Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The History of LANta - Part 5

January 1991. To address growing social service needs, the Lehigh Valley Transportation Bank, similar to the food bank concept, was formed. Funds were donated to underwrite transportation for the needy for enabling purposes like going to job interviews or medical appointments. Up to $7,000 was raised in some years to meet these needs.

March 1991. The Lehigh Valley Coalition for TransitNow was established to urge state and federal transit funding authorization.

October 11, 1991. Jim Thorpe Tours operate Nazareth service 5 days/week for three years.

December 18, 1991. President George W. Bush signed into law the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. This Act reauthorized federal funding for six years for the nation’s highways and mass transit. The efforts of the Coalition were a success.

January 14, 1992
. A contract was awarded for three new diesel minibuses to Bus Industries of America. At least two of the vehicles were used in the expanded downtown Allentown circular system.

January 26, 1992. The ADA Act went into effect. LANTA adopted a plan to fully meet federal regulations, allowing more access to those unable to ride the fixed-route buses.

March 1992. LANTA began a year-long celebration of 20 yrs service to the Lehigh Valley.

June 8, 1992. George R. Hall was named the 10th LANTA Chairman.

January 1993. The Authority’s Strategic Plan for 1993-2003 was introduced, focusing on growing and changing needs of the Lehigh Valley and the challenge to meet those needs.

April 1, 1993. The cash fare was set at $1.10. The deep discount ticket program continues, with tickets costing 70 cents per ride. Transfers were prices at 10 cents per ride.

July 12, 1993. New Monday–Friday Starlight service began on three routes; Allentown, Bethlehem and Whitehall areas. Bethlehem–Easton Starlight routing began the following Sept.

August 1993, LANTA provided special shuttle service for Musikfest. The promotional partners shared the operating costs.

September 1993.
A $500,000 renovation project on the Easton garage was completed. This project was funded through an FTA grant and took two years to complete.

November 27-December 19, 1993. Starlight routes operated on Sat. evenings and Sun. during the holiday season. This was the first regular Sun. service in LANTA’s history.

March 17, 1994. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the Hellertown Park & Ride lot. This was the first officially constructed intermodal facility in the Lehigh Valley.

May 1994. Using the model established for Musikfest, shuttle services for the Mayfair Celebration of the Arts was instituted. The promotional partners shared the operating costs.

July 1994. Donald J. Mahoney was named the 11th Authority Chairman.

September 6, 1994. To meet the growing peak hour demand, new service was introduced in LVIPs IV, V and the Bethlehem Business Park.

November 11, 1994. The WhirlyBird Mall Express, a mall-to-mall shuttle in Whitehall Township was started. LANTA also introduced other shuttle routes in the Whitehall, Fogelsville and Trexlertown areas and assumed operation of the Nazareth service.

January 1995. LANTA began working with Allentown and a private carrier on a project to finance a downtown Allentown intercity bus terminal, located at 6th and Linden Street.

January 30, 1995. The electric bus from Advanced Vehicle Systems arrived at LANTA to be used on the Downtown Allentown service (DASH). DASH was a joint venture between LANTA and PPL, hence the electric bus. This electric bus was lovingly called “Zippy’ by those that both rode and operated the bus.

April 1, 1995. LANTA’s cash fare was set at $1.25. The deep discount ticket program continued, with a 40-ride ticket at 75 cents per ride and 10-ride tickets at 80 cents per ride.

August 1995. Innovative point deviation service began for the Borough of Bath. This combined door-to-door and fixed-route transportation using just one vehicle.

October 1995. An in-dept origin/destination passenger survey took place. After the financial crisis of 1994, LANTA was looking to improve productivity and lower costs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

History of LANta - Part 4

LANTA Metro drivers began sporting a new uniform as part of the new Metro image. Blue was the color of choice and all operators wore button down shirts.

January – March 1987. Ten 30’ Orion buses arrived and were put into service. The improvements on these buses lead to additional passengers comfort, as well as them being more maintenance friendly.

