Lehigh Valley residents are being urged to take part in a “virtual town hall meeting” that’s slated for 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16th. The location: wherever you use your personal computer or tablet device.
Attendees will simply have to log in and make their way to a YouTube video presentation on economic development and the future of the Lehigh Valley. The program is set up to allow input from viewers.
This cutting-edge event is being coordinated by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) in conjunction with Envision Lehigh Valley.
The entities are attempting to compile a regional approach to development and growth in the Lehigh Valley. During the planning stage, the goal is to engage the organizations, municipalities and individuals who have a stake in future development of the region.
The virtual town hall premise removes all obstacles for interested parties who cannot make their way to a brick-and-mortar meeting location.
The video will feature Jay Garner of Garner Economics, LLC, of Atlanta, Ga. Garner, who has been contracted to conduct this important study, is a nationally-recognized site selector and economic development consultant.
Garner’s work, which is being paid for with a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a key initiative of Envision Lehigh Valley – a public outreach effort designed to engage the citizens of Northampton and Lehigh Counties to create a truly sustainable Lehigh Valley.
“We need to take a hard look at ourselves in comparison to other regions and understand our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities and to develop our plans and strategies from an informed and realistic perspective,” said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC.
“We can’t afford to guess at things. We need to understand our own backyard fully, how we compare in the marketplace, and our unique assets to market. This will make our strategies and efforts informed and cost-effective.”
Once the program is set up, it can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/user/EnvisionLehighValley. The virtual town hall will not get underway until 8 p.m. Monday.
For more information, contact Holly Edinger, director of Envision Lehigh Valley, at (610) 266-6775.
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:
The Planning Commission even produced a map of potential TODs in the Lehigh Valley:
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!
We’ve all seen the copious quantities of garbage cans that line our streets and trash closets on collection day and it seems almost impossible that anyone could run out of garbage but it’s happened to Sweden. The country has actually run out of trash.
Cities in Sweden burn garbage for the energy to power their buildings and plants; nearly half of the structures in Oslo are powered by the burning of garbage. Sweden’s use of garbage for fuel, coupled with their extensive and popular recycling programs leaves only 4 percent of their solid waste going to landfills. What percent of household trash from the United States ends up in a landfill, you ask? An estimated 50 percent. In fact, one garbage burning plant owner in Oslo has expressed interest in purchasing American garbage. They’re already paying neighboring countries for their trash.
Available data for landfill use in the United States is a little bit old, but nevertheless startling. In 2003, Americans landfilled 2.46lbs of garbage…per person….per day. We have 3,091 active landfills across the states and while we are in no danger of running out of fill, we should consider that we may run out of land.
In the Lehigh Valley, there has been some discussion about the necessary expansion of the IESI Bethlehem landfill that operates off of Applebutter Road in Lower Saucon Township. The expansion would require a rezoning of the nearby area to accommodate waste, but the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission voted against this redesignation. So, where is the trash to go? The United States recycles 34.7 percent of its Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), burns 11.7 percent of it and discards 53.7 percent. With our population and rate of consumption, this leaves us with a lot of stuff packing our landfills while our municipalities are opposed to expanding landfills.
Should we start burning our trash for energy like Sweden? Try to recycle more? Or should we sell our trash?
What do you think is the SUSTAINABLE solution for the Lehigh Valley?
Being the tech-savvy Millennials that we are here at RenewLV, I happened upon a tweet from our friends at Sustainable Cities that I felt I had to share with you to get your input. The folks at Project for Public Spaces authored the initial post, who also happen to have a connection to the Eastern Gateway project in Bethlehem after doing some work here a few years ago. After taking Rep. Bob Freeman’s class at Lehigh University about growth management and what “place” really means (and passing with high marks, I might add), I found this particular list intriguing. Put these 26 items into play in your life, and you will have designed a “great place.”
- Challenge the prevailing myth that all problems have private, individualized solutions.
- Notice how many of life’s pleasures exist outside the marketplace—gardening, fishing, conversing, playing music, playing ball, enjoying nature, and more.
- Take time to enjoy what your corner of the world offers (As the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire once declared, “We are bigger than our schedules.”)
- Have some fun. The best reason for making great places is that it will enliven all of our lives.
- Offer a smile or greeting to people you pass. Community begins with connecting—even in brief, spontaneous ways.
- Walk, bike, or take transit whenever you can. It’s good for the environment, but also for you. You make very few friends behind the wheel of your car.
