Last week, I told you municipalities really need to be more concerned about walkability because of the sharp increase in pedestrian deaths. Dr. Stephen F. Thode makes the mistake of sharing his thoughts with me. He recently retired as director of the Murray H. Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies at Lehigh Univesity, He was also a Bethlehem City Planning Commissioner.
In my story, I complimented Dr. Paige Van Wirt for her emphasis on walkability. But Dr. Thode wonders. Here's why.
Several factors mitigate against increased "walkability" in Bethlehem. Let's walk through them:
1) The urban cores of both the North Side and South Side have relatively low population densities (both residents as well as day visitors and workers) resulting in
2) A paucity of mass transportation AND a paucity of resident services in the urban cores, i.e., supermarkets, medical services, shopping, entertainment, etc. resulting in
3) The automobile becoming the default mode of transportation for all residents who can afford a car (or know someone who can drive them around).
Bethlehem will not become more "walkable" unless:
a) The urban cores become much more densely populated by residents as well as office, retail and shopping venues which will only occur if
b) A substantial number of high-rise apartment buildings and office buildings (with first-floor retail) are developed in the urban cores, and;
c) Mass transportation becomes frequent enough and broad enough to be a viable option for people to take to and from the urban cores.
Since Councilperson Van Wirt is on record opposing high rise development of any kind in the urban cores of Bethlehem, good luck with that.
I wonder how many miles Councilperson Van Wirt logs on her car each year. Where does she shop for groceries? Where does she go for medical services? Where does she shop for household items? Where does she go to see a movie, or hear a concert? Does she walk to these places? Does she take LANTA? Or, does she take private transportation?