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October 23, 2015

Bridges take $1.4 million hit during papal visit

PATCO missed ridership estimates by half

Dog Ben Franklin Bridge Sharon Lurye/PhillyVoice

A dog poses on a near-empty Ben Franklin Bridge on Saturday morning following the pope's arrival to Philadelphia.

Closing the Ben Franklin Bridge for three days and curtailing traffic on other tolled bridges carried a $1.4 million revenue hit for the Delaware River Port Authority.

And the agency, which operates the train line known as PATCO, blew its ridership estimate for that weekend, attracting just 50,000 riders instead of the 100,000 they had projected.

Demand was so light on the train line that workers did not even ask to see so-called “Pope Passes” when travelers boarded the trains in Philadelphia back to New Jersey following the papal Mass.

CEO John Hanson told KYW Newsradio that his agency is fine with the revenue loss.

“DRPA and PATCO are well under budget in expenses and we’re significantly over budget with revenues. More than $8 million over in revenues,” agency CEO John Hanson told KYW.

“So this is something that we can afford to absorb.”

Many potential drivers and commuters simply chose to stay home during the weekend of Sept. 26-27, when Pope Francis was in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Lower Merion Township, where the pope spent the night at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary during his stay, has said they will seek about $148,000 it spent on staff overtime.

The World Meeting of Families, which organized the papal visit, has said it will only reimburse Philadelphia for costs associated with the papal visit.