Philadelphia, August 13, 2015 — As part of the ongoing preparations for the World Meeting of Families, Mayor Michael A. Nutter together with many of the City’s partners, including the United States Secret Service, discussed transportation plans for the event. The following are Mayor Nutter’s prepared remarks, [please check against delivery]:
Good afternoon. This is our fourth briefing ahead of the momentous World Meeting of Families in late September.
We’re now six weeks and a couple days from the arrival of Pope Francis. Around the globe, eyes will be turned toward Philadelphia for momentous events that will attract an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million people to our City.
For those of us who have been thinking about and planning for these events over many months, excitement is growing.
At the same time, millions of people are making plans to come to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection for the largest spiritual event in our City’s long history.
We, the City and our many partners in local, state and Federal government have been working to ensure that the World Meeting of Families will be held in a safe and secure environment – for the Holy Father and for the thousands of faithful who want to see and hear him.
In previous briefings we laid out some of the basic facts:
- That we expect between 1 million to 1.5 million visitors to our City on the weekend of Sept. 26-27;
- That people will need to walk;
- And that SEPTA has a detailed plan to move visitors as efficiently as possible.
More recently, we’ve announced that vehicle restrictions will be enforced in what we described as the Traffic Box. Why did we create this Traffic Box?
It’s not really an issue related to protecting Pope Francis. It’s to protect the millions of people who will be walking on narrow city streets and sidewalks. In that kind of setting, cars and people don’t mix well.
We’ve also said that motorists who remain in the Traffic Box will be able to use their vehicles, but that they face significant challenges.
Those challenges relate to the sheer size of the walking public and the emergency access roads. The Traffic Box in fact is meant to reduce the amount of vehicle traffic in Center City.
But there are other challenges, and I want to mention them today.
As you know, the US Secret Service is our lead agency for Papal security. This huge event has been classified as a National Special Security Event by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Part of that security is the creation of security perimeter, a layered buffer if you will, that protects the venue and in this case, the Pope.
Given the amount of planning that will need to be done by everyone impacted by this event, we are prepared to talk about these boundaries today.
The security perimeter will have a fence with entry points where people will walk through a magnetometer. Vehicles will be removed from inside this perimeter.
In addition to this perimeter, there will be a second one established by the Secret Service: the secure vehicle perimeter. This secure vehicle perimeter will be located outside or beyond the security perimeter and will in essence protect that fence.
Once this secure vehicle perimeter is established, all vehicles must be removed from within it and any vehicle that seeks entry will be screened.
*Mayor Nutter spoke about the secure perimeter timeline here. Please see list below for details.
Now, with these concepts and the broader picture of just how complicated vehicle traffic will be, I have a number of announcements today.
As you’ll recall, last week we announced that the First Judicial District, the City courts, will be closed starting Wednesday, Sept. 23 and will reopen Tuesday, Sept. 29.
The Philadelphia School District, in an effort to provide consistent and uninterrupted learning opportunities while recognizing important religious holidays and the unprecedented visit of Pope Francis, has proposed the following adjustments to the 2015-16 academic calendar:
- The first day of Kindergarten will now be Thursday, September 17.
- Due to previously scheduled closures, schools and administrative offices will now be closed from Wednesday, September 23 through Friday, September 25. For Monday, Sept. 28, appropriate notice of a continuing school closure, like in the case of inclement weather, will be given.
- Friday, October 9 will be a regular school day to make up for one of these days.
With regard to City government, starting on Thursday, Sept. 24 through Monday, Sept. 28, the City will operate on an “essential services only” status.
Many City offices will not be open, and we’re doing this because we recognize how difficult it would be for city employees to get to work. City employees will be briefed by their supervisors as to their work status for those days. City Council President Darrell Clarke has announced that Council’s session on Sept. 24 has been cancelled.
For City residents, let’s all plan ahead for this historic event. By Friday, make sure you’ve taken care of your critical business, that you’ve gotten your groceries, filled your prescriptions and gotten done what you need to ahead of a very busy weekend.
And now I want to address the City’s business community. I understand that there will be significant challenges for many businesses and in response, the City is marshaling its resources to help.
