Eagles' Super Bowl Parade: Philly officials outline the massive logistical challenge

Patience, snacks, and seriously warm clothing – green or otherwise — are highly recommended for the more than two million people expected to descend into Center City on Thursday for the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory parade.

But getting there might be less than half the fun. Be prepared to walk. A potentially unprecedented crowd might put unprecedented stress on public transit systems.

Expect long lines for SEPTA Regional Rail and PATCO trains, with passenger-crammed public transit vehicles that won’t be making stops near the five-mile parade route, from Pattison Avenue to the Art Museum.

Mayor Kenney asked parade-goers to opt for best behavior.

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Are you going to the Eagles parade?

“The best way to honor this great team and its accomplishments is to make it a great parade, and that means helping others, being patient with the crowds, and most of all celebrating with passion and pride,” Kenney said at a Tuesday news conference, standing next to the Lombardi Trophy. “The entire nation will be watching our Super Bowl celebration. Let’s show them what Philly pride is really about.”

>> READ MORE: Eagles parade: Where to watch and how to get to the Super Bowl celebration

Thursday’s event could draw the largest parade crowd in the city’s history, officials said. It certainly will be one of the coldest – wind chills will be in the mid-20s all day, with a stiff wind blowing down Broad Street.

SEPTA, playing off its experiences with the pope’s visit in 2015 and the fiascos during the Phillies’ 2008 World Series celebration, is reducing Regional Rail service to just 37 of its 154 stops, most of them well away from the city limits. That will help the system run more efficiently, said SEPTA’s general manager, Jeff Knueppel, but it also means tens of thousands of riders who rely on stations close to the city for their commute to work will have to make other plans Thursday.

That could mean driving, ride sharing, going to a more outlying station, or telecommuting, but Knueppel asked daily commuters to defer to Eagles fans who have waited decades for this event.

“If you’re using SEPTA to come to work regularly, we can still take those people,” he said, “but I think if you look at it as a region, we’re trying to get all the people who have waited so long for this.”

On Sunday, SEPTA personnel called out of work in such significant numbers that 42 trains had to be canceled, according to SEPTA’s internal reports — or about 11 percent of the day’s train traffic. Knueppel said Tuesday he has met with union leaders to express the importance of having full staff available for Thursday.

Eagles Parade Route

SOURCE: City of Philadelphia
Staff Graphic

“I really think our people get it,” he said, “that they’ve got to come through for the region.”

The parade events kick off at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, when the Eagles will leave Lincoln Financial Field in motorized vehicles, and the Birds will officially start the parade at 11 a.m. from Broad Street and Pattison Avenue. The route will proceed up Broad Street, around City Hall and up the Parkway, ending at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. At 1 p.m., a ceremony will be held on the Art Museum steps.

The Creative Group’s Fred Stein, who helped plan the event, said that since not everyone will get a view of the ceremony, 14 Jumbotrons will be set up along the Parkway from Eakins Oval down to City Hall.

Stein, however, is keeping the details of the ceremony a surprise.

“It will be dramatic. It will be wonderful. It will be fantastic. You should know everyone has been preparing for this for about four decades,” he said. The ceremony is expected to end at 3 p.m.

Forty food trucks will be allowed to set up shop near the Parkway — 20 near 21st Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and another 20 at 20th and Winter Streets by the Franklin Institute.

Kenney recommended leaving the beer at home, as it will be confiscated by police. Beer also could increase the need for visits to portable potties, which will be at a premium. Only about 850 will be available, or about one for every 2,500 anticipated parade-goers.

“It’s never enough,” Stein said.

The mayor said he expects Thursday’s festivities to be family-friendly, not as rowdy as Sunday’s impromptu celebrations by tens of thousands of fans who poured onto the streets.

“The crowd that was out there Sunday night had probably been partying from the afternoon,” he said. “I doubt even the partiest of partiers will be drinking that much at 10:45 [a.m.], and it will be over by 2 or 3 p.m.”

