Additional Transit Services Provided for Pope Francis' Visit to New York

Courtesy: @newsva on Instagram
Courtesy: @newsva on Instagram

Those looking to get a glimpse of the Pope when he's in town will have extra ways to get there. There will be an increased number of trains and buses to support the expected amount of travelers during Pope Francis' visit. The MTA will also have additional crew on hand to coincide with the papal events.

Pope Francis will arrive in New York on Thursday, Sept. 24, and will have a full schedule of events across the city on Friday, Sept. 25, including afternoon Mass at Madison Square Garden. Access to the Pope’s events is strictly limited to ticket-holders, and those without tickets are advised to avoid the locations the Pope is visiting. People who can avoid traveling into Manhattan on those days should do so, since many street closures near those locations will result in traffic congestion and pedestrian diversions.

Customers taking the New York City Subway, Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road for papal events should buy round-trip MetroCards or train tickets in advance and expect some crowding.

“Pope Francis’ visit to New York is a significant honor for everyone in our service area, and we are prepared to accommodate additional customers traveling to his events along with our 8.6 million average weekday customers,” said MTA Chairman Thomas F. Prendergast. “While some schedules and routes may change, we are ready to get everyone where they need to go during this special time.”

Prior to the Pope’s visit, travelers are encouraged to sign up for text and email alerts to stay immediately informed about changing transit and traffic conditions. MTA alerts are available at www.mymtaalerts.com.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) plans to reroute portions of up to 25 bus routes – some of them in more than one location – during Pope Francis’ visit to New York City from the evening of Thursday, September 24 to the morning of Saturday, September 26.

All of the affected routes are in Manhattan, including Manhattan segments of the Q32 bus from Queens. The New York City Police Department has announced extensive traffic closures throughout Manhattan during the pope’s visit, and traffic is also subject to unannounced closures, diversions and frozen zones for the United Nations General Assembly.

“Pope Francis’ visit to New York will be a time for celebration throughout the city, and we are preparing our bus network to move customers efficiently despite challenging traffic and road conditions,” said Darryl Irick, President of MTA Bus and Senior Vice President, MTA New York City Transit Department of Buses. “These routes may experience delays and crowding at times, so we encourage our bus customers to plan alternate routes if possible.”

Bus customers are urged to travel by subway if possible throughout this period. Local and Express buses in Manhattan will experience delays, detours and closures near papal events across the borough, and some bus stops may be temporarily relocated. While Staten Island Express Buses are scheduled to operate normally, customers may consider using the Staten Island Ferry and connecting to the subway network to avoid street congestion.

Access-A-Ride will be operating full service during the entire papal visit, but customers should expect delays and congestion during this period, and should postpone travel if possible. Access to areas and roadways near papal events will be uncertain, limited and in some cases blocked.

Customers on all MTA services should plan additional time for their travels, purchase round-trip MetroCards or rail tickets at the start of their journeys, and prepare for crowded conditions. To stay informed of service changes and diversions, visit www.mta.info to view service status and sign up for email and text message alerts for all MTA services.

The MTA will run extra service on Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road on Friday, September 25 to accommodate travelers to papal events. The New York City Subway can accommodate additional customers and will have additional personnel available to assist customers and adjust service if necessary. MTA Bridges and Tunnels will fully staff its seven bridges and two tunnels with toll collectors and Bridge and Tunnel Officers to ensure safe travels for those who choose to drive during Pope Francis’ visit.

New York City Bus service

The MTA New York City Bus system is planning significant service changes to bus routes that operate near the locations of papal events, in order to accommodate street closures and pedestrian restrictions. Those service changes will be posted at www.mta.info/nyct as they are finalized based on consultation with other transportation and security agencies. Customers should expect delays and changes to their customary routes, and may wish to consider using subway service as an alternative if possible.

Bus diversions for Pope Francis’ visit are described in general below. Detailed descriptions of those diversions will be available at www.mta.info.

Fifth – Madison Avenues:

Pope Francis will travel to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue for Evening Prayer (Vespers) in the evening of Thursday, September 24. He will later stay at a residence on the Upper East Side until his departure on the morning of Saturday, September 26. When Fifth Avenue is closed during those times, the M1M2M3M4 and Q32 buses that usually travel on Fifth and Madison avenues will instead use major cross streets to travel to Lexington and Third avenues. The M5 will travel south on Seventh Avenue, then take 42nd Street to Fifth Avenue.

These diversions may take effect before papal events begin to accommodate preparations, but those routes are scheduled to run normally during the Thursday morning rush hour. Intermittent road closures could occur at any time.

Throughout the papal visit, the M72 will be diverted to the 79th Street Transverse across Central Park. Eastbound buses will use Amsterdam and Lexington avenues to reach this diversion, and westbound buses will use Third and Columbus avenues.

United Nations:

At all times during the General Assembly, northbound M15 and M15 SBS buses will bypass stops on First Avenue between 39th Street and 50th Street. During certain United Nations events, northbound M15 and M15 SBS buses will be diverted from First Avenue to Third Avenue between 34th Street and 57th Street.

