Philadelphia area's transit system halts sale of passes for pope's visit, website overwhelmed

IndustriesAssociated Press

Overwhelming customer demand on Monday forced the Philadelphia area's transit system to halt the sale of special rail passes to be used during Pope Francis' September visit to the city.

Andrew Busch, a spokesman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, said the number of customers buying tickets online was significantly higher than expected when tickets went on sale online Monday morning. Many users received error messages or were unable to load pages. Busch said that just minutes after the launch, visitors to the site had loaded up more than 64,000 "shopping carts" that contained more than 250,000 tickets overall.

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"A few customers got through, but everything backed up and some got kicked off," Busch said.

Busch said technicians were working on the problem and SEPTA is expected to announce Tuesday when ticket sales will resume. He said the majority of the transactions attempted Monday were not completed, which means most of the approximately 350,000 passes will still be available when sales resume.

The Port Authority Transit Corporation, which runs trains from stops in southern New Jersey to downtown Philadelphia, also started selling special Freedom cards online and at the Broadway station in Camden, New Jersey. Those cards offer unlimited service the weekend of Sept. 26-27.

A one-day pass costs $5 and a two-day pass is $10 for those 5 and older. There is a limit of 10 cards per purchase.

PATCO passengers who don't have them won't be permitted on the trains. No paper tickets will be sold.

Passengers may still use their regular Freedom cards during the weekend pope visit and be charged $2.50 for each ride.

Francis will visit inmates at a Philadelphia jail, speak on religious freedom and immigration in the shadow of Independence Hall and celebrate Sunday Mass with an anticipated crowd of more than 1 million people.

Some roads will be closed and parking on others restricted as events are held and the pope is shuttled around.