Francis takes America, by the numbers

Tracey Samuelson Sep 23, 2015
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Francis takes America, by the numbers

Tracey Samuelson Sep 23, 2015
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When Pope Francis travels the United States this week — to Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia — he will draw huge numbers of the faithful. He will also create hefty security bills and transit snarls up and down the East Coast.

While it’s still too soon to calculate the overall economic benefit the pope will bring his host cities against the costs incurred in welcoming him, here are some numbers we do know:

  • 80,000: the number of ticket holders who will pack Central Park to see to the pope’s motorcade.
  • 35,000: the number of additional passengers Amtrak says it’s ready to carry along the Northeast corridor, if needed.
  • 6,000: the number of officers the NYPD will have on duty.

Those officers are just one piece of a larger security effort being coordinated by the Secret Service.

“The U.S. government is standing up one of the largest security operations for an individual in U.S. history,” said Jonathan Wackrow, a 14-year veteran of the Secret Service and current president of the security consulting firm i4 Strategies.

He says costs will climb as the visit stretches over three cities.

Philadelphia alone estimates its expenses at $12 million. The bill will be paid by an organization called World Meeting of Families, which is hosting papal events there.

“This is all an estimate,” Everett Gillison, chief of staff for the Philadelphia’s mayor, told WHYY. “It could go higher or lower. We’re pretty conservative.”

Gillison said that won’t cover indirect costs, such as people who can’t work while Pope Francis is in town.

“If you had a snow day and people couldn’t go to work, people don’t get compensated for that, so this is the same kind of situation,” he says. “We’re a big city, we do big things, this is what comes along with being a big city.”

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