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Marin named as Executive Director of RenewLV; brings wealth of experience and passion for smart growth and regional approaches

joyce marin headshotJoyce Marin, a well-known Lehigh Valley community/economic development professional, has been hired as our new executive director here at RenewLV (renewlv.org).

Marin brings extensive experience in downtown revitalization and local ordinances that support traditional neighborhood design from her time as Main Street Manager and council woman in Emmaus, as well as her past service as Director of the Department of Community and Economic Development for the City of Allentown. Ms. Marin was founding co-chair of RenewLV in 2006.

“Having an experienced, strategic and knowledgeable professional like Joyce will enable RenewLV to continue its important efforts to be the voice for regionalism in the Lehigh Valley,” said Deana Zosky, co-chair of the RenewLV board of directors. “Joyce also brings a tremendous amount of passion for smart growth, which will help us engage our stakeholders and the general public and raise the level of discussion Valley-wide.”

Marin’s academic credentials include an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and inclusion in the Knight Fellowship in CommunityBuilding at the University of Miami’s School of Architecture, the recognized center for New Urban thought and practice.

“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to direct my experience and education toward engaging the region’s leadership and the public more deeply in the discussion of a sustainable Lehigh Valley, regional cooperation and the efficient use of our resources through utilization of smart growth principals and policies,” said Marin.

In her new role, Ms. Marin will be facilitating the public outreach effort for Envision Lehigh Valley, engaging the citizens of Northampton and Lehigh Counties to create a truly sustainable Lehigh Valley. Additionally, Ms. Marin will be helping to organize the Lehigh Valley’s first smart growth conference, the Lehigh Valley Summit for Smart Growth to be held on October 24th at the Holiday Inn at Center City in Allentown. “The summit is a great opportunity for both the region’s leaders as well as regular citizens to get informed and engaged on what we can each do to have a better Lehigh Valley as we grow,” said Marin. For more information about the Smart Growth Conference, visit renewlv.org.

Marin resides in Macungie, Pa.

The Future of Cars

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.

Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Predicts Huge Growth

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.

You can read the full report by clicking here!

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.

Coming Together in the Venn Diagram

The Health Care Council of the Lehigh Valley has taken an excellent approach to Community Health.  Their recently released “The Road to Health” evaluates the health of the Lehigh Valley community.  If you haven’t read through it yet, definitely read through it now.

This new report gives an excellent overview of the state of health in the Lehigh Valley, something Renew Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium touched upon at the State of the Lehigh Valley luncheon in February 2012.  But this report follows up on the call to action issued at the end of our luncheon; it shows where we are and where we have to go in order to be healthy.

A healthy community is a sustainable community.  And it’s one reason why I wanted to highlight the Health Care Council’s work.  When organizations like Renew Lehigh Valley and outreach efforts like Envision Lehigh Valley seek to plan for the future in a smarter and more efficient way, we often get into our silos. Yet, why can’t we see the larger picture?  Envision Lehigh Valley may be one effort to plan for a sustainable future for the Lehigh Valley to ensure a high quality of life, but “The Road to Health” is doing the same thing just in a different arena.  We all are working for the same goal. 

It’s like a Venn Diagram.  One outreach Imageeffort in the Valley is focused on land use and economic development, another is focused on community health, and yet another is focused on education and the connection to the neighborhoods.  They all have the same goal, and that center area where all the circles overlap is where we must focus our efforts. If we are to make the Lehigh Valley a sustainable community, we must all work together and support our various efforts.

So, I encourage you to join us at one of the Health Care Council’s two health forums being held in our area.  All those efforts in the Venn Diagram are seeking public input, as they should in order to truly have community support.  So come out Wednesday, November 28th to the Fowler Family Center at Northampton Community College (511 E. 3rd St, Bethlehem) from 7-9pm OR join them Thursday, November 29th at the Salvation Army (144 N. 8th St, Allentown) from 7-9pm.

We’re all seeking to ensure a high quality, sustainable life in the Lehigh Valley. Let’s all work together to see the bigger picture, rather than individual puzzle pieces.

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