March 1987. The peak-hour “Y” route was inaugurated. The A-B-E Airport and LVIP I & III were now being served.

August 24, 1987. A downtown Allentown trolley-bus, purchased by LANTA and The Morning Call, began regular, free circulator service. This trolley-bus was operated by Palmeri Motor Coach under contact with LANTA.

September 1987. LANTA, through a service agreement with Palmeri Motor coach Corporation, started a one-day-a-week operation between Bethlehem, Nazareth and Easton. This six-month demonstration was instituted to determine if there was enough of a need to constitute a regular route.

November 1987. LANTA posted a 5% ridership gain. The 10% revenue gain was due mostly to the April fare increase.

May 16, 1988. The Authority adopted a new mission statement. This declared LANTA as “More Than Just a Bus Company”.

July 16-20, 1988. “National Transportation Week” was celebrated throughout the Lehigh Valley. May 18 was designated as Transit Team Appreciation Day. Similar celebrations are held annually in May.

July 1, 1988. Metro Plus (now LANtaVan), LANTA’s specialized transportation division, was established. This paratransit service allowed those individuals with disabilities or limitations to get around in the Lehigh Valley.

July 1988. William H. Hubbard II was elected as the 8th LANTA Chairman.

October 1988. Service to Nazareth was expanded to three days /week. Palmeri Motor Coach Corporation won the bid to operate this service.

February 27, 1989. The new state-of-the-art electronic fareboxes were installed throughout the entire fleet. The new equipment replaced the fareboxes used for 20+ years.

September-November 1989. Fifteen 35’ and five 30’ Orion buses arrived and were put into service beginning Nov. 1. These were updated versions of the Orion buses put in the fleet in 1987 and were very passenger and maintenance friendly.

May 20, 1990. After a $2.8 million project to the 12th and Cumberland Street facility, which dated back to 1914, the garage renovations were complete. An open house and dedication was held to celebrate this occasion.

June 1990. An $80,000 study of the Lehigh Valley-New York corridor by Barton-Aschman Associated concluded that travelers’ needs were being adequately met by the current bus service.

July 1990. Denise von Funk was named 9th LANTA Chairperson., first women chair.

On September 11, 1990, George Weitzman, Esquire, the Board's Solicitor, was tragically killed in an auto accident. Mr. Weitzman had guided the Authority through a variety of challenges during his tenure.

Nov. 14, 1990. Kent H. Herman, Esq. was named the new LANTA Solicitor.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

LANta History - Part 3

The late 70's and early 80's brought fuel shortages and long lines at gas pumps and drove LANTA's ridership to an all time high since its founding in 1972. More than 5 million trips were taken on the system within one fiscal year! And a major comprehensive review of the transit system brought about the introduction of the "Metro" system in 1985 and, a year later, the innovative 'deep discount fare structure' where frequent riders enjoyed a discount on their travel costs. These and other significant changes helped LANTA continue on the road to success and meeting its goals of providing access for all residents of the Lehigh Valley.

October 1, 1977. LANTA signed an agreement with the Valley Association for Spe¬cialized Transportation (VAST) to provide service for to individuals with disabilities. This service provided the alternative the Joint Planning Commission said was neces¬sary in order to better serve the handicapped population in the Lehigh Valley.

October 3, 1977. New Jersey sponsored bus service from Phillipsburg, NJ, with route connections to LANTA’s buses in downtown Easton. A 5 cent transfer arrange¬ment was agreed upon.

March 1, 1979. The Allentown transfer center located at 7th and Walnut Streets was moved to 9th and Court Streets. This move was necessary due to the fact that the City took the land back at 7th and Walnut Streets and built the current Welfare Build¬ing.

July 2, 1979. Cash fares were increased to 40 cents during peak hours and 30 cents during off-peak hours and on Saturday.

July 1980. Carl Doroff is named LANTA’s 4th Chairman.

