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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

RenewLV to Host Regional Transportation Forum Next Monday

Renew Lehigh Valley will host a Regional Transportation Forum on Monday, April 19 at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem (437 Main Street, Bethlehem). The program begins at 6:30 p.m., following an informal reception at 5:30 p.m.

Results of a regional passenger rail study, funded with $100,000 from Lehigh and Northamption County taxpayers and another $50,000 from the taxpayer-supported LVEDC, will be officially released.

Would we have been better off just flushing that money down the toilet? We'll find out Monday.

The event is free and open to the public. An RSVP is suggested, but not required. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Beata Bujalska at bbujalska@renewlv.org or 484.893.1062.

The suits who will be showcased at this event include the following:

David Taylor - Senior Vice-President, National Director for Sustainable Transportation Solutions, HDR;
Bob McNamara - Senior Policy Representative for Smart Growth, National Association of REALTORS;
Armand Greco - Executive Director, LANTA;
Scott Armstrong - Allentown conservative;
Joe Gurinko - Chief Transportation Planner, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission; and
Adam Krom - Philadelphia-based Transportation Planner

Armstrong won't really be there. I just threw that in to see if you were paying attention. This event is presented by the National Association of REALTORS and the Lehigh Valley Association of REALTORS (LVAR). Event sponsors also include the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and the Lehigh Valley Partnership, out very own unelected shadow government.

I'll be there for the food.


michael molovinsky said...

what they should worry about is the hotel bethlehem; i think once the sands finishes the new casino hotel, it will be just enough of a success to kill the old hotel off.

too bad long time resident paul marin couldn't stay around long enough to moderate at the train forum; nyc, emmaus, allentown and spain within 5 years.

Anonymous said...

A waste of time and money.Rail is as dead as zero waste - nothing but pipe dreams for liberals and tree huggers. The consultants are laughing all the way to the bank

Anonymous said...


Needless to say I get invited to nothing.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Another "fleecing" of the taxpayer. It is unfathomable that we are funding studies for something that is clearly unsustainable. Does anyone notice that LANTA, SEPTA, the NYC subway system all do not pay for themselves and need constant taxpayer subsidy? Will someone just pull the plug on this billion dollar Lehigh Valley potential boondoggle? Please?

Anonymous said...

I think several more expensive studies are necessary. Yes. That's it.

Anonymous said...

Yes lets keep pouring our money into the uber-sustainable system we all know and love: highways! They pay for themselves! No taxes!

donmiles said...

Bernie, it's always heartwarming to see the comments of folks who know nothing about what they're ranting against. I'm on the Renew LV council and both this study and the April 19 event have had careful planning and broad support from the LV business, governmental, and citizen members of the council. As for brave "Anonymous" comments on the "pipe dream" and "unsustainable" idea of inter-city rail:
Of course local public transit and inter-city passenger rail don't "pay for themselves": neither do the car drivers and truckers who use our highways. Only about half of the money from gasoline taxes goes for highways -- and even that only goes for new Interstate highway construction, not either maintenance of the Interstates or for regional or local roads. A tractor-trailer punishes roads many times more than a car but pays nowhere near the road taxes to cover the damage. Interstate and all local roads are subsidized by general taxpayers, those who drive on them pay no fee for the privilege. The vast majority of federal transportation expenditures goes to subsidize air travel, not highways and certainly not local transit or inter-city rail.
No passenger rail service in the world pays for all its costs from fares and all are subsidized by the government -- because clean, timely, efficient passenger transportation is viewed as an essential part of community life. Folks in no other industrialized nation would put up with the kind of congestion we have on I-78 or I-80: they'd build a rail line.
The projected costs in this preliminary rail study are inflated (it underestimates ridership and over-estimate construction costs, while failing to take into account the economic and urban rejuvenation benefits of an inter-city rail line); further reviews will be more realistic. And the projected cost for LV to NYC passenger rail must be compared to the originally-projected cost of widening Rte. 22 to 4 lanes each way from Fogeslville to Rte. 33: $1.5 billion -- and that thankfully-dead boondoggle would have solved nothing (all lanes would be just as crowded as now in a few years, as 60 years of highway-widening in the U.S. has shown).
Those like "Anonymous" who don't have the facts ought to show up on April 19 and get some :-)
And thanks for highlighting the event, Bernie.

michael molovinsky said...

don, i recall that when marlin first approached the lvcd they weren't interested, because previous inquires indicated it was not realistic, yet he prevailed in getting them and the counties to cough up for the study, now because you do not like the results, you indicate the conclusions are flawed, and indicate more studies, i. e. expense, is in order.

Anonymous said...

I propose an expensive study to examine MM's response.

