As part of the ongoing preparations for the World Meeting of Families, Mayor Michael A. Nutter, together with many of the City’s partners, discussed plans for the event and expected impact on residents. The following are Mayor Nutter’s prepared remarks [please check against delivery]: 

Good afternoon. This is our fifth briefing ahead of the momentous World Meeting of Families in late September.   We’re now five weeks and a couple days from the arrival of Pope Francis.

After last week’s detailed announcement with the US Secret Service, and now that we can discuss the secure perimeters in full detail, I believe the entire City is really gearing up and has switched into full planning mode.

Businesses are calling the Papal Visit Business Resource Center – we’ve received more than 100 calls since the hotline opened on Monday – and we’re helping them plan to accommodate the 1.5 million visitors we’re expecting.

The vast majority of the questions can be answered right away, and at the end of each day a senior team meets to review and answer more difficult questions.

So now that we have more details confirmed, for today’s Papal Visit update I want to focus on the impact of this event on residents, especially those that live in and around Center City.

Resident Impact

We host big events in Center City year-round.  From the Mummer’s Parade to the 4th of July and the Philadelphia Marathon, the City is experienced at planning for the special events that can sometimes interrupt daily life. 

In the same way, residents who live near the areas where these events occur – the Fairmount and Old City neighborhoods, or along Broad Street for parades and the Broad Street Run – know how to plan when these events interrupt their daily routines.

They move their cars off Broad Street, pick up supplies a few days in advance, and a whole host of other things depending on their personal situation.

That said, there are key differences between the Papal Visit weekend and any of the other City events I’ve just mentioned.  We are expecting more attendees than the City has ever welcomed in recent history, and this is an NSSE event, which means there is extra security provided by our partners at the Secret Service.

But, we have worked hard to minimize the impact felt by residents. 

Less than 7% of City’s entire population lives inside the traffic box (the green line), which covers just under 4 square miles in Center City and less than 1 square mile in West Philly. 

We have said that if you live inside the traffic box, you will be able to drive your car inside the box – or leave, but you cannot return – but given the volume of pedestrians in the area, we don’t recommend driving.

So if you opt to use your bike or walk places in your neighborhood, which we recommend, there are plenty of options in this area, with more than 330 places to get groceries and food inside the Traffic Box. 

We will also be posting maps on the city’s website that show the locations of many of these amenities, including hospitals and houses of worship, as well as a map that shows approximate walking distances from outside of the traffic box to Center City.

We have created these resources to give residents an idea of what they can expect and help them make the most of a very exciting weekend.

Papal Playbook

Yet another resource for residents will be the Papal Visit Playbook.

 The World Meeting of Families, partnering with the City and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, has created a comprehensive guide for residents across the region to assist in their planning for the Papal Visit Weekend.

 This guide will be available on Monday, August 24th beginning at noon at

 The Playbook will provide residents with a broad overview of information related to the World Meeting of Families Congress, happening the week before the Papal Visit, and the Papal Visit itself that weekend.

 Donna will come to the podium in just a moment to give more detail about the components of the Playbook and the type of information which will be available.


 Last week we discussed the Secure Perimeter (the red line) and the Secure Vehicle Perimeter (the black line) – both will be constructed and maintained by the Secret Service.

 During the time that the Secret Service is erecting these barriers (this means beginning at 10:00 p.m. Thursday evening), SEPTA will be:

  • Running Regional Rail Lines on a weekend schedule with all stations active EXCEPT Suburban Station at 16th & JFK
  • Running subways as normal with all stations active EXCEPT 15th Street and City Hall Stations 
  • Running all West Philly Trolley Lines as normal with all stations active EXCEPT 15th Street.

 The above applies from 10 p.m. Thursday evening through the end of Friday.  The special Papal passes are NOT required on the Regional Rail trains during this period.

On Saturday and Sunday, SEPTA will be:

  • Reverting to their previously published express and limited stop service on regional, subway and city sub-surface lines.
  • Papal passes WILL be required on Regional Rail, but not on subways and city Trolley Lines.
  • Because of the “traffic box” (green line), many of SEPTA bus routes will be detoured or suspended in the center city region.  Buses on Detour will get as close to the boundary a possible to drop passengers off before turning around for service in the other direction.

 And just announced on Tuesday, SEPTA will begin selling One-Day Regional Rail Papal Passes at Suburban, Jefferson and outlying stations tomorrow, Friday, August 21.

Groups and organizations interested in bulk sales can email SEPTA at 

This is good news for residents who use Regional Rail to get to their jobs or other appointments on the weekend, and groups that are looking for a simple, direct way to get downtown to participate in the Papal events – SEPTA has Papal Passes available, so make sure you prepare in advance.

Our collective goal is to reduce the difficulties facing residents where we can.

An update from last week: residential trash and recycling collection will be cancelled only on Friday, September 25th and Monday, September 28th (not on Thursday, September 24th as previously stated).  Residents with Friday and Monday collections are asked to hold them until the following week. 

As an additional support for residents with questions the weekend of the Papal Visit, the City’s 311 call center will move to 24-hour operation beginning on Thursday, September 24th through Monday, September 28th.

And if you are a business owner and you have questions about planning right now, don’t forget that the Papal Visit Business Resource Center is available M-F, 9am to 5pm at 215-683-2100 or

Let’s all plan ahead for this historic, joyful event.   We’re the ‘can do’ City, and we’re going to have a great and historic visit from Pope Francis.

Posted in Mayor's Press Releases, Press Release
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