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Harrisburg area Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties
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Old 01-10-2017, 06:37 PM
62 posts, read 81,809 times
Reputation: 38



I was wondering if anyone could give a list of the Pros and Cons of the East Shore (Harrisburg-Hershey area), West Shore (Cumberland Valley as a whole), and the Upper Dauphin/Perry County regions? I have heard that the West Shore is the best, but I would like to see all the facts from all sides. In particular I'm looking at a list of things below:

1. Traffic/commute to/from Harrisburg
2. Cost of Living/Housing
3. School District Ratings
4. Culture/Friendliness
5. Weather (such as flooding and winter weather)
6. Crime
7. Things to do
8. Availability to stores/shopping, hospitals/doctors, businesses, etc...

Thank you!
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Old 01-12-2017, 11:57 AM
4,273 posts, read 11,129,521 times
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1. Highly variable depending on location (where is "Harrisburg"- downtown, midtown, airport, way out in West Hanover Twp but still Harrisburg postal address, etc.) In Cumberland or Perry County I wouldn't look beyond PA Route 34 corridor (Mt Holly Springs/Carlisle/Shermans Dale/Newport/Liverpool) for normal commuting to Harrisburg addressed locations, unless you have specific locational desires. In upper Dauphin County, Halifax might be far enough. South of Blue Mountain (Central Dauphin school district and south/east) location matters more to commute length to Harrisburg addressed locales.

2. Camp Hill Borough, Hershey, Cumberland Valley school districts have a school district plus premium. Steelton-Highspire might have a minus factor.

3. See #2 for generalizations.

4. Possibly the areas that have more of an exchange with the outside world (see #2 again, with the possible exception of Camp Hill Borough) might be less cliquey.

5. There are no real appreciable winter weather differences across the Harrisburg commuting area, other than it might be a couple of degrees colder in, say, Newport, compared to Elizabethtown, for a snow vs. ice or ice vs. rain difference with any given storm. There aren't the sharp differences in average snow accumulation one might find in the environs of, say, Buffalo or Syracuse. Flooding can be a significant hazard, location dependent even in areas a number of blocks away from river or creek, but very variable - you can be 4 blocks from the river in Newport Boro and still be in a flood zone, but 1 block away in Halifax Boro is likely ok. One rule of thumb is the railroad - if you are looking up at a railroad track in Cumberland/Dauphin/Perry counties, you're probably in a flood zone.

6. Crime for innocent bystanders is only a significant concern in parts of Harrisburg city and maybe Steelton, possibly a couple of highway-oriented areas such as Middlesex and Swatara (Dauphin) Twps. Derry Twp (Hershey plus some areas with Hummelstown postal address) would have been among the 5 lowest crime cities in USA had townships been included; its police budget exceeds its revenue from the amusement and parking taxes, plus is home to the State Police academy. But if you're tied in with drugs and riff-raff, crime may find you even deep in Derry Twp.

7. That's very dependent on what you want to do. If you want to ride your mountain bike after work, maybe living in the hills south of Elizabethville is for you. If you'd rather escape to New York City every weekend, perhaps a house in Middletown near the train station (which is eventually moving several blocks west, by the way) is more your style. If you curl up with a big screen and never go outside, some townhouse in a new development in Silver Spring Twp could suit. Fly fishermen and hikers might prefer Boiling Springs.

8. The main hospital complexes are just south of downtown Harrisburg, north side of Camp Hill, west end of Hershey, and also Carlisle Hospital on SW side (South Middleton Twp). The main shopping areas are the Carlisle Pike in Hampden/Silver Spring Twps, which is US 11 between PA 581 expressway and PA 114; the "Eisenhower Interchange" of I-83/I-283/US 322 in Swatara Twp and/or the Colonial Park area of US 22 east from I-83 about 2.5 miles toward Paxtonia, in Lower Paxton Twp. If you are out past Duncannon, it could be a long way to a hospital or to shopping. Upper Dauphin is even more remote from a hospital, although there is a Walmart east end of Elizabethville (the long-rumored future Walmart in Howe Twp near Newport seems always never quite to be). From Gratz, weekly shopping is as likely to be on the Shamokin Dam/Hummels Wharf strip. Hershey is surprisingly remote from weekly shopping, even Walmart is a 20 min one way drive (folks are as likely to go to the location far east end of Palmyra, as the always-crowded Swatara Twp "Harrisburg" location). The nearest Apple store is in Lancaster; nearest Crate & Barrel, IKEA, or REI in north Baltimore; nearest Nordstrom, in King of Prussia.
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Old 01-12-2017, 09:06 PM
Location: Harrisburg, PA
909 posts, read 727,647 times
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1. Traffic/commute to/from Harrisburg - Worst area of traffic is on the capital beltway from I-83 starting at the interchange with I-81 and headed I-83 south then sort of southwest until you get to the "York Split" which is where PA-581 begins and I-83 continues south to York. It gets backed-up badly. PennDot is in the process now of re-constructing this particular stretch of highway, and widening it, but it is going to be years until all phases of the project are completed. Another really bad area for traffic is in Camp Hill (US 15 aka Market Street) to the interchange with PA-581. For some reason they never upgraded it to a full highway, and it is used heavily for local traffic. Some of the surface streets in Harrisburg can get very congested when work lets out - like Front Street, Cameron Street, Paxton Street. US-283 Southbound is also bad and backs up right before the exit for the PA Turnpike (I-76) or PA-283, mostly due to a poor design (no idea why US-283 must "merge" to get on to PA-283). Another spot is I-81 South toward Carlisle, when I-81 goes from 3 to 2 lanes when PA-581 exits to the left. US 11 through Carlisle gets somewhat backed up too.