August 1980. LANTA ridership reached 5 million for fiscal year 1979, up 8% from the previous year. Cash fares were increased to 50 cents during peak hours and 40 cents during off-peak hours and on Saturday.

August 1980. Three of the old LVT buses were repaired and repainted in the histori¬cal LVT colors of red, white and silver. They were put into service in September.

March 28, 1982. LANTA celebrated its 10 years of public service to the community.

July 1982. Roland Jones is named the 5th LANTA Chairman.

March-May 1983. During this time ten 40’ and ten 35’ Neoplan buses arrived and were put into service, replacing 20 of the GMC buses owned by LVT. These Neoplan buses were purchased through a state bid contract. Also, Neoplan opened a parts and after sales parts and service store in Chester County, PA.

July 1984. Lowell Brogan is named the 6th LANTA Chairman.

September 1984. A major review of public transit services was undertaken by LANTA and Abrams-Cherwony, a Philadelphia-based consulting firm. This review was initiated to help LANTA identify the best system to service the Lehigh and North¬ampton Counties.

In September 1985, LANTA introduced the Metro system. Metro restructured routes based on a color code with the goal of providing a new platform to grow services to meet the changing Lehigh Valley.

November 1986. A trolley-bus that was free to passengers ran through downtown Allentown for the holiday season. The cost of this service was funded equally by LANTA and the Allentown Downtown Improvement District Authority.

More to come . . .

Friday, March 9, 2012

Thoughts on the occasion of LANta's 40th Anniversary

Anniversary. According to the dictionary, “The annually recurring date of a past event, especially one of historical, national, or personal importance.” Milestones along the timeline of longevity. This year, in the Lehigh Valley, a number of them are being celebrated:
  • Allentown – 250th
  • Lehigh County – 200th
  • Northampton County Courthouse – 150th
  • Penn State Lehigh Valley – 100th
  • Yocco’s – 90th
  • LANta – 40th
  • Celtic Festival – 25th

Pardon us if we’ve missed your special date: this list is not meant to be exhaustive but a random selection of milestones of note locally.

LANta’s 40th is marking the date that the Authority itself was ‘born.’ In March, 1972, following an 18 month long study to help advise the local County elected officials about what was to be done to maintain public transportation services, Lehigh and Northampton County Commissioners separately approved the establishment of a bi-county Authority to operate and manage the transit system.

The private company, Lehigh Valley Transit, after a valiant struggle to maintain the system on a profitable basis, figuratively threw in the towel in 1971 by announcing major service cuts and fare increases that basically meant the end of transit services. The then Joint Planning Commission took up the charge to analyze with the help of an object consultant, how transit services could be continued and under what form would they best be managed?

The answer was the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority or, LANTA, the second bi-county entity the counties created to manage a transportation service. The other was the Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority.

The Federal Government in the late 60’s during the Nixon Administration, set the foundation for encouraging local communities to maintain transit systems that were failing all over the nation. The US government, under the Urban Mass Transit Administration, clumsily called UMTA, would provide grants to cover 80% of the cost of capital equipment and up to 50% of the loss due to shortfalls from the farebox for operating expenses.

Five representatives from each County were appointed to LANTA’s first Board of Directors. While there was some political push to have one County representative serve as Chairman exclusively, the level-headed, newly appointed Board, solved the deadlock with a flip of a coin: the first Chair would be chosen from among the Northampton County representatives and Victor Anckaitis was unanimously voted to be given that honor. Mr. Anckaitis knew a thing or two about transportation as he had served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Transportation in Harrisburg.

The first years were the most active and stressful for the new Board. The fleet was aging and had to be replaced all at once. Service had been slashed and fares were at the edge of being intolerable for the passengers so both these were remedied with expansion of hours and reductions in price per trip. The transit employees, naturally anxious about their future, were assured that things were going to be stable and reasonably well-funded given the federal and later the State involvement with support. Marketing programs were set in place to attract the passenger base back to public transit.