Anonymous said...

"it underestimates ridership and overestimates construction costs"
How do you know? When you are standing in front of a congressional committee, begging for money, do you really expect a member of congress to agree with you? Your organization requested a study and the study was completed by one of the leading consulting firms in the country. If you would have wanted a different result you should have hired a consultant that would have stated your opinion. They are not hard to find. Allentown is loaded with them. Just ask the Mayor.

Anonymous said...

"It's all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation."

-Gordon Gecko

If the feds, state and local governments had access to the billions of dollars it'd take for rail, they'd use it for everything else...

...but light rail.

That's how low of a priority it is and how big the other issues are.

But hey, thanks for playing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

A few points.

1) The success of Hotel Bethlehem has nothing to do with a regional rail study.

2) Paul Marin passionately believes in what he is advocating, and is not doing so to enrich himself. He has also been back to the LV. He is entitled to as much respect as those who feel differently.

3) Actually, it was the LVPC's Mike Kaiser, not the LVEDC, who expressed doubt about rail.

4) I would not have invested a cent in this study, especially during a recession, but Marin's aergument was that this fast-tracked the LV ahead of other areas with no such study, making us eligible for grants.

5) LANTA's long-range plans call for heavy public subsidies, so what greco has to say should prove very interesting.

6) I am looking forward to see what we got for $150k in public money.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, although off topic, let me say this about hotel bethlehem, bethlehem and lv renew. pressure was put on the sands to finish that hotel at the casino, i cannot believe that any success it will have, will not be at the expense of the old hotel across the river. if this doesn't concern lv renew, it should.

amtrak runs from boston to washington, via nyc and phila. it doesn't run here, because the market is too small. it was always too small. i never implied or believed that marin stood to profit financially from a study, but you have made that reply several times. i do believe that marin believed that allentown could become a mixed income urban utopia with a train. although he and his mrs. chose to live in a center city loft, after she was hired for CD, almost all other middle class prefer the suburbs, this is NOT NYC. because of his enthusiasm, the councils were loose with our money, i fault him for not really understanding the local market.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1) You are OT with the Hotel Bethlehem. I'd be interested in their persepective about Sands, but that's unrelated and is a post for another day.

2) Disagree with Marin. Tell me he's wrong. But let's stop slamming him for his moves to Emmaus, A-town and Madrid. He is as sincere in his beliefs as you are in yours.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM, I deleted a comment from you that is shouting, all in caps.

donmiles said...

I don't "know" the study underestimates ridership and overestimates costs. The full study hasn't been released yet and my comment was based on the M.Call story about its summary at a recent LVPC meeting. We'll have a better idea after Monday's event, when hopefully more details of the study will be available. I do "know" that the study itself says its preliminary, that it makes no recommendations, that it estimated ridership from the LV at only 800 per day when we already know that upwards of 50,000 people commute to N. NJ and NYC from the LV, and that the study's cost estimate is based on a rail line all the way to Allentown rather than a more-likely station at Phillipsburg or Easton. Wouldn't it be sensible to wait until after Monday's event to claim rail service from the LV is a pipe-dream?

donmiles said...

I don't "know" the study underestimates ridership and overestimates costs. The full study hasn't been released yet and my comment was based on the M.Call story about its summary at a recent LVPC meeting. We'll have a better idea after Monday's event, when hopefully more details of the study will be available. I do "know" that the study itself says its preliminary, that it makes no recommendations, that it estimated ridership from the LV at only 800 per day when we already know that upwards of 50,000 people commute to N. NJ and NYC from the LV, and that the study's cost estimate is based on a rail line all the way to Allentown rather than a more-likely station at Phillipsburg or Easton. Wouldn't it be sensible to wait until after Monday's event to claim rail service from the LV is a pipe-dream?

Anonymous said...

NJ Transit made a study of lehigh valley commuters. Counted Twenty Thousand on the road between 7 and 9. Less than one thousand were headed to NYC. Most were going to jobs in Somerset and Hunterdon County.

Now, for all the whiz kids. Okay, let's take the train to a station along the I78-22 corridor. How bout White House Station. Close to Merck and J and J. You get off the train and guess what: prepare for a long walk to any corporate office building. There is no local public bus network. Nj Transit could not afford to put in buses to serve suburban office complexes. The investment would be a fortune.

The dreaming and wishing and hoping days are over. Forget the passion. You need real numbers and an overall reality check. You have to convince a government body to invest millions into this service. You can't ask on a hope and a prayer.

