Pope's Washington Visit Means Transportation Delays

An interactive graphic showing where Pope Francis will visit in Washington


WASHINGTON (Sept. 18, 2015)—Pope Francis is visiting the nation’s capital during his trip to the United States next week, and visitors, employees and residents alike can expect difficulty and delays getting into and around the city.

The papal events are expected to attract several hundred thousand visitors to Washington over the course of the three-day visit Tuesday through Thursday. The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) says to expect longer wait times, increased trip times, and limited online bus arrival time and schedule predictions due to detours.

The influx of visitors will be similar to that of a presidential inauguration compounded with other popular events in the city, said Sherry Ly, a Metro spokesperson.

“We have rather than, for instance, a [presidential] inauguration and then a parade, and it’s done, in this case you have multiple events going on throughout the day, some at the same time … all in the span of two days, and back to back,” Ly said.

Beth Cobert, acting director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, released a memo Sept. 1 urging federal agencies to allow employees to work from home or take the day off in order to help alleviate traffic concerns and “minimize distraction to law enforcement and security officials.” In the memo, she recommends that if possible, employees should stay home.

WMATA recommends that customers load SmarTrip cards in advance to avoid kiosk lines. Metro riders can also expect delays and station adjustments because certain stations will be “exit only.” Riders using Metrobus, WMATA’s Washington-area bus service, should also expect delays. Hours and fees for each service will not change for the papal visit.

Metrobus riders on all routes should expect detours on Wednesday and Thursday. There will be delays near the U.S. Capitol in the morning and Gallery Place in the afternoon. Riders should also prepare for crowds and give themselves plenty of extra time to reach their destinations, according to a WMATA advisory posted Monday.

Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) trains and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) will operate on normal schedules during the pope’s Washington visit.

Greyhound buses are currently expected to run on their regular schedules between Washington and Philadelphia as well as Philadelphia and New York, said Lanesha Gipson, Greyhound’s senior communication specialist. However, Greyhound is monitoring ticket sales during the pope’s visit and will increase service if needed.

Greyhound buses traveling into Philadelphia will use a temporary terminal Friday night through Monday afternoon because of increased security in certain areas of the city, where the pope will be between Saturday morning and Sunday night. Travel to and from certain areas within Philadelphia will be closed for the weekend, but can be expected to open Monday at noon.

“They’re highly secured areas, and traffic can’t get in and out of certain areas,” Gipson said. “This is all designated by the city.”

Amtrak estimates that a crowd of one million or more will visit Philadelphia during the weekend of Pope Francis’ visit, and is requiring riders of all trains to Philadelphia during that time period make reservations.

Extra trains will run on Saturday and Sunday between Washington and New York with stops along Pope Francis’ travel schedule in Washington, Philadelphia and New York to accommodate the additional crowds, but Amtrak recommends planning for extra travel time.

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