Nov 8, 2008

Hamilton Without Lanta


It has been about a year since Allentown and Lanta ended their historic covenant with the merchants, and the result has been a disaster. The 700 block of Hamilton, although not glamorous, was viable. Years ago there was an expression; there's many more nickels than quarters. Without the bus traffic, no less than 6 businesses have closed. All the new stores have been subsidized by city grants. Currently on Allentown Good News, a blog sponsored city officials, they're bragging about a women who sells coffee and cookies, and even that required a grant. The bad news, is that the gentrification hoped for, never materialized. Johnny Manana's, despite 50 thousand and a county sponsored liquor license, has locked the doors. Last spring, Mayor Pawlowski said 150 grand left from facade grants, may be spent to support existing restaurants. How much we really put into Manana's may never be known. Mayors will blame the economy for the failures. In ten years, we will hire a consultant for hundreds of thousands, who will recommend restoring bus transfer stations to Hamilton.

artwork by Karoline Schaub-Peeler

24 comments:

Bob jr said...

Look on the bright side: I do business on downtown Hamilton Street a minimum of twice a week. Previously, I'd drive down Walnut to avoid traffic on Hamilton. Now I can cruise right down Hamilton from the West End without being hassled by pedestrians (you know, the ones who walk or take the bus...ugh!) trying to cross the street or being slowed by other vehicles blocking my way. In fact, nowadays I even find an open parking meter right outside the door. Thanks, mayor! Thanks Morning Call!
PS: Anyone ask how much the revenues from meter parking/overtime parking violations has dropped in the past year? Hopefully, for me, the city will realize no one's using Hamilton anymore and they'll remove the meters and lay off the Parking Authority guys who write tickets.

Anonymous said...

michael...you have it upon the "ockham's razor" or urban planning. very often the simplest, most obvious solution is the right one!

A.J.C. said...

Bob,

Cruising down Hamilton St. is nearly impossible for me. I still get stuck at pretty much every traffic light.

Restore the busses to help save what businesses have survived so far!

Anonymous said...

I only go downtown to get out of town,or back to West Park I never take Hamilton, stop signs, red lights...

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

I drive to the Allentown Post Office every day. Recently, portions of Walnut Street were closed for repairs. It was actually faster to drive from Walnut to Turner and then take Turner to the Post Office than it was to take Hamilton Street.

The key to any retail business is traffic count (vehicular and pedestrian). From my experience above it does not appear that much has improved from a vehicular standpoint, which makes the LANTA decision even more baffling.

If Lanta is unwilling to restore the bus service that previously existed on Hamilton Street, why not a free "downtown trolley" that makes the loop from the new transfer station at 6th and Linden?

Two or three of these trolleys, continuously looping between 4th and 12th streets along Hamilton and Linden, would go a long way towards restoring some pedestrian traffic to Hamilton Street.

Who knows, it might even allow some of the many workers at the western part of the business district to attend events at the Arts Park.

Just a thought.

Mike Schware

michael molovinsky said...

last year they actually did a shuttle during the holiday season, but it did not help. lanta also re-routed some stops closer to hamilton, but it did not help. the truth is that hamilton street was shopping for convenience by the bus riders waiting for their transfer, it was not a destination. about 10 transfer stops were relocated to the lanta terminal. if they would restore about 3 of them back to or adjoining hamilton, they would greatly help the commerce there, and at the same time still utilize the new terminal.

Anonymous said...

A VOICE FROM THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: Remember 645 Hamilton Street....

Alfonso Todd

Anonymous said...

MM:

While I appreciate your (unusual) attempt at meeting half way, I think you fail to understand how the transfer of buses work.

In the past there was 3 transfer stations roughly on Hamilton. N 9th St, 8th St at Hamilton (N & S), and the 7oo block of Hamilton.

The way these Transfer stations worked was via the fact that all Allentown routes passed through one of these points within a limited time window, some more often than others according to the frequency of the routes. Riders could then either transfer at the point left off or walk up to a block and a half if needed depending on what route they were transfering to.

With the new central location for all routes to pass through, 2.5 - 4 blocks away from the old points, your idea really wouldn't work. In addition, it would be very confusing.

You really can't have a central transfer center for all routes except x, y , & z. Who says people don't transfer from route z to rout w or route a to y.

What they created works well for bus riders. I think going back might cause even more of an outcry from Lanta patrons.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 6:26, i did interview perhaps 15 people at the transfer station last winter, and quite a few missed the opportunity to shop while waiting for buses as they could before. If the transfer station was restored to the front the college, in the 700 block, would not that be within 2 blocks of the terminal, still allowing similar transfer with some walking as before? i realize from a lanta transfer POV nothing is as convenient as the terminal, but are the best interests of the community met if hamilton remains the ghost street it has become?

Anonymous said...

Lanta is a public bus company, not a social services agency. I ride occasionally and talk to the people at the tranfer station near the Morning Call. They love it. Inside waiting area, Dunkin Donuts, BATHROOMS, convenience store. Don't forget, the buses, at lease to routes I use, stop within a block or so of Hamilton St. Does Lanta really have to provide door-to-door service for these people? They didn't have that back in Brooklyn or Newark or whereever so many of them came from.

Jerry Calebrese said...

