Technical problems forced the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) to delay the sale of special regional rail service passes for the visit of Pope Francis, Sept. 26 and 27, and officials are still trying to identify a way to restore sales and accommodate the high demand.

SEPTA has not yet announced when sales will commence, saying only that passes would not be available this week. The transit authority said it has engaged IT consultants to help remedy the issue.

The sale of the special passes, priced at $10 for regular passes and $5 for reduced fare passes, had begun July 20 but was shuttered within 10 minutes. According to the transit authority, "the traffic to the e-commerce site launched for pass sales was significantly higher than anticipated."

Officials said that in the 10-minute window after the opening of sales at 9 a.m., more than 900,000 visits to the site and an attempted 1,700 transactions per second led to technical problems. Most of the transactions were not completed, SEPTA said in a release, and the majority of the one-day passes remain available for purchase.

“We will continue to evaluate the best option for us to move forward with the sale of the papal passes,” officials said late in the day July 21. “We may continue to work with the IT consultants to improve the e-commerce site; we are also considering working with an outside vendor to sell the passes for us.”

The transit authority is limiting issuance of passes to 175,000 for each day of the papal visit, for a total of approximately 350,000 passes for the two days combined.

All riders, including regular passengers and visitors, will be required to pre-purchase the special, one-day papal visit pass, according to SEPTA officials, and no other fare cards or passes will be honored. The transit authority has also announced that it will double capacity through modifying rail operations and schedules to accommodate the increased travel demand during the Holy Father’s time in Philadelphia.

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