- Treat common spaces as if you own them (which, actually, you do). Pick up litter. Keep an eye on the place. Tidy things up. Report problems or repair things yourself. Initiate improvements.
- Pull together a potluck. Throw a block party. Form a community choir, slow food club, Friday night poker game, seasonal festival, or any other excuse for socializing.
- Get out of the house and spend some time on the stoop, the front yard, the street—anywhere you can be a part of the river of life that flows past.
- Create or designate a “town square” for your neighborhood where folks naturally want to gather—a park, playground, vacant lot, community center, coffee shop, or even a street corner.
- Lobby for more public benches, water fountains, plazas, parks, sidewalks, bike trails, playgrounds, and other crucial commons infrastructure.
- Take matters into your own hands and add a bench to your front yard or transform a vacant lot into a playground.
- Conduct an inventory of local commons. Publicize your findings, and offer suggestions for celebrating and improving these community assets.
- Organize your neighbors to prevent crime and to defuse the fear of crime, which often dampens a community’s spirits even more than crime itself.
- Remember streets belong to everyone, not just automobiles. Drive cautiously and push for traffic calming and other improvements that remind motorists they are not kings of the road.
- Buy from local, independent businesses whenever possible.
- Form a neighborhood exchange to share everything from lawn mowers to childcare to vehicles.
- Barter. Trade your skill in baking pies with someone who will fix your computer.
- Join campaigns opposing cutbacks in public assets like transit, schools, libraries, parks, social services, police and fire protection, arts programs, and more.
- Write letters to the editor about the importance of community commons, post on local websites, call into talk radio, tell your friends.
- Learn from everywhere. What can Copenhagen teach us about bicycles? India about wellness? Africa about community solidarity? Indigenous nations about the commons itself? What bright ideas could be borrowed from a nearby neighborhood or town?
- Become a guerrilla gardener, planting flowers and vegetables on neglected land in your neighborhood.
- Organize a community garden or local farmer’s market.
- Roll up your sleeves to restore a creek, wetland, woods, or grasslands.
- Form a study group to explore what can be done to improve your community.
- Think yourself as a local patriot and share your enthusiasm.
To be honest, I think some residents of the Lehigh Valley already do many of these, which is why the Lehigh Valley is such a wonderful place! But we want to know what you think. Anything you would add to the list or take off? What would you recommend we focus on first and foremost to make the Lehigh Valley an even better place?
You can also share your thoughts for the future of this great “place” by visiting www.envisionlehighvalley.com
Owning and driving a car, once deemed a core aspect of any American’s life, is now on the decline in this country.
A recent New York Times article titled, “The End of Car Culture” examines how Americans are “buying fewer cars, driving less and getting fewer licenses.” The hypothesis is that the country has passed its peak driving period and that different modes of transportation are now edging their way into the transportation market that had previously been inundated with personal cars. Even the percentage of individuals that have a drivers license in their teens, 20s and 30s has declined significantly since 1983.
The data that the article used was adjusted for population and found that the quantity of miles driven by Americans peaked in 2005 and has declined since. While some have speculated that the decline in cars purchased and miles driven was a cause of the recession, those declines actually began two to three years prior. There are also other theories to the cause of this trend.
“Different things are converging which suggest that we are witnessing a long-term cultural shift,” said Mimi Sheller, a sociology professor at Drexel University and director of its Mobilities Research and Policy Center. She cites various factors: the Internet makes telecommuting possible and allows people to feel more connected without driving to meet friends. The renewal of center cities has made the suburbs less appealing and has drawn empty nesters back in. Likewise the rise in cellphones and car-pooling apps has facilitated more flexible commuting arrangements, including the evolution of shared van services for getting to work.
Reduced use of personal vehicles has positive results for the environment and carbon emissions. Transportation is the second leading source of carbon emissions (power plants are first). New York’s bike sharing program is growing in popularity as tolls increase and funding that promotes car ownership decreases.
To further support the idea that this trend is more than economic, the age group of those most likely to purchase a car and to have a license is increasingly the elderly. The youth are expressing less interest in cars and more interest in living in communities where a car is unnecessary and the public transit is satisfactory.