By the mid 1980’s, ridership had nearly doubled and reached a peak of 5 million in 1986.

Of course, public transit has a much longer history. The first ‘omnibuses or group travel conveyance was horse-drawn and operated for the public in France in 1662. Its success was short-lived however as streets were poor and getting the general public to pay to ride was difficult when walking was free. It wasn’t until the 1800’s and the industrial revolution that public transit – the concept of sharing rides to commute to and from factories and offices – took hold. By the late 1800’s, rails were imbedded in streets and trolleys and light rail services attracted customers in huge numbers for the low-cost convenience and safety shared short ride transit could provide. When the first subway was opened in Manhattan in 1904, on the very first day, the passenger cars were packed like sardines and not much changed forever after that as more and more underground lines were added throughout New York and cities across the US. Of course the London Underground and the Paris Metropolitan came along at the same time to help resolve traffic issues on surface streets and to expand the availability of land within these cities.

Locally, the Lehigh Valley community grew from the 1880’s on around trolley lines. The renowned Colonel Harry C. Trexler owned the local power generation company and, clever man that he was (he was sort of the local Bill Gates: he knew how to use technology to make a buck!) installed rails and trolley lines throughout the community. Lehigh Valley Transit was Trexler’s transit operation and LVT bought its energy from Trexler’s power company. Trexler was also a land developer, and would buy a patch of land, bisect it with a trolley line and build homes that were a short trolley ride away from the city employment center. All the jobs were downtown and all the trolley tracks headed that way.

Even the amusement parks - Central Park situated between Bethlehem and Allentown, and Dorney Park to the west of Allentown – were fed all summer long by trolley services.

Everyone could afford the low-cost trolley fares. And transit jobs were prized and handed down from generation to generation. The profession was so valuable that during World War II, trolley operators were exempt from armed services because their jobs were considered vital to the local economy. A man in a trolley uniform was as highly respected as a police or fireman. Eventually, it took the rubber-tired bus services and Ralph Kramden to reduce the role of the transit operator to that of a buffoon. That of course, was never true and today as in the past, the LANtaBus operator is a skilled, highly trained professional with a heavy responsibility for safety and reliability of service. Still, the "Oh Ralph" stigma lingers on.

While Europe nationalized transit services when the private companies failed and discouraged the use of the private, single-occupancy automobile in urban areas after World War II, the US did just the opposite. With the Eisenhower Administration’s National Highway Act, roads and highways were built to allow the automobile to move freely and efficiently throughout communities and indeed, across the entire nation. Conceived initially as a National Security effort, the Highway Act evolved into providing the nation’s cities with the capacity to build suburbs for both residential and commercial activity. The world we view now, with densely populated urban cores surrounded by low-density ‘bedroom communities’ and industrial parks, is a direct result of the national government’s providing communities with 90 cents for every dollar invested in highway and road construction over a 50 year period.

Many viewed this change as progress. As modern living providing people with the ability to live wherever they wanted – wherever they could afford – and easily commute to work or school. Others see this development as interrupting the natural evolution of cities and creating an unsustainable model for livable communities.

In a world of inexpensive energy, the dependence on the single-occupancy auto works fairly well. Improved pollution controls and increased efficiencies of engines make it even better. However, when the cost of a gallon of gas goes to $4.00, people start to yearn for that low-cost, convenient and reliable public transit service as an alternative.

Trouble is, while the federal government did provide some lifeline support of public transit service, the real focus was on highways and making the auto king. The way communities were developed, with housing and commercial parks surrounding the urban centers, was counter-productive to the institution of efficient, direct transit routes. And the developments themselves ignored the public transit factor. Cul-de-sacs, narrow roads, lack of sidewalks or paths for pedestrians basically ‘planned out’ public transit as a reasonable option.

