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August 03, 2015

Clock's ticking on SEPTA's papal pass lottery

You have until 11:59 p.m. Monday to take a chance

Welcome to the Hunger Games, the Philadelphia version. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Those interested in buying Regional Rail passes during Pope Francis' visit have until 11:59 p.m. Monday, to go online and enter a lottery

The one-day lottery is the only way for people to get the limited number of tickets - about 175,000 available for each day - to ride SEPTA's Regional Rail system into Center City. Monthly passes and regular tickets won’t be honored during the pope's visit on Sept. 26 and 27.

SEPTA officials announced last Tuesday a new online sales date for the passes after an earlier sale was aborted when crushing demand helped crash the website. Instead of an outright ticket sale, SEPTA changed the format to a lottery.

As of 10 a.m., SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said about 15,000 requests for tickets have been made. The total number of tickets requested is likely much higher because each request can be for a maximum of 10 passes for each weekend day. Customers who attempt to boost their chances by making multiple submissions could be rejected.

"We are looking at 2,000 to 3,000 entries per hour since 7 a.m.," Williams said.

Winners will be informed Thursday, Aug. 6, by email. Ticketleap, a Philadelphia-based online ticket vendor, will handle the logistics of the lottery, including weeding out fraud or duplicate requests. The website will be hosted by Amazon. The rail passes will be mailed to the winners. 

"Everyone has the same chance of being selected no matter what time you make your entry," Williams said at last Tuesday’s press conference. "There's no need to set your alarm clock for midnight and be standing beside your computer so that you can log on to enter the lottery. You can do it any time during the day.”

No weight will be given to customers purchasing passes to see Pope Francis or those needing them to get to work, Williams said. She encouraged people who do not receive a pass to consider using SEPTA's subway, bus and trolley services. Those services, however, are expected to be truncated in some cases.

In an attempt to expedite travel into Center City, SEPTA will only shuttle passengers from 18 Regional Rail stations. The rail passes, which cost $10, will only be good for travel from the station selected. When entering their lottery submissions, customers will be asked to list their top three station preferences for departure. They also can select preferred departure times.

Staff writer John Kopp contributed to this report.