Those comments drew swift reaction from the Twitter world, with people saying Philadelphians drink heavily for events that start early, such as the Mummers Parade and Wing Bowl.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross promised a strong police presence throughout the parade route — police officers will be on foot, bike, vehicles, and horses and in the air, both in uniforms and plainclothes. Barricades have been set up to allow police to move quickly should an emergency develop.

Camera icon DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross and Mayor Kenney address media questions during a City Hall news conference regarding the upcoming Super Bowl victory parade in the city on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.

Federal law enforcement agencies will also be assisting local police, said Ross, who asked parents to keep a close eye on their children.

Police will not be checking bags and people won’t have to go through any security screening, Ross said. Police officers who will be on the scene are trained to look for suspicious activity and will respond accordingly, he said.

>> READ MORE: Eagles parade: Road closures, parking for Super Bowl celebration in Philadelphia

Within the city, SEPTA’s Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines will be free for people going to and from the Eagles parade thanks to a $300,000 donation from Independence Blue Cross, although some stops along or close to the parade route will be closed to prevent people trying to leave stations from getting trapped by dense crowds above.

As for Regional Rail, service to Center City will be available via Jefferson and 30th Street Stations – not Suburban Station.

Trains will only run into Center City in the morning, and operate out of the city in the afternoon and evening. Railroad service will end entirely at 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

SEPTA is anxious to prevent a repeat of the 2008 experience. Thousands of people who wanted to attend the World Series celebration watched train after train pass them, already full with people who had boarded at outlying stations.

That time, SEPTA and PATCO were overwhelmed. Parade-goers had been encouraged to use public transportation, but when they got to stations, they were met with huge crowds and trains filled to capacity. Commuters waited for hours as packed trains or buses passed without stopping. People gave up and drove their cars. Some coming from New Jersey walked across the Ben Franklin Bridge. Others missed the parade entirely.

Those who stuck with public transportation found themselves in line for hours. For some this was their first experience attempting to use SEPTA.

When Pope Francis came in 2015, avoiding the 2008 chaos was a priority.

The number of people expected to flock to the city to see the pontiff prompted SEPTA to limit rail access to people who got special passes, but ultimately just under 63,000 people rode Regional Rail over the weekend, about half the number who bought passes.

PATCO reported far fewer riders than expected that weekend as well.

Still, lines at Regional Rail stations and the Broad Street Line lasted for hours, and hundreds were stuck at stations.

About a million people attended the Phillies’ parade, and close to a million for the papal visit, according to estimates.

The Eagles’ crowds could be double those numbers, if not more.

This time around, SEPTA is following the playbook it developed for the pope’s visit by pushing all passengers toward those outlying stops.

Here are the stations that will be open on each line:

  • Airport Line: Eastwick, Terminals A, B, C/D and E/F. Hourly service throughout the day
  • Chestnut Hill East Line: Chestnut Hill East and Wyndmoor
  • Chestnut Hill West Line: No train service
  • Cynwyd Line: No train service
  • Fox Chase Line: Fox Chase stations
  • Lansdale/Doylestown line: Doylestown, Lansdale, Pennbrook, Ambler, Fort Washington, and Jenkintown-Wyncote
  • Manayunk/Norristown line: Elm Street, Norristown Transportation Center, and Conshohocken
  • Media/Elwyn Line: Elwyn, Media, and Primos
  • Paoli/Thorndale Line: Thorndale, Whitford, Exton, Paoli, and Ardmore
  • Trenton Line: Trenton, Croydon, and Cornwells Heights
  • Warminster Line: Warminster and Jenkintown-Wyncote
  • West Trenton Line: West Trenton, Woodbourne, Langforne, Philmont, and Jenkintown-Wyncote
  • Wilmington/Newark Line: Wilmington, Marcus Hook, and Ridley Park

More information on fares and train travel times can be found on SEPTA’s parade website at Septa.org/Eagles.

PATCO is running a similar program, with trains coming only from New Jersey into the city until close to 2 p.m. Starting about 1:20 p.m. PATCO will only run trains out of Philadelphia, until about 8 p.m. Normal service is expected to resume between 7:30 and 8 p.m.

The city and partner agencies will be offering free text-message alerts on Thursday for the parade. To sign up text ReadyEagles to 888-777.