Monthly Archives: January 2009

LANTA wants to expand

The Morning Call ran an article today on the proposed expansion plans of LANTA, our region’s local public transportation agency.  I for one, am thrilled that they have the foresight to know that if federal funding does come down the line for public transportation improvements, they better have some kind of plans ready to put into action if they’d like to receive any of it.  Additionally, many of the details represent much needed improvements to the local bus service.

My only comment would be that still, I wish there would be a focus on getting people to where they work more than where they shop, but I suspect that if I looked at the proposed expanded routes, I would see that in fact, they are planning to focus on that – but unfortunately that can be hard to immediately detect when you look at service that sometimes seems to just go from mall to mall to mall, and if you are lucky, you might live or work somewhere in between two malls.

From the Morning Call:

Phase 1

Restructure routes to create core ‘trunk lines’ where buses run every 10-15 minutes at peak times.
Replace Starlight and Night Owl lines with extended hours on regular routes. Expand weekend service.
Expand service to high demand locations such as Promenade Shops, Fogelsville, Lehigh Carbon Community College, and on Silver Line.

Phase 2

Create satellite transit hubs such as Lehigh Valley Medical Center, Lehigh Valley International Airport, Promenade Shops, routes 512 and 22 and St. Luke’s Freemansburg Avenue complex.
Focus on intermodal connections to Park-n-Ride locations.
Increase suburban connections between hubs, offer flexible routing between suburban hubs.

Phase 3

Create ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ system along trunk lines offering stations spaced 1/2 mile apart. Capital improvements allow buses to act more like trains speeding along dedicated routes.

Phase 4

Assist efforts to create commuter rail service to New York and Philadelphia.
Secure right-of-way for future light rail within Lehigh Valley.

More Smart Growth in Newsweek

Bruce Katz, Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, has an article in Newsweek entitled “The Suburban Challenge.”  

Several comments seem particularly relevant in light of issues facing the Lehigh Valley:

  • The mental line between city and suburb no longer makes much sense; policies need to treat metropolitan areas as a whole.  
  • And all levels of government need to reinvent the physical landscape. We need to create walkable communities and more public transit to link people in the burbs to jobs, schools, concert halls and sports fields that may be in the next neighborhood, the next municipality or the next county. As much as they may love their SUVs, suburbanites would benefit from lower greenhouse-gas emissions, less traffic and higher housing values (proximity to transit boosts home prices).

Mass Transit vs. Tax Cuts?

Occasionally I read the blog site “Talking Points Memo” which is an overwhelming website featuring news and blogs and clips of all the ins and outs of a day’s work in the nation’s capital and elsewhere on the political frontier.  It is a blog site perhaps best known for the investigative reporting on the firing of the eight US Attorneys under then-A.G. Alberto Gonzales.  Last week, reporter Elana Schor posted a piece about the near-elimination of funding for mass transit projects out of the $825 Billion economic stimulus package being proposed by the new administration.  Its very short, and worth a read.  Everyone expects trade-offs in negotiating a package like this, but this is particularly disappointing.

From House Rep. Jim Oberstarr:

“The reason for the reduction in overall funding — we took money out of Amtrak and out of aviation; we took money out of the Corps of Engineers, reduced the water infrastructure program, the drinking water and the wastewater treatment facilities and sewer lines, reduced that from $14 billion to roughly $9 billion — was the tax cut initiative that had to be paid for in some way by keeping the entire package in the range of $850 billion.”

Extensive trail network study underway in Allentown

Citing long-reaching benefits in transportation, recreation and economic development, the City of Allentown has launched a comprehensive trails network feasibility study that will be completed in 2009 and provide a detailed framework for system build-out and usage.

The trail network will add to Allentown's remarkable parks system

The trail network will add to Allentown's remarkable parks system

The plan will seek ways to interconnect Allentown’s already extensive trail network, improve access to city destinations and bring the new network closer to more households. Connectivity with neighboring trails will also be incorporated into the plan, making Allentown an important hub in a rapidly growing regional network.

Through a state grant and money from the Trexler Trust, the city has retained Greenways, Inc., a nationally recognized consulting firm that specializes in trail network planning, design and usage. The company has worked on hundreds of projects in the United States and worldwide, including ones in Austin, Tex.; Greenville, S.C.; Tucson, Ariz.; and several across Pennsylvania. Greenways President Chuck Fink introduced the year-long, multi-faceted plan in front of nearly two dozen city residents at a public open house January 22, 2009, at City Hall.

A 26-member task force encompassing key stakeholders in education, health and fitness, public works and surrounding communities will guide the process. Greg Weitzel – Allentown’s Parks, Recreation and Trails Director – will lead the process. Milestones in the plan include exploring legal feasibility, physical inventory and user demand, which will lead to a trail concept plan by the end of June. The second half of the year will tackle issues such as maintenance, financing, signage and marketing. The final deliverable in December 2009 will be a comprehensive document that provides actionable direction and priorities for the city to implement.

Progress toward completion of the plan will be documented on Greenways’ website starting in February 2009.

Sprawl to crawl on Route 422 – Other Options Must be Considered

Route 422 is the “spine” of transportation in Southeastern Pennsylvania, serving a population of 296,000 residents living in “classic sprawl” development and it is experiencing a commuter crisis.  Roughly half of the land in this corridor, from Valley Forge to Amity Township, Berks County, is still undeveloped and the population is expected to increase 12 percent by 2030.   Like the Lehigh Valley this region lacks rail service, with SEPTA stopping at Norristown.  Jerry Coyne, manager of transportation studies at DVRPC (Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission), has a wish-list for this corridor including: “high-density live/work complexes where jobs and homes could coexist in a walkable community served – as the region’s Main Line towns are – by regional rail lines and buses.”

Read the full article here. 1/18/2009.

Heavy traffic on 422

Heavy traffic on 422

What Does Smart Growth Look Like?

The NRDC website now includes a feature called “Picturing Smart Growth: Visions for Sustainable Communitites Across America.”  It is definitely worth a look.  Explaining “smart growth” or “mixed-use” development looks like is not simple task (“Are you talking about putting houses in an office park?”).  The general aversion to increased density (“Are you talking about building a tenement in that cornfield?) is another significant hurdle.  Picturing Smart Growth is a great tool for illustrating what is meant by “smart growth” in a variety of different locations across the country.


Picturing Smart Growth

Picturing Smart Growth

Using photo-editing software, the visionaries of Urban Advantage have transformed pictures of communities from all over the country to show how they could become more pleasant, walkable neighborhoods. Learn how smart growth principles could work their magic on these sample cities and towns.