Security and maps and traffic and screenings and bridge closures and everything that comes with Pope Francis can be overwhelming. A reason for hope: We’re third on his list of cities to visit, and things went well in the first one.

Pope Francis left Washington, D.C. yesterday to make his way toward New York to address the United Nations, and instead of leaving it in disrepair, the place was calm and things went smoothly — especially regarding traffic and security.

Here’s a quick look at how things went in Washington, D.C. And hopefully we can take a cue:


Washington residents were practically singing praises of the Pope, asking if he can just move to D.C. so its notoriously snarled system can get a break from being beaten down by heavy car traffic on a daily basis.

Despite predictions that the Papal visit would bring “a traffic blizzard” to all three cities the Pontiff was scheduled to visit, no traffic apocalypse ever materialized in D.C. like onlookers thought it would. On both Wednesday and Thursday, The Washington Post‘s traffic blog reported that traffic in and around the city was “quiet, easy and light” — three words rarely used to describe D.C. traffic.

There no traffic in DC and it’s 5pm!!!!!!! Can the Pope live here!!!!!!!! Lol

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) September 23, 2015

The Post also created this video where they talked to D.C. residents — some of whom allotted two hours to get to work. They were, of course, quite early.

Public transportation

If there was anything that was easier than driving around the city during the Papal visit, it was probably using the city’s Metro transit system.

The Metrorail transit system told Politico that ridership on the first day of the Papal visit actually went down compared to normal — it logged about 220,500 travelers by midday, 26 percent under the prior week. Officials told Politico that it seems D.C. residents heeded the calls of the federal government which asked people to telecommute if at all possible during the days the Pontiff would be in town.

As of 8am, Metrorail ridership is a bit LIGHTER than a typical weekday. Down ~14% vs same time last Wed. 109K trips taken so far. #wmata

— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) September 23, 2015


Beautiful day. smiles in DC crowds.only people not smiling. Law enforcement. Papal Security. Unprecedented.

— Pierre Thomas (@PierreTABC) September 23, 2015

The only person who was able to get past Papal security in D.C. was a 5-year-old who Pope Francis went on to kiss on the head. So, take from that what you wish.

According to the Associated Press, tickets were required in D.C. for most of Pope Francis’ popemobile processions, and those were granted one through a lottery system that went through local churches still went through extensive screening like metal detectors before they could get anywhere near the areas where the Pope would be.

So: One down, two to go. Your game, Big Apple.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.