This study is about attaching the Lehigh Valley to NJ Transit's commuter services. NJ Transit moves commuters into heavily populated communities in New Jersey and New York City. It does not take workers from their homes to corporate office parks. And, in New Jersey those parks are all over the place.

michael molovinsky said...

i believe where paul marin has lived is relevant, because he did not live here long enough to know what the transportation needs of this region are. it's not a matter of his sincerity, but lack of local familiarity.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thatnk you for removing the caps.

Anonymous said...

Fund it. Fund it. Fund it.


Because someone who has a passion for it wants you to. That's how all feel good boondoggles come to life.

That is all.

Anonymous said...

"...over-estimate construction costs"


Prevailing wage, cronyism and sheer gubment incompetence assure overrun.

Anonymous said...

The romantic treehugger pipe dream has officially derailed. The closest we will get to rail service is the kiddies train at Dorney Park.

Al Fundo said...

The train at Dorney Park has proven commercially viable, without govenment intervention, for generations. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned.

Anonymous said...


The Elucidator, which I like to read as a local freebie publication, had this about the rail a while back.

Plus, you can read about the Rollergirls (is that still on topic because it too is a mode of transportation of sorts? errr... anyway...)

I'd like to be at this meeting. I'm interested in getting a train here in Easton to take me into NYC instead of the bus. It's too much money to drive, to park, etc. And not for nuthin'... but the bus (not that any of you probably take any public transportation...) but the bus has gotten more and more crowded, either with regular commuters, college kids, or whomever. And not everyone smells nice, I'm just saying. And personally I know so many people living out here in PA now, but working in NYC and NJ, just not sure why so many of you think the train doesn't make sense. I'm just your average citizen of Easton, so don't be rough on me - but I'll go educate myself at the meeting and hear what everyone has to say.

Anonymous said...

LV biggest transportation need is Route 22. Nice of renewlv person to over-inflate the original $700M to $1.5B.

Renewlv was created to push the idea of rail. Joyce Marin, founding co-chaired renewlv consistently voted against any thing to do with Route22 while she sat on the LVPC. Even as something simple as an information request. It is publicly noted that renewlv members found their way onto Route 22 advisory board and interfered with proper investment in route 22. Even Bethlehem and Easton City Council members issued a press release suggest to kill the Route 22 project to divert that funding to Rail.....No you know the rest of the story.

Route 78 carries ~75K vehicles a day and is not as congested like you suggest. On the other hand, Route 22 has over 100K vehicles per day across the Section 400. There have been 4 fatalities in one year on a 1/4 mile section of roadway.

PennDOT must replace two interchanges and the deteriorated LV Bridge. Why not invest it properly to widen it from Cedar Crest to Airport Road...the most heavily traveled section. The shortfall is $140M.

We invested $110M for 3.2 miles of Route 33 extension for 25K vehicles.

We are investing nearly $100M in Route 412 for 28K vehicles in support of gaming. If Route 412 requires 5 lanes for 28K vehicles, how are 4 lanes on Route 22 for 100K vehicles?

Route 22 section 400 widening before Rail.

Anonymous said...

It seems that Bruce Davis of the Route 22 Coalition should be on the Panel since this is being promoted and a "Regional Transportation Forum"

Bernie O'Hare said...

"the Rollergirls (is that still on topic because i"

Hi Liz, The Rollergirls are always on topic.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:02, You are certainly well-informed about Rte 22.

Low Naz Scott said...

I'm totally ambivalent towards rail. It would only really work if and when it becomes prohibitively more expensive to drive. Off the top of my head... $4-5.00/Gallon gas prices would push more people to use rail. Saying its a waste and nobody will ever use it is pretty short sighted and assumes that nothing will change. Population will increase, cost of living will increase. These and a bunch of other factors do need to be considered when you are peering 20 years into the future.

I've had the privilege of commuting on 22 and 78 thru NJ. Let me assure everyone that they both suck equally.

As for 22, and I'm not being a wise ass here, I've asked this in countless forums and boards, but where is Rep. Dent on this? Our Harrisburg pols? The greater Lehigh Valley area is easily the 3rd largest population center within the state and 22 is the backbone of it all. How can they not secure the proper funding for this road? Dent/Spector/Casey would sew up their elections for a generation by being able to point to a 6 lane 22 every May & Nov.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone thinks rail is a waste.

My complaint is that people who do not commute and don't intend to seem to have all the answers.

You commuted, so you can tell me how, if rail existed, do you get from your home to where you work. Just pretend that there are imaginary train stations and you tell me where you go to catch a train and where do you get off the train to get to work.

I use to work in Morristown, NJ. I would want to go to my office by train directly. There are no tracks. If I used present day service supposing NJ transit went to Phillipsburg. I would board the train Phillipsburg, travel to Newark, transfer to a train going out to Morristown. When I would get to Morristown I would have a two mile walk to my office. By the way, the length of travel-over four hours. that is eight round trip. I would spend more than most my working day getting to and from work.

