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Old 10-07-2009, 10:45 PM
 
Location: Macao
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I recently saw photos of both Bethelehem and Easton...beautiful city/towns you have there! THey look condensed and walkable and lively for a smallish town/city.

Just curious what kind of people move to Lehigh Valley. Are most people from Philadelphia or New York City areas and commuting? That is my first impression or guess, but curious as to what others might say.
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Old 10-08-2009, 06:03 AM
 
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We're not really within easy commuting distance (where I live) from either Philadelphia or NYC since there is no rail service. There are some that do it, of course, but most people move to my town because they want better schools and a safer community. In addition, the houses are not much (if any) less expensive then they are in the towns surrounding Philadelphia that are closer. They move here from Bethlehem, Allentown and Quakertown. For people that commute, it's more likely for them to be doing so for jobs in perhaps Newark, NJ or the outlying western NJ areas. I know four pilots that work at EWR that live in my school district.

Easton probably does have many people that commute to NYC and perhaps Bethlehem too. It's actually much less expensive to do a daily commute NYC to PHL then it is to commute from Allentown to NYC or Allentown to PHL.
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Old 10-08-2009, 11:32 AM
 
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Lots of corporate parks dot the suburban landscape of South East PA. Most are commuting to those corporate parks.
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Old 10-08-2009, 12:18 PM
 
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It's a nice combination. We are in Easton, and many of the residents commute to NYC. Some daily, many on the weekends. Very few commute to Philly. Easton has a very "walkable" downtown, with events for the family most weekends in the square. It is also a hub for artists, and becoming more so each year.

The rail system is on it's way in the next few years, but travel to and from NYC is quite easy by bus.

Last edited by zabe; 10-08-2009 at 12:20 PM.. Reason: additional info
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Old 10-08-2009, 01:51 PM
 
Location: Queens, NY
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toobusytoday View Post
We're not really within easy commuting distance (where I live) from either Philadelphia or NYC since there is no rail service. There are some that do it, of course, but most people move to my town because they want better schools and a safer community. In addition, the houses are not much (if any) less expensive then they are in the towns surrounding Philadelphia that are closer. They move here from Bethlehem, Allentown and Quakertown. For people that commute, it's more likely for them to be doing so for jobs in perhaps Newark, NJ or the outlying western NJ areas. I know four pilots that work at EWR that live in my school district.

Easton probably does have many people that commute to NYC and perhaps Bethlehem too. It's actually much less expensive to do a daily commute NYC to PHL then it is to commute from Allentown to NYC or Allentown to PHL.
Good info, and from the studies I've read, you're right: more people do commute to areas in central and northern NJ than they do to NYC. Not too surprising, given that it's about 75+ miles away, give or take - that's a long commute any way you slice it, and it's even longer if you consider the congestion entering the tunnels.

And if there are commuters to either Philly or NYC, they would be commuters to NYC because of the vast differences in real estate pricing. the NYC vicinity and parts of NJ are simply that much more expensive.

But I doubt that people don't commute simply because there is no rail service. I know - commuter trains are comfortable, clean, and far more appealing than any bus can ever be. It also travels on a separate right-of-way from the interstate, of course. But not all rail service is created equal.

Consider one of the rail options: extending the NJT Raritan Line from High Bridge (a few miles north of Clinton, NJ) all the way to Phillipsburg once again (service was cut off in the early 80's), or even into the Lehigh Valley. The problem? It already takes ~2 hours for the a commuter to travel to NYC from High Bridge using the NJT train and/or the PATH. In comparison, Transbridge buses only take ~1 hour to go from Clinton to NYC.

So while an extension of the Raritan Line to the LV would be great, it would probably serve commuters working in Central NJ more than commuters working in NYC. An express train would work much better, but I doubt that would be considered by NJT officials on that line.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zabe View Post
It's a nice combination. We are in Easton, and many of the residents commute to NYC. Some daily, many on the weekends. Very few commute to Philly. Easton has a very "walkable" downtown, with events for the family most weekends in the square. It is also a hub for artists, and becoming more so each year.