2. Cost of Living/Housing
Not bad. You will find a mix bag - some cheap housing in Harrisburg city or Steelton, to ultra-expensive mega-mansions in Silver Spring/Hampton Townships. Perry County and Upper Dauphin is cheap but then you have to drive much further to reach the city area. Lots of options - apartments, single family detached, townhouses, duplexes, and some over 55.

3. School District Ratings - Harrisburg city and Steelton usually are not regarded the best, hopefully they turn things around soon (D- rating). Central Dauphin East, Susquehanna, Middletown (just built a new HS), Mechanicsburg and Carlisle are pretty decent overall (C+ to B+ rating). Camp Hill, Central Dauphin, Derry Township, East Pennsboro, and West Shore are very good (B+ to A rating). Cumberland Valley is rated as excellent/cream of the crop (A+ rating).

4. Culture/Friendliness - Surprisingly friendly for an urban area. It is a city so not every stranger will say hi or wave, but that is nothing you should take personally. I have had some pleasant conversations with random strangers who approached me first. The festivals here are fun and a good way to make friends. Drivers overall seem skilled for city driving, some do speed/drive aggressively. The area has a culture of its own.

Politics can be a touchy subject because we are pretty much a swing area. Cumberland County is more conservative, Dauphin County is more liberal. Lebanon, Perry, York, and Lancaster counties are all very conservative.

5. Weather (such as flooding and winter weather) - gotta watch this. Parts of Harrisburg city can flood - Front Street, and parts of Second and Cameron Street can flood easily in a major flood. The Shipoke area of Harrisburg can get hit really badly and I know they did in 2010 if I am recalling correctly. Wormleysburg can get hit. Winter weather is not too bad. We haven't had any snow this season (some ice two times now). It is much warmer here than the northern tier of PA so our chance of snow is not as high. Also they clear the major highways rather quickly (PennDOT is HQ'd in Harrisburg so it would look poorly on their part if they did not).

6. Crime - isolated pockets of crime activity here and there. Some areas should be avoided for the most part, such as South Side Harrisburg. If you go there, or live there you should be fine as long as you don't bother anyone. If you aren't looking for trouble you should be ok.

Central PA is not an overall super wealthy area, and there are some other poorer areas in the region where crime might be above average, but nothing that should be alarming as a whole - some blocks throughout the city of Harrisburg, you also have Steelton, Penbrook, and Lemoyne. Also a couple blocks in Carlisle. Again, nothing shocking as these have perfectly fine neighborhoods too.

If you are NOT looking for trouble, you are fine. Harrisburg city gets a bad rep because its city limits are so incredibly tiny (only 8 sq miles of land) compared to the 200+ sq mile urban area surrounding it, which makes it seem worse than it really is as a whole.

7. Things to do - Hershey Park, ZooAmerica, Senators Baseball, City Island, Indian Echo Caverns, Adventure Sports, lots of golf courses, Civil War Museum, PA State Museum, PA Capital Bldg, Hershey Bears Hockey, lots of parks, festivals in Riverfront Park, Farm Show Complex, Hershey Giant Center (concerts), wineries, Capital Area Greenbelt, Ski Round Top, the Susquehanna River for boating, Susquehanna Art Museum, Fort Hunter, I feel like I am missing something else too...? Gettysburg is not far away. Lancaster/York have many things to do (not far). You can day trip to Baltimore, or even DC or Philadelphia if you got up early, or left later in the evening. Pittsburgh and NYC are more than a day trip but are not super far away.

8. Availability to stores/shopping, hospitals/doctors, businesses, etc... plenty of this. Ki0eh covered this pretty well. The major commercial strips are the Carlisle Pike, Jonestown Road, Eisenhower Blvd.

Hope this helps!

Last edited by g500; 01-12-2017 at 09:35 PM..
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