Of course, some businesses are not open on the weekends, so the impacts for employees will be felt on Thursday, Friday and the following Monday. Some businesses are in the heart of Center City, while others are in the far Northeast or Northwest and may experience less impact. And still other businesses will service the attendees to the World Meeting of Families, particularly in our robust hospitality sector.
On Monday, a Papal Visit “Business Resource Center,” sponsored by the City’s Department of Commerce, will be available on the City’s website. There will be information, maps and a Q&A document that tries to answer many of the questions local business owners have been asking.
Please go to the website and absorb that information. If you have additional questions, you will be able to call the Department of Commerce’s Office of Business Services.
The office will have a hotline staffed by 9 business services managers who are trained and prepared to answer basic questions. For more specific questions, the City may need to deal with businesses on a case-by-case basis and respond to inquiries at a later time. The hotline will start taking calls at Noon on Monday and thereafter the hotline will run from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.
Voicemails will be responded to as quickly as possible, and there will be a general email address for businesses with questions. The phone number and the email address will be available Monday morning through a press release as well as being posted on the City’s website.
Beyond this outreach effort and starting several months ago, our partners in the World Meeting of Families coordinating team began to reach out to the business community. That work will intensify in the next couple weeks. Our collective goal is to reduce the difficulties facing businesses where we can.
For example, our basic message to businesses is to get your final deliveries on Friday so that you are stocked for the weekend and Monday.
But we are also working on a plan to allow for limited deliveries to occur overnight on Saturday into the early hours of Sunday. We’ll be asking businesses to be very smart and plan ahead, but we will have a limited delivery capability.
One important caution – these deliveries won’t be to the actual loading dock of each business. We’ll be using drop off locations. We’ll have more specifics in the coming weeks.
We are also very concerned about commercial trash collection. We are working on a plan and we’ll announce it as soon as the details are final.
One of our major concerns is the status of taxis in the Traffic Box in light of the authorized vehicle access roads and the secure and secure vehicle perimeters. At present, taxis are simply barred.
Again, the basic rule is that large throngs of pedestrians must be able to move freely through the City. More vehicle traffic increases the risk.
For taxies, however, we will be making exceptions as needed, and the plan for how that will operate is in the works. But there are three changes I can share:
- Taxis will be able to move in and out of the Traffic Box until 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, Sept. 26. The idea here is to help those arriving late by train or plane. As you’ll recall, the Traffic Box begins at 6 pm on Friday.
- There will be 7 medallion taxi cabs that are ADA compliant. They will operate in the Traffic Box along with SEPTA’s CCT vehicles. We believe this is a necessary accommodation.
- And finally, when we announced the Traffic Box, we noted that it will dissolve sometime on Monday, depending on a host of factors. But starting at 3 am, we will have taxi stands in the Traffic Box to service people needing to get to the Airport for early flights. The locations of these stands will be posted in the days to come on the city website along with other information.
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*Secure perimeter details:
- At 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 24th, the Secure Perimeter (red line on map) around Ben Franklin Parkway and Secure Vehicle Perimeter (black line on map) will go into effect.
- At 6:00 am on Friday, September 25th, the Secure Perimeter (red line on map) from 12th Street west until 20th Street will be open to screened pedestrians only, no vehicles allowed in the Secure Vehicle Perimeter (black line on map).
- At 8:00 a.m. on Friday, September 25th, the Authorized Vehicle Access Roads (yellow line on map) will go into effect.
- At 6:00 p.m. on Friday, September 25th, the Traffic Box in Center City (green line on map) will go into effect.
- At 10:00 p.m. on Friday, September 25th, the Secure Perimeter (red line on map) around Independence Hall and Secure Vehicle Perimeter (black line on map) will go into effect. The Traffic Box in University City (green line on map) will also go into effect.
- At 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 26th, the Secure Perimeters (red lines on map) for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 20th street west to the Art Museum, and the Independence Hall area, will open to ticketed and screened pedestrians.
- On Sunday, there will be no screening for pedestrians at Independence Hall, but the perimeters will remain in place for the duration of the event, meaning no vehicles in the Secure Perimeter and Secure Vehicle Perimeter through Sunday night.