So as LANTA celebrates 40 years of maintaining and improving public transit for the Lehigh Valley, the situation is not all that favorable for significant growth. Over the past couple of years, through the development of the Moving LANTA Forward planning documents, some good tools have been developed to advice municipalities how to adopt design elements and constrain development to better accommodate public transit. But frankly, it is very doubtful, given that the Valley is basically managed by 62 separate municipalities, that a uniform approach will be adopted. And even if there is widespread adoption of these basic elements, there is a real question as to whether or not they will be put into practice. For all the rules adopted, there are always exceptions.

To paraphrase Dickens, “this is the best of times and the worst of times.” The information age has led to an explosion of ways we can communicate and work without ever having to leave our houses. The internet – the new “superhighway” has the potential to change our communities just as profoundly as the National Highway Act. And yet, the world continues to operate in a fashion that has not adopted this concept of change and most are forced to continue to commute from home to office or plant. And of course many things require a physical presence: hospitals, prisons, factories, dental offices. Police cannot monitor neighborhoods from their homes or even from the police station. Construction workers have to travel to sites.

The answer ultimately seems to be finding an inexpensive alternative fuel that is as efficient as gasoline or diesel that is pollution free and ideally renewable. We wonder if that is going to be in place when LANta celebrates its 50th anniversary – or even its 100th. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

History of LANta: Part 2 - Vol 4, Issue 7

The first decade of the Authority was perhaps the most active in its history. Replacement of the fleet, restoration of services that had been reduced over the years, lowering fares and giving transit employees a sense of stability all contributed to attracting passengers back to the system.

On July 1, 1973, in cooperation with the State of Pennsylvania, LANTA introduced a free fare program for persons 65 years of age or older. Funded through the state lottery, the program provided for free rides during off-peak weekdays hours (9 a.m. through 3:30 p.m.) and all day Saturday.

A new fleet of 59 GMC, air-conditioned, 45-passenger coaches were delivered and put into service in September 1973. At this time LANTA began retiring the older - dating back as far as the late 1940’s - heavily worn vehicles acquired from LVT.

An Allentown transfer station, located at 7th and Walnut streets, was opened on January 7, 1974. Most Allentown routes passed through this new transfer station. There were shelters in this station and it afforded passenger a central location to wait for their transfer bus to arrive.

Roland Jones was named the 2nd LANTA Chairman on July 1, 1974.

May 1, 1975 brought the lowering of the peak hour fare from 45 cents to 35 cents: a 22% reduction. A $14, 40-ride ticket and a $14 unlimited ride monthly pass were introduced at this time.

Seeing the need for service in the outlaying areas of the Lehigh Valley, LANTA began servicing the Slate Belt area on July 7, 1975. Also, the former Allentown Suburban Lines routes to West Allentown and Slatington were added.

In October 1975 LANTA introduced a half-fare program for passengers with or disabilities.

On July 1, 1976 Anthony W. Forchielli was named the 3rd LANTA chairman.

In December 1976 ground was broken for the Easton area office and maintenance building in Palmer Township. With this building, LANTA would no long require the costly rented facilities for their buses in Easton and a facility specifically designed for the maintenance and storage of city transit buses would be designed and built.

As part of LANTA’s commitment to implement the recommendations of a year-long Joint Planning Commission study on how the needs of persons with physical and mental disabilities can best be served, in March 1977 LANTA installed handrails on all buses and adopted a policy of priority seating for the elderly and persons with disabilities. The study also recommended that LANTA participate in the formation of a private, non-profit transportation corporation to provide specialized, door-to-door transportation services. This entity eventually became VAST, the Valley Association for Specialized Transportation.

June 26, 1977 marked the formal dedication and open house to celebrate the completion of the Easton garage and office building. The structure was finished before the originally estimated date and came in below the cost estimates. Also, on this date Armando V. Greco, a Senior Transportation Planner with the Planning Commission, began his tenure as LANTA’s second Executive Director.

