Pope patrons face an hour wait for trains home

Tom Mellett and Maureen Schmidt stood on the corner of Filbert and 11th streets as things died down along the parkway. Old friends who were reunited in line, both were attempting to catch the Lansdale/Doylestown line. Still with dozens in line ahead of them, both had been waiting in a line that "wrapped around the block" for about 45 minutes.

"This thing just isn't moving," Mellett said. Both left the parkway around 9 p.m., he said, but Mellett stopped for a beer on the way to the train.

"My friend who didn't stop for a beer already made it home," he said. "Guess that's a lesson: drink at home."

Large crowds have begun packing platforms along SEPTA’s Center City Regional Rail lines as the first of Pope Francis's two days in Philadelphia is coming to a close.

SEPTA said the goal is to get everyone onto a train within an hour of their arrival and that despite the anticipated wait times, the transit agency will continue to run trains this evening until everyone gets home.

"We're loading up the trains as fast as we can," SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said. "We do not plan on leaving anyone behind. They should not have to wait more than an hour. But there are tens of thousands of people attempting to board trains with a maximum capacity of 900-1000 passengers."

At 30th Street station, SEPTA had set up separate lines for each regional rail line. Passengers were told to wait outside in their respective line until their train arrived. A SEPTA worker said 800 were allowed on a train at a time. 

Lines were moving quickly around 10:30 p.m., as crowds from the parkway concert began to leave the city.

Around 10:30 p.m., Judy Fuhrman, 58, of Oreland, jumped into the Lansdale/Doylestown line. She was surprised by the crowd.

"Getting down here was a breeze," she said. She took the 12:30 p.m. train into the city Saturday and said she and a friend were the only two in the car.

Still, she remained optimistic as the line of a few hundred stretched in front of her, in which some had been waiting for more than an hour. "I've got a book on tape. That's all I need."

One of the last rushes down the steps at the Broad and Walnut station was around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, but passengers were met immediately with trains.

That was mostly the norm all evening at this station, said Dan Ferrante, a project manager at Septa serving this weekend as an ambassador.

"The most important part was the trains were here to get people out," he said, as he waved a group of passengers to the platform. "There was not one incident where there were people waiting to get down in the station. I thought it was going to be problematic but it wasn't."

Whether it will be Sunday, with about one million expected for the pope's 4 p.m. Mass, time will tell, he said.