The rail system is on it's way in the next few years, but travel to and from NYC is quite easy by bus.
I love the quotations, because it gives an idea of the two sides of the term "walkable" in this case. On one side, the physical design, the retailing environment, and the other amenities available point to it as a very walkable place. On the other side, the vagrants and seedy characters that dot the downtown during a normal weekday make it a less walkable place that people seem to avoid during those times.

But when the families gather en masse during the weekends for the different events (I was there one Saturday during a soapbox derby race), it becomes a whole different environment from the normal listless weekday environment: it becomes a truly vibrant downtown. Too bad it only happens during the weekends, because the concepts of retailing and making a profit don't take off for the rest of the week. The number of stores and restaurants downtown are only a small fraction of what there could be downtown, if people were to actually go downtown on a regular basis rather than go only during special events.


BTW, they've been talking about rail to NE PA since the late 80's, when the first NYC transplants started to move into the area. So don't hold your breath on rail, and certainly don't state that "rail is on it's (sic) way in the next few years" as a fact.

And the buses present a very nice option, providing you know which bus to take. For years, I travelled to NYC using Transbridge-Lines from the South Bethlehem terminal. That was a dumb mistake for a couple of reasons:
1) the buses that do stop at South Bethlehem also stop at almost every other stop as well.
2) there are stops along the way.

So I recently took a Bieber bus from Hellertown, and it was, like, night and day. Consider the advantages:
1) No stops between Hellertown and PABT in NYC. None.
2) Fewer people on the buses, since it serves smaller cities and towns and fewer potential passengers.

The trip on Transbridge used to take ~2 to 2.5 hours; on Bieber, it takes only ~1 to 1.5 hours (equivalent to driving speed). So hands-down, Bieber wins, big time.

So why do so many, er, suckers () still take Transbridge. A few reasons. One is lack of knowledge. Transbridge has stops in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton. So for the sake of convenience, passengers from these cities would probably simply head to the nearest bus terminal, and take a bus that will make multiple stops along the way. Sadly, they probably never realized that there's a bus that makes no stops along the way from Hellertown.

Second is lack of parking. The 'lawful' capacity of the Hellertown parking lot is only ~100 spaces, while the occupancy is ~130+. The capacity honestly needs to be from 200-300 spaces, or more.

Third is lack of accessibility. Hellertown isn't far from Bethlehem, but it's still kinda the 'sticks, relatively speaking. The only way to reach it is by car, by bicycle (like me), or by bus. (technically, it's also reachable by foot from South Bethlehem, but it takes about 1 hour). The LANTA F bus reaches the Hellertown I-78 Park-and-Ride every hour. Unfortunately, its schedule is almost completely incompatible with the Bieber schedule (unless you're lucky).

It only takes me 15 minutes to go from South Bethlehem to the Hellertown stop via 412 on my bike. Granted, it was a bit scary, and I wasn't able to carry a whole lot (just a couple of small shoulder bags). But it was definitely well worth it.
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Old 10-09-2009, 06:21 AM
 
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We've been Bieber bus fans since we moved here. Now that our daughter has moved to NYC, we use it even more and find the Hellertown stop very convenient. Going to NYC is easy- but not cheap.

Urban, Are there really any cities, besides the really big ones like NY, where things are hopping, stores are open and people are milling about, on weekdays? I've been to Chicago and Philadelphia during the week and once the dinner hour is over, there's nothing open except bars. I like Bethlehem's First Friday's that encourage places to stay open but my thought is that if most people work 9 - 5, they generally don't want to go out again once they get home if they will be getting up early the next morning. First Friday
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Old 10-09-2009, 11:35 PM
 
Location: Queens, NY
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toobusytoday View Post
We've been Bieber bus fans since we moved here. Now that our daughter has moved to NYC, we use it even more and find the Hellertown stop very convenient. Going to NYC is easy- but not cheap.
For the once-in-a-while round trip, it's not cheap - ~$36 or more, back and forth. But for the commuter books of 10 or more tickets (which must be used within 30 days or so), it's actually very comparable to driving (on a single driver basis). For a roughly 150+ mile roundtrip, taking one of the tunnels, using a car that gets 30 mpg on the highway, it would cost about $23+. Using the bus, it costs less than $26. And this doesn't include parking.