On August 30, 1977 the Authority approved a program to streamline operations. The reason for this was to “bring a rapidly rising operating deficit back under control.” The service changes reduced operations by 17 percent. Rider needs were protected and overall rider levels fell only 2 percent.

The stage was set for growth and improvements to public transportation services in the Lehigh Valley.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

40 years of service: the History of LANta, Part 1

Volume 4, Issue 6

A 40th anniversary is something to celebrate and 2012 marks LANta’s 40th year of service to Lehigh and Northampton Counties. LANTA takes pride in being reliable and meeting the transportation needs of those in the Valley. Approximately 50% of LANta riders use the service for work - that's approximately 10,000 commuter daily! The remaining 50% use LANta for shopping, medical/dental appointments, personal business and other quality of life needs. Everyday approximately 2,000 seniors (over 65) use LANta, allowing them to maintain independence.

LANta’s founding date is March 28th, 1972. Over the next few weeks, we will recall LANta’s history.


In early 1972, the management of the privately owned Lehigh Valley Transit Company (LVT) alerted local government officials that bus service in the Lehigh Valley would come to a halt if fares were not increased and service curtailed. A transit crisis was at hand. December 1972 brought about an immediate action report by the Joint Planning Commission of Le­high and Northampton Counties. They urged the establishment of a bi-county au­thority to operate transit, an agency publically funded.

In March 1972 the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) was created to operate a sound and reliable public transportation system within and be­tween the two counties. The counties agreed to underwrite the local share of funding required by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, the state and federal sources of funding. At this time it was decided that this newly formed Authority would hold public meetings the second Tuesday of each month at 12:00 noon, to review operations and plan for the future.

To get a sense of how pubic transit use had fallen since World War II, ridership on the LVT lines in fiscal 1950 was 50 million trips. By fiscal 1971, with reductions in demand, service and fare increase, ridership had dwindled to just 2.6 million trips. Funding programs at the federal level and later, in the Commonwealth, encouraged communities to establish public agencies to maintain services and not discard these local public assets and services.

Victor W. Anckaitis, the former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, was named the first Chairman of LANTA on
March 23, 1972. Also, five board members were appointed from each county and the first board of di­rectors consisted of Lehigh County; Isaac Gordon, I. Cyrus Gutman, Richard D. Grey, Roland J. Jones and F. Willard Harper (Lehigh County) and Ray D. Gor­ham, Morris Mindlin, Victor W. Anckaitis, John A. Heske and Anthony W. Forchielli (Northampton County).

The chairmanship of the LANTA Authority runs for a two-year term and then rotates every two years between representatives of both counties. Board members serve for a five-year term, at which time the respective county executive has the au­thority to re-appoint them or appoint a replacement.

In August 1972 LANTA introduced one of its many programs. It allowed a reduced fare for all passengers riding during off-peak hours (10 a.m.—2 p.m.). Pricing during off-peak hours went from 45ȼ to 25ȼ. This very dramatic change to the pricing policy made an almost immediate impact on ridership, going up during these times.

LVT had been downsizing and in the process they were cutting some of their ser­vice. LANTA initiated new routes and improvements to the existing routes on September 5, 1972. Service hours were increased by 65% and 45% and more miles were added to the service. This was done by reinstating service on routes that had been cut, along with expanding into rural areas. In 1972, service was added to Slate Belt borough and West Allentown: Wescosville, Macungie and Trexlertown.

On October 30, 1972, LANta purchased LVT’s operating equipment and inventories. Charles M. Weeks, was named the first General Manager of LANTA. The first full year of operation re­sulted in a reversal of a 25-year downward trend in ridership. The aging transit fleet was replaced with 59, modern, air conditioned, state-of-the-art GMC vehicles. Called 'fishbowls' because of their large front glass windshields, these vehicles served the Authority and the public well for 20 years. These vehicles cost $36,000 each in 1972. Today a city transit vehicle runs in excess of $350,000 and a hybrid vehicle more than $500,000.