Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Allentown City Council Candidates on Lanta's Hamilton Street Bus Service

The Morning Call's Paul Muschick has a wonderfully detailed account about Allentown city council candidates. And at Queen City Daily blog, he lists responses to four very specific questions. Here's one question that really matters to me.

Should the city take steps to restore the LANTA bus stops on Hamilton Street? Why or why not?

David Bausch: "There's still stops on Hamilton Street. It's just the transfers … It's not that far. It will be far if it's snowing. It's about a block and-a-half, a block-and-a-quarter … I think they should give it a chance, then change it if it doesn't work."

William Michael Donovan: "In my early career, I gained knowledge of public transportation because of studies and exposure to professionals in the field. I am not an expert, but I have some experience with these issues. While I do not have all the information that went into the Hamilton Street decision, I am extremely disappointed that LANTA removed bus routes off the city's major urban street without adequate consideration of the effect on various groups of merchants or citizens. I applaud the creation of an indoor/covered switching center, but do not believe that also warranted wholesale changes in routes and/or stops.

Two things come to mind if the major challenge actually was to solve congestion. First, change the sequence and timing of the lights. The design is not consistent with sound traffic flow. Vehicles moving west to east receive only a few seconds to pass through lights. I do not propose allowing high speeds along Hamilton -- just the ability to let traffic flow smoothly, say at 20-25 miles per hour. Second, spreading the stops a bit wider along Hamilton would help, too. Walking one block on the same street is far different from walking many blocks to new streets. In brief, my sense of the situation is that LANTA did not involve enough people to make a holistic, sensible decision that provided for a new central location while maintaining excellent service along critical routes.

I believe that if you bring the appropriate people to the table where ideas and concerns are expressed honestly and without censorship, we will create sound, productive decisions for the community. This has been true in other public challenges of this type where I have been involved. When the appropriate parties are not involved, we have disappointment, lack of trust, and a loss of community."

Jeanette Eichenwald: "Yes, the LANTA stops should be restored. The elimination of these stops causes great hardships to the handicapped who are entirely dependent on the transportation provided by buses to come into the city. Businesses located on the impacted corridor have been adversely affected by this change. The city administration needs to be receptive to the will of the people and voice strong concerns to LANTA."

Peter G. Schweyer: "As a board member of LANTA, I have spent quite a bit of time on this very question. I have spoken with economic development experts in the city and downtown businesses groups; I have discussed this with elected officials and folks from Lehigh Carbon Community College. Lastly, I discussed this with my colleagues on the LANTA board and staff members. After looking at this quite seriously, my answer is a simple no. People rely on LANTA to get them to and from work, doctor appointments, etc. on time. Traffic is the number one reason for bus delays - and Hamilton Street was one of the worst culprits. As such, by removing Hamilton Street from our routes, we have increased our reliability for downtown riders. This again is vital for our patrons, many of whom are Center City residents who travel to industrial parks for work.

There are other reasons as well. Buses on Hamilton Street inconvenienced passenger vehicle traffic, caused a possibly unsafe condition for pedestrians (because of the narrow streets) and increased idling times (and as such increased the amount of emissions our buses would release). Therefore, LANTA made the right decision to reroute bus traffic to Walnut and Linden Streets (one block north and south, respectively). With that said, I understand the merchants' concerns and would consider other measures to assist them. As I said in a recent LANTA committee meeting, I am open to adding more stops on the north-south streets and other measures to help offset the loss of foot traffic due to the removal of the stops."

Robert E. Smith Jr.: (his statement to Hamilton Street merchants) "I am shocked of the poor planning by the LANTA board and the total disregard for merchants, senior citizens and students that use LANTA transportation. Despite what the mayor says that this is not a city issue, any time a transportation change and elimination of bus stops that affect Allentown businesses, Allentown residents, this is a city issue. I, Robert E. Smith Jr., a candidate for Allentown City Council, and current elected school board member demand these bus stops be restored. City Council should have a member on the LANTA board, because current members are out of touch with the people of Allentown or just do not care about the merchants on Hamilton Street or people that are poor and are middle-class. We as a nation must conserve our oil supplies. We tell people not to drive, take buses when you can, and this city lets LANTA eliminate bus stops. We need leadership that represents all the people, not just politicians and wealthy elitists who want to keep those people off Hamilton Street. I thank the merchants for sticking it out downtown. I will help any way I can, God bless you all."


Anonymous said...

Schweyer is too busy holding the mayor's hand to care about a bunch of lousy merchants.

A.J. Cordi said...

Schweyer is an asshole - he's part of the problem, too. Guys like that just don't understand the people they want to represent and fill their responses with faked compassion to present the impression that they actually give a damn. I'm surprised he even answered that question.

But I did like what Donovan had to say about the flow of traffic on Hamilton. Those lights are horrible. Here's my story...

A couple of weeks ago I was on Hamilton St. going to Crocodile Rock for a concert. I was at a red light with 2 cars in front of me. I waited for what seemed to be an eternity for the light to go green. When it did, it changed back to yellow - and then red - just as fast!

The first car proceeded with no problem. The second car barely made the light. And there I was, stuck again! What's even worse is that no cars (at all) passed by on the interceting street as their light was green and mine was red. So what's the purpose for the long reds?

Anonymous said...

Whether you agree or disagree with Pete Schweyer, you have to respect him for answering honestly and explaining his position.

Mike Donovan also gave a thoughtful, insightful answer that bodes well for his service on council.

Bausch and Eichenwald are good people who mean well but try too hard to be on all sides of every issue.

Smith is a nut -- a shrill, combative, and unqualified candidate running purely for personal glory.

I have spoken.

A.J. Cordi said...

Anon 11:45 -

Like I said, I am surprised he answered at all. I'll respect him for answering the question, and nothing more.

His answer alone is reason not to elect him - because he only listens to what "experts" say and think will affect the citizens and merchants in the area, instead of actually listening to the citizens and merchants on how it has affected them. And trust me, both the citizens and merchants have been doing their share of shouting!

The whole Hamilton St. gentrification is being handled terribly, and the company he works for is helping to flush out the city. Instead of calling it gentrification, they should call it what it is really meant to be: "Allentown's Trail of Tears" (the history buffs will get that one.)

Anonymous said...

Schweyer strikes me as yet another young guy who works for one of our State Rep.'s who is perpetually running for something. No real world experience just a series of wine and cheese smoosh sessions. Why is that every State Rep has staff who are always running for something? No wonder these offices are often useless at getting back to you on issues. Why not hire some people who are more intrersested in your constiuents than in their political future

Anonymous said...

What's Allentown City Council going to do?

Absolutely nothing.