The latest information for the city’s papal visit plans is out, and it involves, yes, more security. This afternoon, Mayor Michael Nutter explained two new security zones, outlined a partial plan for cabs and tried to reassure businesses likely to be affected by the papal visit that they will be fine.
Billy Penn explains the latest developments:
The new security zones
Within the traffic box, a secure perimeter (red) and secure vehicle perimeter (black) will also be enacted.
The secure vehicle perimeter is an area in which no vehicle traffic (or street parking) is allowed. The secure perimeters by the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Independence Hall, which are the areas pope will be appearing, will be fenced off. People who wish to enter them will have to pass through security and a metal detector, similar to what you’d have at an airport.
The secure vehicle perimeter and the secure perimeter by the Parkway begin at 10 p.m. Sept. 24. The secure perimeter by Independence Hall will begin at 10 p.m. on Sept. 25. Nutter said the exact areas for checkpoints into the secure perimeter will be released later. He also said people who enter will be allowed to bring water and food, and that specific guidelines would be released later.
Bikes are not allowed in the secure perimeter. But for now, Nutter said, they are allowed in the secure vehicle perimeter. Just like with Uber and Lyft, the city has not decided whether Indego bike share will operate in the perimeter.
In addition to the secure vehicle perimeter, the authorized vehicle access roads (seen in yellow in the above map) will also be closed in the traffic box. Nutter pretty much told people to not drive, saying those who do will “face some daunting challenges,” meaning the thousands of pedestrians on the sidewalks and streets.
He said the traffic box isn’t being planned to protect Pope Francis but to protect pedestrians
Though the traffic box goes into effect the Friday of the pope’s visit at 6 p.m., cabs will be allowed to function within the traffic box until 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Taxi stands will also be set up at 3 a.m. Monday within the traffic box for people wanting to leave the downtown Philadelphia area. Those locations have not been determined.
Throughout the weekend, some wheelchair accessible cabs and SEPTA CCT vehicles will be allowed to operate. But Nutter said the taxi situation is incomplete and could change.
Support for businesses
Nutter said Secret Service officials have been going “door to door” to meet with businesses in Center City who might be affected by the closures. He recommended businesses receive any deliveries they would need for the weekend by the Friday of the pope’s visit (the 25th) before the traffic box goes into effect but said some deliveries will likely be able to occur late on Friday night or early on Saturday.
The city, Nutter said, will post to its website Monday information for businesses with questions, including a phone number and email address for more specific inquiries.
“Our collective goal is to reduce the difficulties businesses face,” he said.
City government/school closings
The School District of Philadelphia will be closed Wednesday, Sept. 23 through Friday, Sept. 25 with the possibility of closure on Monday. Schools will now be open Monday, Oct. 9, which was previously a day off. City Hall will be open only for “essential service” employees from the Thursday through Monday of the pope’s visit.
When everything will reopen
It’s still not known. The secure perimeter, secure vehicle perimeter and the traffic box will be in effect at least through the Sunday night of the pope’s visit. He said it’s likely a decision would be made on Monday about when everything opens again. The secure perimeter around Independence Hall — at least for metal detectors for pedestrians — will only last through the Saturday night.
Best Nutter quote
“They are joyful pilgrims, and they’ll be happy wherever they’re standing.”