Metro: Expect crowds for pope, Battle of the Beltways

February 3, 2023 | Amtrak is getting ready for the papal visit (WTOP's Ari Ashe reports)

WASHINGTON — Expect long lines and other delays this month when Pope Francis visits D.C. and the Nationals host the Baltimore Orioles in the “Battle of the Beltways.”

Metro plans to run rush hour-level service throughout the days of the papal visit, Sept. 22-24. On a normal day, Metro attempts to have about 954 railcars in service. On these days, that number would be the baseline to provide as many eight-car trains as possible.

“Expect that it is going to take a long time to get where you are going because of the large volume of people expected to come to the city,” said Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly. “It’s going to take extra time. People are going to experience long waits and long lines.”

Plan your trip in advance. Metro recommends customers use the Metro Trip Planner to price out the fares, then make sure your SmarTrip is loaded with money before you head to the station.

Metro expects long lines at the fare machines, so if you can skip that, you’ll save a few minutes.

“It will absolutely help in the situation, but it’s not going to alleviate all the crowds we’re going to have,” Ly said. “We have tens of thousands of people who are going to spread out throughout the city to see the pope.”

Ly said the Brookland-Catholic University is one of Metro’s smallest stations, so with a large scale event, it is going to take time to get people in and out.

The Brookland station, which is closest to the event, is also the smallest Red Line station. Metro and the D.C. Department of Transportation are developing plans for supplemental shuttle bus service from Fort Totten and Rhode Island Avenue.

Details regarding shuttle bus service will be provided at a later date, but guests attending the Basilica event are encouraged to consider travel options other than Brookland.

Brookland may be designated as “exit only” for a period of time prior to the papal event, and “entry only” following the event. Metro said this step will double the number of riders that can be accommodated per hour.

Elsewhere, some station entrances to be temporarily closed based on the security needs for the papal visit. Also expect Metrobus detours near papal events.

The precise details of closures and detours won’t be available until the Secret Service releases a public schedule for the papal visit. Metrobus runs roughly 60 routes in D.C.

Metro recommends people consider walking to avoid crowded stations nearest to the event, similar to their advice for July 4.

Also consider traveling light. Do not bring large coolers or other bulky items on Metrorail.

Smoking, eating and drinking is not allowed on Metro. If you are listening to a device, use headphones. People using strollers should use elevators.

If you’re from out of town, remember the two big no-nos on Metro: Don’t stand on the left of the escalator. People walking down the escalators go to the left; people standing stay to the right.

Secondly, do not attempt to hold the train doors open when rushing to get onto a train.

Metro runs from 5 a.m. to midnight throughout the papal visit and the Nationals-Orioles series Sept. 21-23.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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