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The Pope in Philly: How many people could actually fit on the Ben Franklin Parkway?

Officials are estimating 1.5 million to 2 million people will see Pope Francis when he arrives in Philadelphia next month to celebrate mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the World Meeting of Families.

That’s a lot. This summer on the Parkway, at the Wawa Welcome America Festival, held about 200,000 people at its busiest point. In 2013, Made In America saw about 40,000 people each day.

Can a million people even squeeze into the Parkway?

A surprisingly large amount of people can fit into what would seem like a small area. In 2010, National Geographic released a video about global population in which it revealed all 7 billion of us on earth could fit into Los Angeles if we stood shoulder-to-shoulder, using up about two square feet of space each.

Using the two square feet per person guide, Billy Penn has calculated the approximate capacity for the Parkway, the Parkway and its surrounding areas, as well as the entire city just in case we’re overrun by pope tourists. These capacities estimate the “shoulder-to-shoulder” capacity. If officials want a more comfortable atmosphere, the ideal capacity would be closer to about half as much as the “shoulder-to-shoulder” estimate.

The Parkway proper

Capacity: 718,740

The area of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, featuring only the actual street, plus Eakins Oval where the pope will perform mass, takes up about 1,437,480 square feet, according to Google Maps data. A capacity of about 718,000 matches the estimate given by the PPA two weeks ago.

This part of the Parkway will likely be the most popular for spectators hoping to catch a good glimpse of the pope. So if you want a direct, somewhat close view of Francis, you’re going to have be one of the first 700,000 to arrive.

The Parkway and adjoining spaces

Capacity: 1,894,860

If the crowd spreads out to the lawns and the parts of the Parkway in front of the Art Museum, and the Barnes, etc., the square footage (3,789,720 feet, according to Google) and capacity nearly triple from the above estimate. And even if officials decide to let people spread out instead of jamming into the area, about a million people could fit.

All of Philly

Let’s say these pope pilgrims get really out of control. Let’s say they totally invade Philadelphia. If they did, we could accommodate plenty of them. Philadelphia isn’t as large as Los Angeles and able to fit the entire world’s population, but it’s big. With approximately 135 square miles of land, Philly’s maximum “shoulder-to-shoulder” capacity is about 1.8 billion people.

Hopefully not that many visitors come.

 

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