The eastbound M42 will turn short to avoid the United Nations during the entire General Assembly. The bus will turn at Second Avenue if possible, and if not, at Lexington Avenue, before returning on Third Avenue to westbound 42nd Street.

Throughout the papal visit, the M50 will be diverted between Sixth and Lexington avenues. Westbound buses will travel on 42nd Street and eastbound buses will travel on 57th Street. This is in addition to other diversions in place between Madison and Lexington avenues during the General Assembly, when westbound buses will travel on 47th Street and eastbound buses will travel on 52nd Street when possible.

Lower Manhattan:

The M9M20 and M22 bus routes will curtail service short of Battery Park City during the multi-religious service late Friday morning at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center site. The M9 and M22 will terminate near City Hall, while the M20 will travel southbound on Broadway and northbound on Church Street.

East Harlem:

Several bus routes will be diverted during Pope Francis’ visit to the Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem on Friday afternoon. The M96 eastbound will be diverted to 106th Street between Madison and Lexington avenues. If 106th Street is closed, the M96 and M106 eastbound will be diverted to 116th Street between Madison and Lexington avenues.

If Second or Third avenues are closed through East Harlem, additional diversions will take effect. The M15 and M15 SBS southbound would divert to Lexington Avenue between 116th and 86th streets. The M98 and M103 northbound would divert to First Avenue between 96th and 116th streets. The M101 and M102 northbound would divert to Madison Avenue at 96th Street.

Central Park:

Buses along Central Park West will diverted throughout Friday during preparations for Pope Francis’ procession through Central Park. The M5M7M10M20 and M104 will be rerouted along 57th Street to Columbus and Amsterdam avenues; the M10 will return to Central Park West at 81st Street.

The M66 will be diverted eastbound to 57th Street between Broadway and Madison Avenue, and westbound between Lexington and Amsterdam avenues. The M72 will be diverted eastbound to 81st Street and then via the 79th Street Transverse between Amsterdam and Lexington avenues, and westbound to the 79th Street Transverse and then 81st Street between Third and Columbus avenues.

Madison Square Garden:

Several routes will be diverted from streets near Madison Square Garden from late morning through late evening Friday to avoid the Papal Mass being celebrated there Friday evening.

The southbound M4 and Q32 routes will turn in a loop using 23rd St. and Sixth Avenue to reach 32nd Street and their normal northbound route. The southbound M7 and M20 will be diverted from Seventh to Ninth avenues between 41st and 24th streets, and the northbound M20 will be diverted from Eighth to Tenth avenues between 23rd and 40th streets.

The M34 SBS and M34A SBS routes will be diverted to 23rd Street between First and Tenth avenues. Waterside Plaza customers can reach the buses at the FDR Drive and Avenue C.

New York City Subway service

The MTA New York City Subway system carries up to 6 million people on an average weekday, and will be able to accommodate additional customers attending papal events. Subway managers will be prepared to adjust train operations as necessary based on conditions in stations near those events. Additional customer service personnel will be on duty in subway stations near papal events to assist customers as they enter and leave the system.

Metro-North Railroad service

MTA Metro-North Railroad will have additional trains and crews stationed in Grand Central Terminal as well as strategic outlying locations to be dispatched as necessary to provide additional capacity.

Metro-North will run a normal schedule on Thursday, Sept. 24. On Friday, Sept. 25, the railroad will operate three additional inbound trains, leaving Poughkeepsie on the Hudson Line at 10:37 a.m.; leaving Southeast on the Harlem Line at 10:08 a.m.; and leaving Fairfield Metro on the New Haven Line at 11:00 a.m. Some earlier trains will be combined and canceled to provide crews and equipment for those trains; details on those service changes will be available at www.mta.info/mnr.

Long Island Rail Road service

MTA Long Island Rail Road will operate eight extra westbound trains into Penn Station on Friday, including three on the Babylon Branch leaving Babylon at 12:20 p.m., 12:43 p.m. and 1:20 p.m.; two on the Port Jefferson Branch leaving Huntington at 12:19 p.m. and 1:19 p.m.; one on the Port Jefferson Branch leaving Hicksville at 1:07 p.m.; and two on the Ronkonkoma Branch leaving Ronkonkoma at 12:40 p.m. and 1:40 p.m.

Penn Station will remain open during the Papal Mass at Madison Square Garden, which is directly above the station, but some individual staircases may be closed at times for security reasons or to manage crowd conditions. Extra eastbound trains will be on standby at Penn Station to carry people back to Long Island at the conclusion of the Papal Mass.

Bridges and Tunnels

The MTA Bridges and Tunnels’ crossings will be fully staffed with toll collectors and a robust law enforcement presence to ensure a safe commute for those who choose to drive during the Pope’s visit. The MTA is working with Transcom and the region’s law enforcement and transportation agencies, including NJ Transit, the city and state Transportation Departments, and the New York City Police Department to ensure travelers are aware of traffic and transit conditions in Manhattan on Sept. 25.