Despite long lines, public transit bore the crush of Eagles parade-goers

A mask-wearing Eagles fan boards the Broad Street Line at its Race-Vine station after Super Bowl Champions parade Thursday in Philadelphia.

Eagles fans waited decades to welcome their team home as Super Bowl champions.

The wait to get home after Thursday’s victory parade in Center City felt nearly as interminable for some.

Moments after the celebration’s end, thousands mobbed lines stretching for blocks to board trains back to the suburbs. Riders elbowed their way into teeming subway cars. And others opted to skip public transportation altogether and braved a pedestrian traffic jam along the Ben Franklin Bridge.

And yet, despite the high volume and waits of up to two hours, the region’s public transportation systems appeared to bear the crush of green-garbed revelers well. Trains kept moving throughout the afternoon without any major mechanical delays. By 5:30 p.m. those lines had shortened to about an hour wait, and by 6 p.m. they were nearly gone.

In fact, the biggest complaints Thursday seemed to come from the dozens of fans who had staked out prime spots along the parade route near City Hall hours in advance only to have their view obscured by SEPTA buses ferrying police officers that pulled up in front of them just as the procession passed by.

As the evening crowd began to thin, SEPTA’s general manager, Jeff Knueppel, said he was pleased with the transportation agency’s performance Thursday.

“We cleared the platforms,” he said. “Every one of the lines we cleared the platforms. If you had an expectation of going in you made it.”

Still, as the first trains left 30th Street and Jefferson Stations — the two hubs SEPTA had designated for Regional Rail riders leaving the city — lines snaked from the entrances and nerves frayed as passengers learned it might be hours before they could board.

Several blocks around 11th and Filbert Streets were clogged as separate queues for each destination jumbled, leaving some confused as to where they should be waiting. Some passengers, tired and cold after hours spent standing along the parade route, plopped their posteriors on sidewalk while they waited.

“I think it’s kind of crazy, not organized at all,” said Leah Mollenhauer, 18, who was waiting for a train back to Warminster with six friends from Villa Joseph Marie High School. “People don’t know where they are going. It’s taking a very long time and everyone’s really cold.”

Camera icon ( JACOB ADELMAN / STAFF WRITER )
Eagles fans wait in snaking lines outside Jefferson Station for regional rail trains back to the suburbs Thursday.

Brad Carter, 25, of Harrisburg, however, took the delay in stride.

“It’s what you expect with this amount of people,” said Carter, 25, as he waited for a train back to the West Trenton Station.

Lines at the 15th and Locust PATCO stop, though long, moved briskly.

And chants of “E-A-G-L-E-S” echoed across the food court at 30th Street Station as people kept the festive mood going while biding their time. Cheers erupted each time a line showed any sign of movement.

“Just getting home has been the worst, but it hasn’t been that bad,” said Jackie Shafer, 55, in line for a train back to Wilmington. “I think they’re handling it well.”

Shafer said the waits Thursday were nothing compared with her experience trying to leave Philadelphia after the Phillies’ World Series victory parade in 2008.

Back then, some commuters found themselves stranded for hours as train after train passed them by, already filled to capacity and hundreds were forced to find alternate ways home.

This time, public transportation officials were eager to avoid similar chaos.

All week, SEPTA had been warning hopeful parade-goers that Regional Rail passes would be limited and encouraging them, once in the city, to rely on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines, which together can carry up to 65,000 people at a time.

And while at some stations — including Eighth Street and Cecil B. Moore — service was temporarily curtailed due to overcrowding, riders reported subway service was largely efficient. Both lines were free throughout the day.

The morning travel went smoothly, Knueppel said while surveying Jefferson Station. The biggest problem that arose was a medical emergency on a train along the Warminster Line that caused delays for those passengers and riders going in the direction of Doylestown.

“It’s always tough,” Knueppel said. “You’re moving a lot, a lot of people.”

Still, Jeff Keller, 42, took one look at the long lines and scrambled to find another option.

Regrouping at a 38th Street bar, he and his friends initially scoffed after learning an Uber back to Malvern would cost them $192 due to surge pricing. They eventually settled on a much more economical $50 fare to Ardmore Station.

There, they were greeted by the first throngs of passengers pulling in from the city by train. “Fantastic,” said Kipp Gearheart, 42, of Wayne, of his ride after an hour wait. “The way in was great, but the way back was good, too.”

Staff writers Erin McCarthy, Andrew Seidman, Robert Moran, Jacob Adelman, Mark Fazlollah, Jan Hefler,  and Samantha Melamed contributed to this article.