UPDATE — All commercial charter buses and privately-owned buses coming to Philadelphia for the visit by Pope Francis this September will need to register at a website for that purpose, it was announced June 4.
Go Ground has been designated the official transportation management partner of the World Meeting of Families, and has developed the bus registration website wmof.goground.com. The firm will handle charter bus registration, certification of operators, logistics and bus parking for the papal events in Philadelphia this September.
Underscoring the urgency of registration, the website said the streets of center city Philadelphia will be closed to traffic during the pope’s visit, without elaborating which streets. The website also said the city expects major highways may be closed to unregistered buses.
Because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated the visit by Pope Francis a National Special Security Event, the World Meeting of Families and the City of Philadelphia have developed a plan for bus routing and parking.
On its website, Go Ground said the World Meeting and the City of Philadelphia “are taking on significant financial obligations to provide in-bound logistics support, traffic control, parking, driver comfort and security.”
For that reason, it said, fees will be assessed on bus operators. Bus companies, parishes or other groups will need to preregister at a cost of $395 for one day for one vehicle. After certification is complete, the operators must pay an additional $325 per vehicle and, if needed, an additional $295 per additional day of parking.
Passenger vans of up to 14 riders must also be registered. Their preregistration cost is $150 for one day’s parking, plus $100 for each additional vehicle and the same amount for each additional day of parking.
“During this historic event, we will guide large numbers of buses into Philadelphia, park them, host their drivers and get them on their way home,” said Bill Maulsby, CEO of Go Ground. “We are honored to share in these significant papal events and look forward to working with bus operators and drivers from throughout North America. We encourage operators to visit wmof.goground.com and take a four-question survey about their travel plans. It will be invaluable to helping us serve them better.”
Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families, estimated that based on early indications, 4,000 to 5,000 buses may be bringing visitors to the papal events Saturday to Sunday, Sept. 26-27. She cited Go Ground’s extensive experience managing bus transportation for major sports events such as the annual NCAA basketball tournament.
“While exact plans are being refined and will be communicated when ready, the first step is for all buses to be registered at wmof.goground.com,” said Jack O’Brien, director of special events of the World Meeting of Families. “It is also important that operators understand all vehicles and drivers must meet minimum safety and operating conditions to be allowed to enter and park within designated parking locations.”
Registration of buses is the responsibility of the bus operator. Parishes, tour operators and other private groups that are chartering buses from commercial operators should direct them to register now as access to bus parking spaces, officials advised.
If parishes or private groups own their vehicle they will be considered the “operator,” and they must also register at wmof.goground.com. An operator may be a commercial charter bus operator or a private owner, such as a parish or RV owner.
Only those certified will be issued credentials and parking permits to pre-assigned parking lots. Availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.
To have access to reserved bus parking, all bus operators must provide documentation including proof of insurance, safety record and driver credentials to meet safety and operating standards.
On the day of the events, all registered vehicles will be assigned entry and exit times to Philadelphia and assigned parking areas.