders not headed to the game, the lack of fares was merely convenient. “I had no idea there were free subway rides today,” said Martha diGregorio, who lives in Fern Rock and takes the Broad Street Line to work. “It was a pleasant surprise.”

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