Going to see the pope? NJ drivers have more travel options
If you wanted to go see the pope at the end of this month, but have been scared off by reports of transportation problems and difficulties, you should know the situation has just changed.
At a Wednesday news conference, Camden Mayor Dana Redd said while mass transit is still the best option to get into Philadelphia to see Pope Francis on Sept. 27, “the Camden waterfront will be open for pre-registered parking for privately operated vehicles.”
About 8,500 parking spaces have been made available, because tour buses from across the region that were going to park in Camden have now gotten clearance to go directly into Philadelphia for the pope’s visit.
The mayor said if you park along the waterfront, this will give people the chance to get into Philly to see the pope in several different ways.
“They will have the options of either walking across the Ben Franklin Bridge, riding the PATCO train or crossing over on the ferry Riverline, which is ADA accessable,” she said.
Officials at the news conference stressed the only way to secure one of these parking spaces is to pay a total of $44, including tax, by going to www.gatewaytothepope.com.
The mayor pointed out if you get a reserved parking spot you need to understand “there will be no overnight sleeping in vehicles, parking lots, parks, or camping and we will enforce this with our police personnel.”
Redd said walkers need to be prepared to travel long distances and people need to consider their physical limitations, because “the day the pope is in Philly is not the day to find out what your physical limitations may be.”
Mayor Redd also said even if you do reserve a parking spot, “we do expect to have traffic disruptions and other delays and we ask that all local residents and visitors please be patient.”
She added tight security may also cause delays, so everyone needs to relax.
When asked about whether Camden will be safe for so many people walking at all hours of the day and night, she said “the Camden County Police Department, the New Jersey State Police and other local security agencies have been meeting on a regular basis with their federal counterparts for several months to ensure the safety and security of everyone attending the festivities."
Nevertheless she cautioned “always be aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activities to authorities.”
Redd added that Camden is honored to welcome Catholics from throughout the world.
“Our goal is to make this pilgrimage of thousands of people coming to see the pope as easy and as enjoyable as possible,” said Redd. “Camden is not only a gateway into Philadelphia but a gateway to the pope, and this will be a joyous and historic occasion and one that will cast a positive spotlight on this region, both nationally and internationally. The visit is a once in a lifetime experience, and unprecedented in terms of scope and scale.”
At one point during the press conference, Redd called on Camden residents to limit travel unless necessary, and make sure to bring identification to re-enter secure zones of the city during the pope’s visit.
Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli said some of the roll-out of this event has discouraged people.
“(It has) caused some confusion and some angst among those who would want to go see the pope, but our message is if you want to go see the pope a great place to start is right here in Camden," Cappelli said. "It should be a joyous occasion, don’t be discouraged from going if you want to go see the pope, this is a great event for the region and we want as many people as possible to participate.”
Mayor Redd added that “this is about experiencing a historic moment for this region, and we will make adjustments as new developments are part of our discussion.”