Of course, this pricing was only meant to attract commuters who would otherwise be driving alone into the city. For a party of multiple people, driving a car would obviously be far cheaper. That's the downside of all transit pricing - it's based on individual passengers, and doesn't allow discounts for couples, families, or other larger parties who would find it cheaper simply to drive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by toobusytoday View Post
Urban, Are there really any cities, besides the really big ones like NY, where things are hopping, stores are open and people are milling about, on weekdays? I've been to Chicago and Philadelphia during the week and once the dinner hour is over, there's nothing open except bars. I like Bethlehem's First Friday's that encourage places to stay open but my thought is that if most people work 9 - 5, they generally don't want to go out again once they get home if they will be getting up early the next morning. First Friday
Not all of Manhattan is up and hopping at night, obviously. The financial district is extremely busy during the daytime, and a complete ghost town after around 6 pm.

The parts that are busy well past the dinner hour are either touristy areas (Herald Square/Manhattan Mall and Times Square), or areas serving the young (mostly college students). In fact, if you were to go around the US looking for busy areas 10pm and past (on weekdays), you'd most likely find them in college towns.

But what about areas that are simply buzzing around dinnertime, up to 9-10 pm? The fact is that as people get older, they realize that they need stability in their lives. Part of this includes not staying up late into the night.

However, at the same time, it's not like this demographic is asleep by 7pm every night. In addition, they may want to go out every few weekdays if they don't feel like cooking, if they want to go shopping, if they want to spend some time in a new environment, etc. So where will they go?

There are a few options: the shopping mall, a shopping center with a restaurant nearby, or a downtown. By design, the shopping center and the shopping mall were designed specifically to be controlled environments - arrival by car only (for the most part), regulated hours (at least for the shopping mall), lifeless during other times. In contrast, the unregulated nature of downtowns, relatively speaking, allows for them to thrive and attract a variety of businesses, shops, and restaurants. In addition, their design allows for these businesses to operate at their leisure in terms of how to run their business and when.

It's the amount and variety that I find to be missing in downtown Easton. Sure, there are some furniture shops, some swanky restaurants, some quirky crafts shops, and others. There's also the Crayola store and the National Canal museum. But if people were to go downtown on a regular basis, either by working there or by doing their shopping and dining there, the new retailing and dining options will follow.



ULTIMATELY (I'm not yelling here, just starting a new section), it appears to be a catch-22: the retailers and restaurants can't go in if there are not enough people to support them on a regular basis, and the people can't go in if there aren't enough quality retailers and restaurants. But in reality, it's not a catch-22 that cannot be solved. Our postwar cultural mindset "simply" (and I use that term very lightly) needs to change. Businesses need to realize that 100% control of their operations is unattainable, and the need to realize that doing business in far-flung suburban office parks and the like is actually quite inefficient. Retailers need to realize People in general need to realize that the downtowns (outside of Allentown, of course) aren't the dangerous places that decades of perception has ingrained into them.

This transition, if it happens at all, may be slow at first. Then, it if potential businesses see an improvement in the business atmosphere, they will start to move in. The patrons will also slowly move in, the rapidly move in as word spreads about the revamped downtown area. Some may even start to move into apartments and houses there, giving developers notice to start building more apartment buildings. Tourists may start visiting this thriving downtown, and developers may build hotels nearby. These hotels may also serve business travelers who are in town to work with a local business in town. Other amenities, such as gyms, movie theaters, performance venues (there's already the State Theater in Easton), will also start to move in.

