PHILADELPHIA, PA (WTXF) - The countdown continues to the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia.
We have 16 days until the pontiff arrives for a weekend of festivities. More details from city officials came out today including details on sightlines and security for the massive events on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Mayor Nutter and World Meeting of Families officials are doing what they can, these days, to re-energize a city turned off by fears of crowds and chaos on the big papal weekend.
On this day, they turned to visual aids, a DVD put together by the u-s secret service, giving a sense of the bike rack-type fencing to be used throughout much of the Francis Festival grounds and the sightlines along the Parkway for the big Saturday night and Sunday afternoon events.
Jumbotrons will be set up along the inner lanes of the parkway to give a close-up view of the pontiff.
And 16 separate security checkpoints each with multiple metal detectors will surround the Parkway.
The mayor says the secret service assures them there will be enough checkpoints to get folks onto the parkway in an orderly fashion.
A couple of big picture points worth making:
First, expanded SEPTA service means some of those ridiculous walking distances from station to papal events have been greatly reduced. That's good news.
And, with occupancy rates still below 70% for the big weekend, Center City hotels have been dropping prices and eliminating multi-night minimums.
More information, including parking rules for those who live in the secure areas.
To get an idea of what the Francis Festival grounds will look like, the US Secret Service has generously created a 3-D video which will give us a virtual tour of the event space.
Please play the video.
So now that we've seen what a great event space we'll have on the Parkway and Independence Mall, let's talk about how to get there.
As we've said before, public transportation is the way to go.
On Tuesday, SEPTA announced the finalization of its Papal Visit Transit Plan, which will maximize service for regular customers and visitors.
SEPTA has doubled the numbers of stations scheduled to be open during the weekend of the Papal Visit on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines, among them, 8 th Street and 34 th Street on the Market-Frankford line which provide closer access to the Francis Festival grounds.
SEPTA truly does 'get you closer' to the event than any other service.
And SEPTA also has plenty of Papal Passes for its regional rail service that weekend. Please visit www.septa.org for all the details about all of its services during the Papal Visit.
If you need to get to your hotel or other destination, there are many options available to you.
As we previously announced, taxis and Legal Uber (PPA-licensed limo partners, aka 'Black Cars') will be able to access the Francis Festival grounds until 2:00 am on Saturday morning and beginning 3:00am on Monday morning to help folks make early flights, etc.
WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicles), SEPTA CCT and UberWAV (PUC-licensed paratransit partners) will have no restrictions entering the Francis Festival grounds.
There's also the option of bicycles to get around inside the Festival grounds. Bicycles can travel anywhere in Center City except in the Secure Perimeter (cannot go through the mag lines).
And new today, the City is pleased to announce that Indego, our bike share program, will be offering special service from Friday, Sept. 25 th - Sunday, Sept. 27 th during the papal visit.
Indego will provide staffed, corral service at several stations to guarantee bike and dock availability, and to answer customer questions. The following locations will provide this service (operating hours will be finalized shortly):
Most other Center City stations will be closed to accommodate this service. You can find a complete list of open and closed stations on www.rideindego.com/stations or download the 'BCycle Now' app for real-time station availability during the Papal Visit.
And once you're in the Francis Festival grounds, if you need to walk somewhere to get where you're going, you won't have to walk that far.
We released a map a few weeks ago, which is still available on www.phila.gov, which shows the distances from outside the Festival grounds to the center where the events are taking place. Most people will need to walk less than 1 mile to reach the main Papal events.
Now, moving on to businesses planning to remain open during the Papal Visit.
Since the launch of our Business Services Center almost one month ago, we've received 400 calls from businesses.
Staffers answering those calls have told me that many business owners are excited to show off their uniquely-Philly offerings to visitors and feel that it's their civic duty to present our city as a world-class destination.
Most questions have been about transportation, which we've been able to answer, and our plans for allowing deliveries and commercial trash collection.
(Reminder: we announced that residential trash collection is cancelled city-wide on Friday, Sept. 25 th and Monday, Sept. 28 th ).
We are now able to announce how businesses will be able to get deliveries and handle trash collection throughout the weekend.
We have worked with the USSS to provide as much accommodation as possible because we value our great business owners who are stepping up to the plate and doing their part by staying open.
There are about 60 businesses within the secure perimeters that may potentially need deliveries. The Department of Commerce surveyed every single business within the Secure Perimeters that plans to be open over the weekend to understand their needs and concerns.
Deliveries & Commercial Trash
The window for this type of activity will be 12:00am - 4:00am on Saturday and Sunday, and will be limited to vehicles 28ft or smaller.
For most of you, deliveries & commercial trash vehicles that need to enter the Traffic Box (Francis Festival grounds) but NOT the Secure Perimeters will be able to do so from 12a-4a on Saturday and Sunday mornings with no designated entry points.
For the small number of businesses within the Secure Perimeter and Secure Vehicle Perimeter that need vehicle deliveries & commercial trash pickup, these trucks must be screened by the USSS.
Additional information about screening and entry points will be provided directly to businesses and commercial trash haulers.
Remember: you can always walk deliveries into the Secure Perimeter and Secure Vehicle Perimeter and therefore negate the need to have a vehicle screened by the USSS.
If you have further questions, please call the City's Papal Visit Business Services Center: 215-683-2100. The Center will be open from 9am Friday until 11:59pm Sunday night to take calls and answer questions. 311 will also operate around the clock that weekend to answer general resident and visitor questions.
Today, we are also able to provide more detail to residents about the timeline for parking if they live near the Secure Perimeter or Secure Vehicle Perimeter.
If you park your car in either the Secure Perimeter or Secure Vehicle Perimeter you will need to relocate your vehicle or you will be towed.
Towing in the Center City area will begin Sunday, Sept. 20 th (reference map of towing schedule) and must be completed by Wednesday, Sept. 23 rd to accommodate the construction of the secure perimeters and event infrastructure.
All no parking areas will receive one-week notice, and signs will be posted by Monday, Sept. 14 th .
Prior to the beginning of towing, residents are encouraged to park in any legal, long-term spot in the City. Check with friends and family to see if they might have room near their home and can 'keep an eye' on your vehicle for the weekend.
Another option is the Naval Hospital Lot at 1600 Pattison Avenue. This location has about 1,500 parking spots and will be available for free beginning that week.
To further help residents in these 'no parking' areas, the Philadelphia Parking Authority will pre-sell spaces in designated garages for residents to park beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24 th . Once a vehicle has entered a garage it will not be permitted to leave until Monday morning.
The cost is $20.00 for the entire weekend and must be purchased in advance.
Residents who purchase a parking space in a garage will be issued a placard that must be displayed in their car's front windshield. The placard will exempt them from the towing schedule until 10:00pm Thursday, Sept. 24 th .
In short, the placards indicate that the vehicle owners understand that they remove their cars from the street by Thursday at 10:00pm. Vehicles with pre-purchased spaces can begin entering garages at 6:00pm on Thursday.
There are 2,000 garage spaces available for residents and 6 garage locations from which to choose. Please visit www.philapark.org for information about how to buy the Resident Towing Exemption Permit and a list of the garages available.
Also available to residents is a service called Luxe, a private valet parking service which will pick up your car and move it out of the 'no parking' zones for you. The fee for this service is $20/day.
Residents can email Philly@luxe.com or register on luxe.com/Philadelphia