Pope Alert! His Holiness’ll be here in a little over 2 months! Rental tips for getting the most of your East Falls pad, plus an easy way to dodge traffic right in our own backyard.
So about that Pope thing, is anybody else getting World Series parade flashbacks? Giant crowds, public transit overload, and traffic gridlock for sure.
Only this time around they’re expecting almost twice as many people — so it’ll be worse. Maybe not Biblically worse, but epic at the very least. Camping, barricaded areas, pilgrims from all over the country and overseas — it’s even got our homeless wondering if there’ll be a place for them to stay.
Local media is chock full of tips and tricks for getting around, getting to, and surviving in Philly amid the crush of pilgrims trying to catch a glimpse of Francis.
We’ve read options for getting to town from every conceivable corner of the metropolitan area (and even the suburbs) — and somehow once again our little corner here’s been overlooked.
No worries — we’ve put together our own East Falls Pope Plan, and it doesn’t involve complicated SEPTA schedules, chartered schoolbuses, or carpooling with strangers.
In fact, it’s ridiculously simple, convenient and fun, even, with NO fuel or parking costs. It’s the BICYCLE! September is a beautiful month for bike riding. And what better way to scoot downtown than when roads and public transportation will be hopelessly clogged?
East Falls’ location about 5 miles from Logan Square and Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral — “ground zero” for the Papal visit. We’re close to the action, but off to the side where no one seems to be paying attention. How perfect for an event like this!
MAP: MLK Drive
Bike in as close as you dare, lock up and stroll around till you’ve had your fill of the throng. With at least two ways to get around, yet! MLK Drive will be closed to traffic the entire weekend, providing a straight shot down the river, or a similar shot on the other side of the river down Kelly Drive. (There’s also a nice a scenic route through East Fairmount Park that we’ll be mapping soon).
Whichever route you take it’s guaranteed to be much faster and easier than hoofing it. And even if you drive, prepare to walk! Most public parking sites could require a “few miles or more” of walking to events.
MAP: Kelly Drive
I was lucky to spot a cab among a see of gridlocked cars around 30th Street Station and grabbed it as fast as Kevin Bacon.
Even with the benefit of a car, it was still a slog getting out of the city. When I saw several bikers pedaling happily away from the gridlock up Kelly Drive, I had my plan for the next epic Philly event.
Speaking of SEPTA — what’s the deal with Pope Passes? We’ve heard rumors from a SEPTA contractor that there won’t be nearly enough to accommodate the crowds — his exact words were, “If I were you, I’d buy as many Pope passes as I could and sell ’em on eBay….”
Also, seems that due to security issues, his Holiness’ exact itinerary is kept vague till the last minute — a nightmare for SEPTA, who would like to start testing systems and protocols as soon as possible.
**UPDATE 7/20: Hoo boy does this not bode well.**
**UPDATE 7/24: Annnd they’re shutting down the Ben Franklin bridge, and possibly I-95, as well**
**UPDATE 7/29: Now there’s a lottery for rail passes.
So this time around, bikes are the obvious choice! How lucky for pilgrims here in East Falls, and also for local homeowners looking to make a buck from the Holy Father’s upcoming trip to town. Apparently, the time is ripe to make some money, even with new Airbnb regulations that were passed earlier this month.
**UPDATE 7/27: Rent Your Home on Facebook — new “Popeadelphia” page connects renters who are looking with homeowners who are listing**
You’ve got some great selling points for wherever you’re listing — you could even include use of your bikes, or rent them for an extra fee. Not only is this a great opportunity to earn some side cash, but it’s helping someone fulfill a spiritual pilgrimage, possibly the most important trip of their life.
(As if that weren’t enough, Councilman Bill Greenlee reminded us that the Papal visit coincides with the Irish Fall Festival Weekend in Wildwood. “Your rental can pay for your weekend at the shore. It’s a win-win!”)
So there’s our rental pitch for East Falls this September: beautiful location close to the city, just a bike ride from the action. You can even add a story about the hellish Phillies parade (or steal ours) to seal the deal. Oh, and throwing in a nice t-shirt wouldn’t hurt either, especially if you’re charging renters that “holy moly” rate of $5K/night.
“Triple Lindy” Update (7/25)
A friend of ours has a good point — “Why the hell is this such a thing for Philly? You’re almost three months away from the Pope and people are going crazy around around here. You’re talking about closing the Ben Franklin bridge? I-95? That’s crazy. You don’t see this kinda nonsense in New York or DC. It wouldn’t be tolerated.” (Full disclosure, he’s from New York which makes him smug, but not wrong on this point.)
Good question. Philadelphia magazine has an answer. Apparently, we’re trying our own version of the Triple Lindy, never before attempted by an American city for such a massive event.
1. Unlike other cities that have hosted the Pope, we’ve decided to hold it in the middle of town, rather than a park or other open area outside of center city.
2. By not holding it in a stadium (see New York, 2008) you can keep jamming in as many people as the streets will hold. A million? 1.5? (Shudder.)
3. Finally, our proximity to other major cities (and the fact that we’re in one of the most heavily traveled corridors in the country) is an open invitation to every pilgrim within a couple hundred miles.
So yeah, it doesn’t sound promising. Hope we can stick the landing. Too late to change it now anyway. Read the full Philly mag article here.