I seem to remember that for years people, including mayors, pedestrians and yes, the sainted merchants...not to mention the bigwigs at the Morning Call...were calling for the removal of city buses from Hamiton MALL. They all agreed that buses slowed down traffic, added to polution, created blind spots for people crossing the street, etc. So to complain about the buses leaving Hamilton seems like crying over what we asked for.

michael molovinsky said...

i grew up during downtown's heydays, had the department store owners wanted the buses removed, they had the influence to have that achieved. they wanted the buses and trolleys, as does the current merchants; public transportation is the lifeline of any intercity commerce. the merchants protested the changes en masse at the lanta board meeting to no avail. unfortunately, hamilton street has not experienced congestion for many, many years.

Bob jr said...

During my usual drive along Hamilton at 8th street at 3:40 p.m. yesterday, I observed TWO automobiles in the 700 block and FOUR vehicles (3 cars and a truck)in the 800 block. Naturally, I had my choice of metered parking spots. At 5:10 p.m. there were TWO cars in the 600 block. Downtown is a ghost town. The days of crawling along Hamilton are long gone.

Anonymous said...

MM:

I think the hill on 7th would make the walk to and from the terminal to Hamilton prohibitive for many.

We're kinda stuck with it.

michael molovinsky said...

this past summer i parked on 6th st. to chat with a hamilton st. merchant. although there were only a couple cars parked on hamilton, and i was the only one on 6th, i received a parking ticket for being several minutes late. it's a sad situation that both lanta and the parking authority show no consideration for the success of the merchants. the administration must take some responsibility for this sorry state of affairs.

A.J.C. said...

Anon 10:32 -

Brooklyn and Newark have a much more accessable transit system than the Lehigh Valley does. Along with the busses, there are plenty of subways and taxis.

Your comment, "or whereever so many of them came from," is a bit ridiculous. Grouping people together like this serves no purpose, especially when you're not sure yourself. Please don't marginalize people like this.

You're absolutely right that LANTA is a public service. Hence, it should address public needs. Over the past few years, they've been ignoring some of those needs by removing stops and routes. Hamilton St. falls right into that.

Pat L said...

The problem is that downtown Allentown offers nothing for families to come into that area whatsoever! The parking meters are aalso a long overdue annoyance to be sure, but the real problem is there is no reason to even ever shop, much less frequent restaurants in an area people do not feel safe in the day much less ever at night. The cameras also do not change this problem. I have been in contact with the mayor and also told him so about Johnny Mananas and that the same will happen with Cosmo's, if that even ever happens at all!

Valima said...

"They didn't have that back in Brooklyn or Newark or whereever so many of them came from."

1.)It really doesn't make a difference where they come from.

2.)NYC and Newark have much more accessible transit systems. You don't have to wait an hour for the bus to come and hope you don't miss it if you happened to walk around the corner.

3.) Again, it doesn't matter where they come from. You, based on your own admission, are a bus rider, just like 'they' are.

Anonymous said...

oy vey. Now Lanta has to level the hills of allentown. What do youthink the people of San Francisco do? they friggn walk up the hills to the trolleys. I think the bus actually stops n 7th St. so they can wait there rather than walking the River Kwi march to the transfer station. Wow...in the age of Obama people will have government agencies flush their toilets for them.

Anonymous said...

the parking authority is an even greater culprit in the deterioration of our downtown. i would like to see more threads devoted to this abusive of power.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 9:19, if you scroll back thru this blog and its older posts, you will find numerous posts taking the parking authority to task. i can tell you, after attending parking authority meetings this year, they operate at the pleasure of the mayor

Anonymous said...

MM
You are talking about the 'heyday' of Allentown and Hamilton STREET. I am talking about the last 30 years or so, surely since the contruction of the awnings, slippery brick sidewalks, etc. They narrowed Hamilton so much that the buses actually were a pain in the neck. Today the buses travel up and down 7th, 8th and 9th streets, as well as Linden and Walnut Sts. That means there is a bus within one city block of all that glorious shopping us unwashed are missing out on.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 4:54, i'm aware of the differences on hamilton st. now and 30 years ago. my concern is the difference between sept. 07, and sept. 08. as a direct consequence of moving the transfer stops off of hamilton and also adjoining ones on 8th st., the merchants have experienced a 40% decline in business. hamilton was a shopping area of convenience, while bus riders waited for their transfer. they seem unwilling to make a special trip to go there, even if its only a block or two. many people say so what, they sell crap, maybe it will make the merchants improve, maybe better stores will come, there are bathrooms at the terminal, it prevents congestion, etc. etc., for a city that has spent decades and millions of millions to promote hamilton street, to end that historic covenant of having the bus transfer stations or station away from hamilton street was a hugh mistake.

Anonymous said...

For decades this city and public transit have not mixed well. The trolleys were taken off the streets in the 50's at the urging of the merchants and The Morning Call who editorially called the move 'progress.'

As late as the early 80's the head of Leh's declared the city to be 'not transit oriented' and all the downtown improvement organizations ignored transit as a mode to promote.

The current and past city administrations fully supported the construction of the transit city just off of Hamilton. Words spoken at public meetings Lanta held this year saw a city official speak against even the current transfer facility.

So be prepared for pressure to move transit further out of the city. It just doesn't fit the definition of cool.