Gas at 4 and 5 dollars a gallon - the driving still works. need a different car. After that, I have to move. Repeat that last sentence one thousand times and that will tell you why rail as being proposed does not work.

Anonymous said...

If folks are against new roads, then why the American Parkway? It will only promote more traffic on Route 22.

I disagree with RENEWLV, Route 22 must be widened.

Promoting more NJ and NYers to come to PA via rail IS NOT smart growth.

Saving lives and getting people to their jobs via Route 22 is wort the investment and is a much Smarter Investment.

Low Naz Scott said...

Anon 3:27 - You are correct. The current set up would really have no benefit to those commuting to 80% of the businesses in North Jersey.

Like I said there would have to be a large shift somewhere (gas prices) for people to abandon their cars in favor of rail. For North Jersey commuters, it would probably then fall on the employers to maybe run shuttle buses back and forth as a service/benefit to their employees. Lot of steps, effort and assumption in that.

Basically its a balance between time, money and convenience, none of which favors rail at the moment. Do we need it today? No. 20 years from now? Can't say for sure, but simply dismissing it doesnt seem wise IMO.

Anonymous said...

Where did RENEWLV come from and what is their purpose?

Anonymous said...

Okay, let's review some basics:

1) Development lags investment in transportation infrastructure. If you want cities and boroughs to be healthy and strong, you invest in rail. If you want development of farmland into suburban sprawl, you keep investing in roads.

2) You keep investing in roads, the cities are going to continue to suffer. 60 years of federal transportation policy has killed cities around this country. If you hate to see or think of the decline of Allentown (or Detroit), ask yourself what part you played in the destruction. If you live, work or shop in the suburbs, you are partially responsible. We did this to ourselves. Terrorists could not have effectively destroyed the number of American cities that bad transportation policy has.

2) When someone comes out in support of widening Rt. 22, check their profit motives. Many of them own farmland that they hope to develop and laugh all the way to the bank.

3) Planning for the future requires that people think beyond what will benefit themselves next week. People need to think about their children and grand children and the quality of the life, the quality of the air, the loss of fertile farmland in the LV, the blight of our cities or the 40,000 Americans who lose their lives on our country's highways and you will see that we need to find another way.

The auto-centric culture of the U.S. is what is unsustainable. Waiting until the price of gas goes up is not the time to plan for rail. Basically, other regions of the country are completing for rail projects. Without a plan, the LV is not even in the game. When the people who post to this blog see the positive transformative effect of proper transportation policy, they will be jealous. But, by then it will be too late to get in the game.

People can argue about the cost estimate, but before this study was done, people said that passenger rail to the LV was impossible. Guess what? It's not impossible, just expensive. This study proves those nay-sayers wrong. Now we can look at the assumptions and decide if the cost estimate is fair or inflated.

Anonymous said...

The Marins lived in the Lehigh Valley for 20 years. Maybe you have to live in the LV for 100 years before you are allowed to share an opinion. Seems like you'd miss a lot of good ideas that way, though.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Where did RENEWLV come from and what is their purpose?"

I believe that, originally, it was the brainchild of the LV Partnership, the unelected aristocracy that thinks it rules this area. It was created to focus on smart growth, i.e. development in the cities, primarily A-town. The partnership long ago came to the conclusion that the economic vitality of this region depends on A-town's revivial.

From the time of its creation ntil now, funding sources have changed. It remains committed to smart growth and supprts regional rail as a means of achieving that end. It supports the public health as well.

I have dealt with Steve and Beata several times, and find both of them to be engaged and transparent.

You might disagree with them on specific proposals like publc health or rail, but I can only applaud their numerous attempts at informing us and engaging in dialogue.

Anonymous said...

There you go again, treating Route 22 like it is a rural road through farm country.

Will Renew standup against any more investment in Route 222 which is through fertile farmland. The answer is no.

They dream rail will repopulate the cities. If anything it will be the next big catalyst to destroy 1000's of acres of farmland by encouraging more people from NJ to NY to relocate and build McMansions.

We could have widened Route 22 ten years ago and it would not have had the same effect as Route 33 extension.

Renewlv is responsible delaying the inevitable investment in Route 22 which will cost the taxpayers 10'Ms more to complete.

The majority of LV residents support widening sections of Route 22. An overwhelming majority of valley residents do not want rail as an alternative to Route 22.

$750M for 800 or even 8000 rail should not be a priority for transportation dollars.

We DO NOT want rail if Route 22 does not get widened.