The article mentions Bay Area Rapid Transit, a transportation system in San Francisco that optimizes bus routes by looking at frequency of use and land use in the area. Our very own LANta is in the process of studying Bus Rapid Transit for the Lehigh Valley. Their report is part of the Envision Lehigh Valley project and will be released soon. The trend across the country points to the need for multimodal transportation options and this is an important step by LANta. As our population increases in city centers, there is less need for a personal car but short bus routes and safe biking paths are still important transit developments. All of these options are environmentally promising and are sustainable alternatives to individuals relying solely on their personal car.
Did you catch Envision Lehigh Valley’s virtual town hall meeting this week? If so, you were one of 99 viewers who tuned in to hear planners for Bethlehem, Easton, Allentown and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission discuss growth projections and planning in the cities.
Particpants learned about the timeline for the catalytic projects in each of the three cities and how each city went about choosing the specific project that they undertook as part of the Envision Lehigh Valley grant. In addition to working on the rewrite of their city’s comprehensive plan, Becky Bradley a planner for Easton, discussed the 13th Street Corridor project that will begin soon in Easton. Darlene Heller, a planner for Bethlehem, discussed the planning and progress being made on the Eastern Gateway project in Bethlehem and Mike Hefele talked about all of the exciting development happening in Allentown as well as the Little Lehigh Industrial Corridor that he is working on as a planner for Allentown. Mike Kaiser, retiring executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, shared information and maps showing the expected growth in population for the next thirty years in the Lehigh Valley. He broke it down by municipality and demographics, as well as discussing the implications for employment and transit.
After briefly presenting their projects, the panel took questions from participants in the live chat and from those e-mailed prior to the live feed. Planners were asked about transportation and fresh food access and explained the process of comprehensive planning as a city and as a region.
Despite a brief blip with the audio in the beginning of the meeting, viewers tweeted and chatted excitedly about the discussion the planners were having, as well as the idea of a virtual town hall to discuss other Envision initiatives. It was especially convenient for those who couldn’t make it to a public meeting in person this past fall; anyone who was interested could watch the meeting right from home and still participate!
If you’re kicking yourself for missing the meeting, or want to catch the audio from the introduction that we missed – don’t fret! The full video, with the full 60 minutes of audio is going up on Envision Lehigh Valley’s YouTube channel and you can watch the whole thing, advertisement free!
Based on all of the positive feedback that we got for this meeting, we hope to hold another one soon! Stay tuned!
Through their website, Envision Lehigh Valley received a total of 1,118 completed surveys as well as feedback from 47 public meetings that were held through the fall. The breakdown of the participants represented an accurate cross section of our regional population on the characteristics of race, age, income and location.
In the 47 focus groups that were held during the public meetings, Lehigh Valley residents appeared to be most interested in discussing economic development, which they saw as a positive thing for the region.
They mentioned large projects currently being undertaken across the Lehigh Valley. Participants discussed projects such as the hockey arena, casino, and ArtsQuest. Projects involving specific companies, including Ocean Spray, and the Lehigh Valley Hospital Expansion, were mentioned as well as more generic business expansions like the Allentown waterfront project, the P&P Mill, and new hotels and retail space in various locations.
Focus group participants were generally dissatisfied with the types of jobs available to Lehigh Valley workers and didn’t believe the job market matched the qualifications most workers have.
The groups also examined other topics; citizens talked 652 times about housing, 549 times about fresh food access, and 378 times about climate and energy.
One of the most interesting findings to come out of the focus group analysis is that the overall interests and topics of discussion varied very little in the different cities, boroughs, and townships where they were held. These commonalities suggest that quality of life factors in the Lehigh Valley are important across the valley, not just in one or two communities.
Tomorrow, Renew Lehigh Valley will be partnering with the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium (LVRC) to present the third annual State of the Lehigh Valley: Community Trends at a Glance report at a luncheon event at Iaccoca Hall on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus.
The view of the entire Lehigh Valley from the Wood Dining Room will provide an appropriate backdrop as the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium unveils their report of the successes and struggles of the region from the perspective of civic engagement, economic growth, and health, with a special focus on the environment and environmental sustainability. The LVRC brings together faculty members from Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC) institutions with diverse and interdisciplinary expertise to focus on regional topics. These institutions include Cedar Crest College, DeSales University, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Moravian College, and Muhlenberg College, along with affiliate members Northampton Community College and Lehigh Carbon Community College.
Co-presenting the event is Renew Lehigh Valley, which since 2007 has been a nonprofit advocate for smart growth in the Lehigh Valley, revitalizing our core communities, preserving open space, and creating an economically and environmentally sustainable foundation for the region’s growth.
