After the Eagles beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday night, public transit faced a sudden onslaught of exuberant fans who rushed from their homes to join the party in Philadelphia. In some cases, however, the region’s public transportation systems weren’t fully ready for the crowds.
In Center City, celebrants expecting to return home by subway were surprised to find the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines had shut down by 12:30 a.m. Many bus lines also ended service due to streets closed by the crowds filling travel lanes, SEPTA officials said.
SEPTA said its subway lines don’t run all night on Sundays, and the agency treated Super Bowl Sunday the way it does whenever there’s a big sports event in the city.
“We will keep trains running sometimes for an additional half-hour or so when there’s a late-running event at the sports complex, but we wouldn’t normally extend it for a temporary road closure like last night,” Andrew Busch, a SEPTA spokesman, said Monday. Some buses were still running in Center City overnight Sunday, he added.
With bus cancellations and no subway service, some people found themselves struggling to return home when the celebrations waned. Solutions included paying for expensive ride hailing or cab trips, people told reporters.
“SEPTA should have planned for this two weeks ago,” said Marcus McKnight, a transit activist in the city. “Whether the Eagles were going to win or lose, there were going to be hundreds, if not thousands, of people descending on Center City Philadelphia.”
Regional Rail had its troubles, too, with numerous trains canceled due to a lack of manpower, according to SEPTA’s Twitter account. The transportation agency was still tallying Monday the number of trains canceled as a result of workers calling out, and what the circumstances were behind the callouts, though one can imagine the Eagles’ playing in the Super Bowl may have contributed to the sudden staffing woes.
SEPTA is expected to announce its transportation plans for Thursday’s parade at a news conference Tuesday morning.
PATCO passengers may have had it harder, though. PATCO anticipated fan enthusiasm by running trains every 10 minutes. But an 11:20 p.m. train to Philadelphia broke down near Ferry Avenue, said John Hanson, the Delaware River Port Authority CEO, because of a problem with a door likely triggered by a passenger trying to force the door open.
The train is required to stop if there is a door fault, Hanson said, and in the time spent trying to determine what had happened with the door and how to fix it, impatient riders forced open the doors and the emergency window exits and left the train by going onto the tracks. Unlike SEPTA trains, which are powered by overhead lines, the energy powering PATCO trains runs through a third rail, making it hazardous for people to be on the tracks.
“What was happening was something that is not very typical,” Hanson said. “We had an extremely dangerous situation on our line.”
The people exiting the train caused power to be turned off on the line, leaving trains stranded with no way for other trains to get to them. Passengers on a train heading eastbound that was stranded when the power went out also got out of that train.
It took hours to clear people from the tracks and get trains running again, and passengers complained of sitting in the dark, literally, waiting to get some information on what happened to their trains, and how long they would have to sit on the train.
“We don’t expect that to happen on the day of the parade,” Hanson said, because riders “will be going over in a much calmer state in the morning. They will come back in somewhat more staggered time in the evening.”
PATCO also expects to release a plan for service during Thursday’s parade.