Basically, it's this multi-purpose use of this land that will enable the downtowns to thrive - businesses, retailers, manufacturers, and residents all within the same place. But in the end, it all boils down to one thing: the economy of the city and the surrounding area. This is where businesses come in play - they provide the money, the workers, and the right environment for everything else to fall in place.

My theories are pretty much based on Jane Jacobs' theories on economics. She may be more famous for her "Life and Death of Great American Cities", but I find her economics-related books ("The Economy of Cities", "Cities and the Wealth of Nations" to be far more influential on my theories regarding cities.



ODDLY ENOUGH, the best place to start a downtown in the LV area would probably be what some may consider anti-downtown: the MacArthur Road shopping area in Whitehall. In many ways, it already is the downtown of this area: it already has the the massive number of shoppers going there, and it has more retailing and restaurant businesses concentrated there than anywhere else.

I personally find the design aspect of downtowns overrated in terms of walkability and the ability to attract patrons, but Whitehall is definitely a case where a redesign is sorely needed. All the patrons walking around are either walking in the malls, in the sidewalk in front of the stores in shopping centers, or from their cars to the stores and back. The current design prevents people from being able to survey the entire retailing and dining environment without getting into their car and driving. This design basically requires those patrons to make up their minds about what they want to buy or what they want to eat beforehand, rather than making the businesses attract their attention on the fly, relatively speaking (like window shopping in downtowns does).

Best of all, the developers and businesses are starting to realize that. That new extension of the LV Mall, with those fancy shops (I think an Apple store and Ann Taylor Loft is there) and restaurants, is testament to that.
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Old 10-10-2009, 09:23 AM
 
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Urban, Have you been to the Promenade Shops? Welcome to The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley These are some of the same shops that they have in Whitehall at the new outside extension. This has become very, very popular with people strolling around until pretty late at night. Barnes and Noble is open until 10:00 pm during the week and 11 pm Friday and Saturday nights. There are several choices of restaurants. There is an overall feeling of safety too, so many parents, myself included, have no qualms about our kids hanging out there. What the Promenade shops have in short, is the ambiance of what every town and city is looking for. Missing however (and the biggest minus, imho), are unique shops and a sense of history. I remember when it was being built I was thinking that it would have been so nice if all of that effort could have been put on a real Main street, instead of building a sort of Disneyesque one.

I thought about that sense of history when I was in downtown Easton last night with a group of friends. We had gone into the city to see, Menopause the Musical. It was great and the State Theater is such a beautiful place! It was sad, however, to see the empty stores on the walk to and from the theater. Instead of lingering, we headed back home. I hope Easton can be re-vitalized, it seems like such a cool city.

Hey, I noticed this in this morning's paper - a new bus service! GotoBus - Bus tickets, bus tours and vacation packages - Bus Travel Made Easy BUT, there's only one bus per day and that leaves Allentown at 10:00 pm and arrives in Chinatown at midnight! Coming this way, it leaves Chinatown at 7pm and arrives in Allentown at 9 pm. I'm assuming they will add more runs if it proves popular.
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Old 10-10-2009, 11:19 AM
 
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toobudytoday, what a shame you didn't visit Easton long enough to sample one of the great restaurants there. When we go to the State Theatre, we always do dinner before or after the show depending on show time. My favorites are the River Grille, Pearly Baker's, and Mex Tex Trio. BTW, I saw Menopause last year and it was really enjoyable!
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Old 10-10-2009, 11:29 AM
 
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Originally Posted by pennsynative View Post
toobudytoday, what a shame you didn't visit Easton long enough to sample one of the great restaurants there. When we go to the State Theatre, we always do dinner before or after the show depending on show time. My favorites are the River Grille, Pearly Baker's, and Mex Tex Trio. BTW, I saw Menopause last year and it was really enjoyable!

Easton is a fine city, and much better than Allenswamp. I now detest Allenswamp more than at anytime in my life.
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