Transit Disoriented in the Lehigh Valley


Transit oriented development (TOD) promotes building, developing and redeveloping community resources and employment centers around transit centers, whether those are bus or train. We don’t have that here in the Lehigh Valley.

Here’s the official definition:

“Development concentrated around and oriented to transit stations in a manner
that promotes transit riding or passenger rail use. The term does not refer to a
single real estate project, but represents a collection of projects, usually mixed use,
at a neighborhood scale that are oriented to a transit node.”

TOD doesn’t mean the construction of a bus stop near an office park, but a holistic approach to making communities accessible for those who don’t have or choose not to use a personal vehicle. This promotes equitable access to resources and employment, but also has positive environmental consequences. If fewer individuals are taking personal cars and opting to take the bus or train, carbon emissions will decrease.

In their 2012 report, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission outlines the requirements for TODs:

TOD charts

The Planning Commission even produced a map of potential TODs in the Lehigh Valley:

TOD map

Making it easier for people to get where they want to go is an idea that’s hard to argue with, but new development and providing the infrastructure and support for public transit can become expensive. DC Streets Blog examines this problem and offers suggestions for convincing developers to invest in TOD. These recommendations include:

  • Public subsidies, like transit oriented development promotional grants or tax incentives
  • Educating developers about the costs to them in automobile dominated communities
  • Reform land use policies, for example loosening or eliminating single-use designations
  • Educate and engage employers
  • A new approach to looking at costs. While a building in a TOD community may cost more, it may also provide more affordable housing and increase the efficiency of workers.
  • Walkability is also TOD. Land use policies that encourage walkability are also likely to improve TOD in communities.
  • Connect the suburbs to TOD. This increases the size of the potential workforce for any given company, which increases the value of TOD to them.

It takes Lehigh Valley residents an average of 25 minutes to get to work and The Lehigh Valley Transportation Study (LVTS) long range plan estimates a $1.7 billion shortfall for funding needed through 2030. As part of the Envision Lehigh Valley project, LANta is producing a study on Transit Oriented Development and Bus Rapid Transit. Stay tuned for more information on that report as it is expected to be unveiled very soon!

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Posted on August 29, 2013, in Neighborhoods, Public Infrastructure, Regions, Transportation, Trends and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. You give a traditional and widely-accepted definition for Transit-Oriented Development, but in these days when sustainability & climate change are critical areas of focus, we need to adopt a broader definition. Things are now moving in the direction of TOD facilitating and encouraging all appropriate forms of transportation, especially including bicycling and walking.

    That includes providing bicycle racks on every bus — one area where LANTA definitely deserves credit. But it should also include bicycle-friendly transit facilities and bicycle-friendly streets so people can get to the buses.

    The Center for Transit-Oriented Development [a joint venture of Reconnecting America & Strategic Economics] provides what may be a better definition of TOD:

    …TOD is really about creating attractive, walkable, sustainable communities that allow residents to have housing and transportation choices and to live convenient, affordable, pleasant lives—with places for our kids to play and for our parents to grow old comfortably.

    So we can’t facilitate transit at the expense of high-quality neighborhoods. This means not only a mixture of residential & commercial uses but neighborhoods that are pedestrian-, bicycle-, & family-friendly and encourage racial, cultural, & economic diversity.

  1. Pingback: Transit Disoriented in the Lehigh valley | SMART Lehigh Valley

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