Friday, July 27, 2012

Progress: The "new" Shop comes down!

The "new shop," an addition to the LANta garage and maintenance facility that was added in 1953 to accommodate the repair of buses, is being demolished to make way for a truly new structure.

The purpose of the new shop is to replace the current maintenance shop at the Allentown location (1060 Lehigh St, Allentown, PA)  with a modern, state-of-the-art bus maintenance facility that is large enough to meet current needs and will allow for  expansion. The total project budget is $13 million. LANTA was granted $10,400,000 through the Federal Transportation Administration's Bus and Bus Facilities program State of Good Repair initiative to support this project. The remaining funding will come from the State (PennDOT) and LANTA local sources.

Project Goals

•    Provide an upgraded, centralized maintenance support facility.  An upgraded facility will improve the efficiency, effectiveness and safety of the maintenance staff; reduce vehicle maintenance turnaround time and increase storage space. Further, the modern, state- of-the-art bus maintenance facility will be large enough to support new bus types such as hybrid electric (LANTA's fleet currently includes 5 and that portion of the fleet is expected to grow) and articulated buses.

•    Increase vehicle maintenance, service and storage capacity to meet future
demand and long-term needs. LANTA plans to expand operations to meet demand for public transit in the Lehigh Valley.  Ridership on LANTA has increased 73% since 1997.  The current facilities do not allow for the maintenance, storage or service capacity for extra vehicles. The existing fleet of 83 buses will increase to more than 100 buses in the next 6 to 12 years.

Additional Project Benefits

Given the $13 million construction budget, it is anticipated that over 140 jobs will be created in the City of Allentown during the construction phase according to the Federal Council of Economic Advisor's formula. The project itself will be designed utilizing LEED design principles that will affect not only the facility plan but also its construction and operation. The new garage will provide for energy efficiency and reduced energy consumption, allowing LANTA to incorporate more sustainable practices into its maintenance function and to continue to be a "good neighbor" in the urban neighborhood in which the Allentown garage is located.  

Construction Schedule:   Final Design: December, 2011;   Bids let: January/February, 2012;   Construction Start: May, 2012;   Occupancy: June, 2013.

LANTA Background

The Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) is the public transportation provider for Lehigh and Northampton Counties in Pennsylvania. This region, also known as the Lehigh Valley, has a population of 821,623, making it one of the top 65 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. LANTA's service area includes the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. LANTA operates a fleet of 83 transit buses with trips provided between the hours of 4:45 AM and midnight, Monday through Saturday and 9:00 AM and 7:30 PM on Sunday. Approximately 65 buses are housed, maintained and operated out of LANTA's Allentown operating facility. The remaining 18 buses are housed, serviced and operated out of a separate facility in Easton. Heavy maintenance work for LANTA's entire 83 bus fleet is performed at the Allentown facility.

Monday, July 16, 2012

MAP-21 Passed to Fund Transportation

Since the Eisenhower Administration established transportation in the 1950’s as a major federal funding element of the national budget, ‘surface transportation legislation’ has been produced by Congress roughly around every 6 years to further the build out the national highway system and, as local needs expanded to include public transportation, freight, rail and alternative transportation, has been expanded to include these intermodal objectives.

Below is a brief overview of transportation legislation since 1986 which shows an evolution from what was essentially a ‘highway’ funding program, to one that focuses on mobility and sustainability.

1987 - STURAA - Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987 - also called the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1987. It nominally gave power to apportion money to the Secretary of Transportation. Most noticeably it allowed states to raise the speed limit to 65 miles per hour on rural Interstate highways.  It was a ‘highway’ transportation legislation and public transit remained a separate element both in terms of funding and in the planning process.  Highways were highways and transit was transit and the two were not intertwined.

In 1991 - ISTEA - the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 was enacted.  Called 'ice tea' as in, "this is ice tea not champagne," this was a genuine change in direction for funding, planning and attitude.  It was an attempt to 'level the playing field' and bring an ‘intermodal’ approach to what had traditionally been a ‘highway’ program or law.  The law also moved a considerable amount of decision-making to localities by empowering Metropolitan Planning Organizations to undertake prioritization of transportation projects through a prescribed planning process.  Why, it was asked, should the federal government be deciding what projects localities should design and build?

1998 - TEA-21 - the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.  The transportation equity act refined the intermodal thrust of ISTEA by putting the power firmly back in the planning process.  It requires that seven planning factors be included in regional transportation plans.  These must:

      1.    Support the economic vitality of the metropolitan planning area;, especially by enabling global competitiveness, productivity and efficiency
      2.    Increase the safety and security for the transportation system for motorized and non-motorized users
      3.    Increase the accessibility and mobility options available to people and for freight
      4.    Protect and enhance the environment promote energy conservation and improve the quality of life,
      5.    Enhance the integration of connectivity of the transportation system, across and between modes, for people and freight,
      6.    Promote efficient system management and operation,
      7.    Emphasize the efficient preservation of existing transportation system.

2005 - SAFTI-LU - the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users - designed "to protect and enhance the environment, promote energy conservation, improve the quality of life, and promote consistency between transportation improvements and State and local planned growth and economic development patterns."  This law further merged the modes to meet the needs for mobility rather than just build highways.  It's purpose was to maintain the highway and bridge system but for new demand, alternatives analysis were required.

2012 – MAP-21 – Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century – provides two years of funding stability instead of the usual 6.  It consolidates some of the programs from SAFTI-LU and attempts to streamline the process for projects while maintaining a strong local decision-making element, planning steps to insure coordination of modes and some initiatives to improve mobility and system performance.

In addition to these transportation laws, other federal and state legislation has an impact on how communities invest in projects.  Environmental concerns have been a significant force in shaping how highways and roads are built and indeed, whether they are built at all.  A heavy set of requirements must be followed now to prove that transportation dollars spent will not adversely affect the environment.  Many projects become so difficult to build that they simply are abandoned.  

And the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 put civil rights measures in place that require transportation dollars to be spent so that access is provided to all citizens regardless of their physical or cognitive limitations.  This has had its most direct impact on public transit as fleet vehicles had to made ‘fully accessible’ and, for those who could not board buses due to their impairments, alternative door-to-door service had to be created.  Locally both LANtaBus and LANtaVan are fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Also in the mix was a concept called 'environmental justice' which was a fancy way of saying the federal dollars had to be spent in such a way as to not negatively impact any protected minority both in terms of hiring and project investments.

The funding of transportation has moved from an ‘assist’ from the federal government, to a funding system that directly influences what is built or bought.  The transportation systems we see today in the US are a direct result of these funding initiatives.  Many 'hoops' or bureaucratic requirements have been set forth to direct localities on what transportation services and projects to select and invest in.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

40th Anniversary Poster

Click here to see an excellent rendering of the 40th Anniversary Poster LANta Commissioned earlier this year by local artist, Paula Yoo, to commemorate the Authority's 40 years of continuous service to the Lehigh Valley Community.  The poster depicts a number of milestones and major accomplishments that the Authority achieved along this four decade route.

The poster was unveiled at the 40th Annual Board of Directors Meeting held at the America on Wheels Museum, Tuesday, July 9th at noon.  Even in these austere times, the Authority has developed a logo and several other elements to mark the anniversary.

As noted at the Board meeting, "Here's to the start of the next 40 years!"