It took rushing between two different train stops, but by 7 a.m. Wednesday, Maria Rodriguez had the five tickets she needed for her and four friends to take SEPTA's Regional Rail to the Eagles' Super Bowl parade Thursday.
"It was a little bit of anxiety," Rodriguez, 26, said. "My friends were like, 'Are you going to be able to get these?' I was like: 'I'll figure it out. Don't worry!'
She was one of the lucky ones. On Tuesday when SEPTA officials explained their plan to help move up to two million people into the city for the parade, they said the issue was one of capacity. All of Regional Rail can carry no more than 70,370 riders at any one time.
SEPTA, playing off its experiences with the pope's visit in 2015 and the fiascos during the Phillies' 2008 World Series celebration, is reducing Regional Rail service to just 37 of its 154 stops, most of them well away from the city limits. Trains will operate inbound only in the morning and outbound after the parade and celebration.
To limit the number of people trying to board trains Thursday, SEPTA is giving trips only to people with weekly or monthly trail passes, senior or disabled fare cards, and the lucky folks who got one of 50,000 Independence Passes, a day pass fare card. Two-thirds of SEPTA's usual riders, about 63,000 people a day, have either a weekly or monthly pass, said Jeff Knueppel, SEPTA's general manager, during a news conference Tuesday.
From 5 until about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, SEPTA plans to run all its trains into the city, with no reverse service at all until Thursday afternoon.
SEPTA had issued 50,000 $10 Independence Passes for would-be parade-goers but sold out in less than 24 hours after long lines formed at station ticket windows.
The limited number of passes created a frenzy of searching, as suburbanites rushed from one station to another in an often futile search for the Independence Passes. Riders on Wednesday morning trains grilled conductors for details on who could ride and got conflicting information. A person on Craig's List was selling one of the cards Wednesday morning for $500.
Allison Romig of Fort Washington was one of the people who couldn't find passes. She started searching online Tuesday night for eight passes for her two sons and their friends and went to the Fort Washington station Wednesday morning.
"The lady at Fort Washington just sort of shook her head and said, 'We sold out yesterday,' " Romig, 50, said.
Her sons will have to take an Uber or Lyft, she said, or walk. She wasn't too upset.
"It is what it is," Romig said. "I think they've probably done the best that they could."
While rides on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines will be free, Regional Rail passengers will have to show either regular commuter passes or the specially purchased $10 Independence Pass to get into the city in the morning and out at night.
SEPTA says that even with a pass, it cannot guarantee a ride if trains are at capacity. The transit agency is urging parade-goers to leave earlier rather than later for a better chance to get into the city. Also, SEPTA says fans also should consider using the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines because they are capable of carrying more people.
The Independence passes are good for a year. Passes bought before this week will be honored Thursday.