Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Regional Transportation Development Plan

Act 44, the funding legislation that was passed in Harrisburg this past summer, will provide enhanced funding for highway and transit projects in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) is embarking on a process to help determine where to invest these additional funds.

The last comprehensive examination of public transportation occurred in 1985. At that time, the “Metro” system of service was introduced which responded then to the impact of the loss of major employment centers in the urbanized area and the shift to destinations in the more rural portions of the Valley. Since then, LANTA has made many modifications to the basic system of service based on an ongoing service review process, and experienced significant gains in ridership. Since 1997, LANTA ridership of the public transportation system has grown 67%.

But the Lehigh Valley is continuing to grow and change in terms of both population and jobs. The Authority has determined that it needs to prepare a long range vision for public transportation and a service development program and policies that will guide LANTA efforts in the next 5 to 10 years.

The Authority sought proposals from qualified individuals/firms to develop a regional public transportation development plan for the Valley in the fall of last year. Three firms responded and after an extensive review and interview process, Abrams & Cherwony Inc., a Philadelphia based firm was selected.

The process which started in March, is expected to take a year and will involve an extensive review of the existing transit system, a determination on how best to meet the community’s changing needs for service, and deliver a set of recommendations in order to achieve the most effective and productive transit system possible.

The public input portion of this effort is extremely important. And LANTA would like all those who have an interest in public transportation, to participate in the planning process.

Information will be forthcoming in the next few months as to what format through which this input will be gathered. Most likely, this will involve many meetings with a wide range of participants to gather ideas and input.

LANTA and its consultant are relying heavily on data provided by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission through its elaborate GIS mapping system as well as its computerized transportation model for evaluating route structure and predicting ridership.

The goal is to invest in a public transportation network that meet demands now and well into the future in the Lehigh Valley.

It is expected that recommendations for change will be before the Authority in March/April of 2009.


As noted in the profile for this blog, this web location is meant to provide residents of the Lehigh Valley (and others interested in public transit) to comment, suggest and engage in discussions about the future of transit.

The Lehigh Valley is one of the fastest growing areas in Pennsylvania. Its change from a manufacturing-based community to a 'service' community over the past 5 decades has dramatically altered the demand for public transit. In addition, the urban sprawl that has taken place has challenged the ability of transit to respond to changes in travel and commute demands.

Nonetheless, demand for transit has been strong over the years. And during the past decade - 1997-2007 - ridership on the local Metro bus system has grown by 67%.

We can talk more about the past here, but this blog is about the future. Where should new investment in public transit take place in the Valley? This is the central question that needs to be answered and we look forward to a lively and productive discussion!