PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Special rail passes to be used by commuters during Pope Francis' visit to the city in September will be sold via an online lottery, officials announced Tuesday, a week after overwhelming demand forced a halt to sales.
A one-day lottery will be held Aug. 3 for passes on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's regional rail system, SEPTA officials said. They emphasized that customers will be able to enter their requests anytime that day so there will be no reason to rush immediately after midnight to the link that will be posted on the transit system's website.
"No matter what time you enter your lottery submission, everyone has the same chance of being selected," spokeswoman Jerri Williams said. "There's no need to set your alarm clock for midnight and be standing beside your computer so you can log on to enter the lottery."
People will be able to go to an "Enter Lottery" link to be posted on SEPTA's home page, septa.org, which will take them to the lottery form on Philadelphia firm Ticketleap's website. Officials said the lottery system, being built in partnership with Ticketleap and hosted by Amazon.com, "is being designed to accommodate heavy demand."
Entrants will then be able to choose travel dates — Sept. 26, Sept. 27 or both — and then enter up to three preferred outlying regional rail stations and pick travel times from those stations — 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. to noon. Each person selected in the lottery will be able to buy 10 of the $10 one-day tickets for each day. After the lucky entrants are notified, they will have three days to purchase the passes or another entry will be selected, Williams said.
She said 175,000 passes are available both days. A few were sold before the system shut down last week.
The pope will visit inmates at a Philadelphia jail, speak on religious freedom and immigration in the shadow of Independence Hall and celebrate Mass with an anticipated crowd of more than 1 million people. Some roads will be closed and parking on others will be restricted as events are held and the pope is shuttled around.