One of the major findings of the Moving LANTA Forward planning process is that in the diverse and complex community called the Lehigh Valley, that use of land as designed by the 62 area municipalities has not exactly been 'transit friendly.' Nothing works against an efficient and productive transit system more than urban sprawl and looking at an aerial view of the Valley, we've sprawled big time! Over the years, many saw this as a viable economic development approach as community leaders strove to attract new businesses and residents to the area. But this has played havoc with transit planning and development.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission's Comprehensive Plan for the Lehigh Valley has, for decades, recommended that development be encouraged only in those areas where infrastructure - roads, utilities, transit - are already place: generally in the urbanized areas. Local developers and municipalities found that low cost farmland outside the urbanized areas too tempting to resist and thus industrial parks nearly ring the Cities. Commute and travel patterns, as a result, create nearly an impossible obstacle to the growth of public transit services.
So, the question is: Can the Genie be put back into the bottle?
The planners optimistically say "Yes" and have developed a power point presentation to be used by the Authority to educate municipal leaders as to the benefits of transit oriented design over the coming weeks and months. How convincing and acceptable this will be to municipalities eagerly looking to expand their tax base remains to be seen.
One thing is certain: if transit is NOT included in the local planning process by each municipality, the community is effectively planning transit OUT of the local transportation system. These are not decisions that LANTA or the Counties it serves makes but are made by the 62 area municipalities independently.
What do you think?
Click here for the Land Use power point presentation.