This will be an opportunity to discuss the issues that are facing the Lehigh Valley, but an even better opportunity to organize action in planning its future. Forefront in our minds this year will be Envision Lehigh Valley, a public outreach effort designed to engage the citizens of Northampton and Lehigh Counties to create a truly sustainable Lehigh Valley. The project received a three year, $3.4 million Sustainable Communities grant and will conclude at year end 2014. In the span of that time, partnerships throughout the Lehigh Valley will work together to produce comprehensive plans to address economic development, fresh food access, employment and housing balance, as well as transportation.
Highmark Blue Shield is once again the Presenting Sponsor of the event. Thanks go out to our other sponsors Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Lehigh University’s Social Science Research Center, Capital Blue Cross, PPL, St. Luke’s University Health Center, Spillman Farmer Architects, Susquehanna Bank, and Just Born, Inc.
Registration and buffet will open at 11:00am with a poster session displaying data about the Lehigh Valley. The event will kick off at 12:00pm with highlights from the State of the Lehigh Valley report, followed by a few leading community members who will speak to their work in relation to the report’s findings. Registration is $35 and can be completed right at the event. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet with fellow community leaders and take action to address the needs of the Lehigh Valley.
If you’re planning on attending the event, be sure to use #SLVR when you tweet about the report and speeches. There will also be an opportunity for community discussion where the audience can provide feedback on the report as well as their ideas and visions for the Lehigh Valley. For more information on the event as well as the EnvisionLV project, head to http://renewlv.com/. If you would like to see the report, it will be published in PDF format at renewlv.com and lehighvalleyresearch.org on March 1st.
Last week we told you a little bit about the huge population growth expected to hit the Lehigh Valley within the next thirty years. We broke it down by county, but now the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has a Profile and Trends report that can show you how much your municipality is expected to grow by 2040.
If you go to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s website, http://www.lvpc.org, click ‘Enter the Site,’ choose ‘Publications’ on the left side of the page and select the Profile and Trends report, you’ll find the unique histories of Lehigh Valley municipalities, average daily mileage for residents, property values, birth rates, death rates and what we were talking about before – local population percentages (if that’s all you’re looking for, head straight to page 23).
Do you live in North Whitehall? Your local population right now is around 15,703…in 2040, it’s projected to be over 26,000!
Maybe you live in Palmer Township, where the population is now around 17,000 and in thirty years, it will be over 27,000.
Want to see how big your community is going to get? Head over to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s website or look at the chart below where you can find population growth in municipalities from Alburtis to Wind Gap.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has completed a study to predict the growth of the Lehigh Valley over the next thirty years. The Reader’s Digest version would say that there are A LOT of people coming to the region. Our population is projected to add another 226,722 people by 2040. The total population will be 873,954 in the LV at that time.
Using 2010 census data, the Planning Commission is able to detect trends in the growth patterns of Lehigh and Northampton counties and is able to break them down by age group to show specifically where we’ll be growing. It’s no secret that the baby boomer generation is aging, and that is shown clearly in the report. The largest growing age demographic will be the 75 and over crowd, who will add 54,265 people to their ranks. Coming second in growth rate are the 70-74 year olds, growing by 20,946.
As much as the elderly seem to love the Lehigh Valley, the young are leaving the region. One of the largest exits from the area is from 20-24 year old males with college degrees who lived here when they were pursuing their education and then moved away for jobs or other opportunities upon graduation.
Countering this trend is the influx of those in their later twenties, who often move to the region when they begin to start a family. As far as starting families goes, birth rates in Northampton County are expected to top the state average for every 5 year range that was studied. Lehigh County’s will stay closer to the state average or below.
Northampton County will also grow at a higher rate of 11.9 percent compared to Lehigh County’s 11.5 percent. The Planning Commission predicts that this is because of Northampton County’s proximity to New Jersey and New York as more employees from those states choose to live in Pennsylvania.
So, what do you think of all of this population growth? If you’ve got ideas or opinions on how the Lehigh Valley can better prepare or improve its existing stature, visit http://www.envisionlehighvalley.com and share your feedback or take one of the surveys about economic development, fresh food access, transportation and job/housing balance. With the massive growth in our region, we have to plan ahead so that residents, new and old, will have access to jobs, transportation, housing and food. People are flocking to the Lehigh Valley for a reason, let’s plan ahead to keep it great.