The Washington, D.C. Metrorail subway system is bracing for the Pope's upcoming planned visit to the nation's capital.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates the D.C. Metrorail system, said Wednesday that is encouraging regular commuters who have the opportunity to telework during the Pope's visit to take advantage of it because many of his events will draw large crowds to train stations during peak rush hour periods.
"Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend events during the Papal visit, which will likely result in crowding and delays on trains and buses, and could produce near Inauguration ridership levels at selected stations," the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) said in a statement about its preparations for the Pope's visit.
"While many regular commuters are expected—and encouraged—to adjust their work schedules or take advantage of telecommuting, Metro will take steps to provide additional train service during non-peak hours Wednesday andThursday during the Papal visit," the agency continued, although it cautioned that it "does not have the ability to add significant capacity during the traditional morning and evening rush hours."
The Pope is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia on Sept. 22-27.
The D.C-area transit agency said it is working on plans to run shuttle buses from stations near areas that are expected to be crowded during the Pope's visit, especially for his planned mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in northeast Washington, D.C. on Sept. 23.
"Metro is continuing to work with its external partners to plan for the Mass at the Basilica on Wednesday afternoon, which is expected to place extraordinary ridership pressure on the Red Line at the height of rush hour," the agency said.
"Brookland Station, the closest station to the event, is the smallest Red Line station with the ability to accommodate fewer than 5,000 boardings per hour under normal conditions," the statement continued. "In order to provide alternates to Brookland Station for the more than 25,000 ticketed guests, Metro and the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) are developing plans for supplemental shuttle bus service from two adjacent Red Line stations: Fort Totten and Rhode Island Avenue."
The agency also encouraged visitors who are traveling to Washington for the Pope's visit to purchase enough fares to cover their trips in advance.
"Anyone planning to use Metro during the Papal visit is strongly encouraged to purchase fare media in advance," the agency said. "Each traveler needs his or her own SmarTrip or paper farecard, which should be loaded – in advance – with sufficient value to pay for all planned travel. Riders are encouraged to purchase SmarTrip cards in advance to avoid potentially long lines at station vending machines."
The Pope is scheduled to give a speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24.