Feb 19, 2010

Back Of The Bus

Buses have long been a vehicle of discrimination. In the mid 1950's, Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus with the other African Americans. In recent decades the discrimination has evolved from racial to one of class.

Several years ago Allentown decided it wanted to improve it's human streetscape on Hamilton Street. The scheme had two elements; remove the benches and remove the bus people, who for the most part are low income. This gentrification plan was not articulated, nor printed in a brochure, but discussed among officials and urban planners. Resistance was minimal. The merchants, mostly Asian, are not inclined toward outward demonstration.* The Allentown Parking Authority induced Lanta to locate a transfer terminal at the new parking deck at 6th and Linden, and the transfer stops were removed from Hamilton Street. Only after business dropped 40% on Hamilton Street, would the merchants consider speaking out.* After pleading their case, Lanta Board member Steve Schmitt told the merchants that they are just looking for a reason to complain and would have to prove the business decline, by showing their accounting books; as if the empty street was not proof enough.

Lanta is now repeating the process in Easton. The social-economic segregation is more transparent.
On the other hand, some other nearby businesses say they'd be happy to see the bus riders move along. At the Terra Cafe, a coffee shop between Family Dollar and American Dollar, owner Marcel Bedoya said he and some nearby higher-end shops don't get a lot of bus-riding customers -- and in fact the lower-income bus riders tend to scare off some of his clientele.
Bedoya said he feels for the dollar stores, but moving the transfers ''definitely will benefit us, because we will not have that type of crowd hanging around in front of our stores.''

Allentown's hope of shopping gentrification never materialized. The people of the bus never were replaced by people of the wallet. About eight businesses folded on Hamilton Street, and the remainder hang on with reduced revenues. Allentown has a new plan for economic revitalization;
The idea to improve the city's park system by connecting them through bike and pedestrian trails is extremely important. Perhaps it's the most important thing the city can do to foster economic development, improve the health of residents and attract tourists and businesses,'' Schmitt said.
Yes, it's the same Schmitt, but this time proof isn't required. Apparently it's better to get rid of those bus riders who did shop between buses, and count on bicyclists to improve our economy. I didn't even know those spandex outfits have pockets.

* I organized** several meetings on behalf of the merchants, including two at the Lanta Board
** Jenny Lim, from the House of Chen, and Bernie O'Hare were my partners in organizing the merchants
Use search engine at top of page to learn more about Lanta's abuse of the Hamilton Street merchants; Lanta and Merchants


  1. http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-a6_3garage.7183019feb19,0,7675705.story

  2. The people of the bus never were replaced by people of the wallet.
    You will see more Allentown residents on a bus going to the Lehigh Valley Mall than walking on Hamilton on a Saturday afternoon. I have seen them lug back some fairly big boxes from the mall.
    The money is there, the residents go elsewhere to spend it. It is easier to get on a bus to the mall than it is to use the bus system to go around Allentown.
    A while back I had seen the "trolley" being used. I was under the impression it was scrapped. Maybe the city can bring it back and create a useful loop around town. If the city had a functional tax base left, it might have been able to offer the service for free. Maybe once the parks are all connected the flood on money pouring into Allentown will pay for such a service.
    Getting the local transportation issue solved, that only leaves the problem of places to shop in Allentown.
    As an aside, you can see what government can do for local development, imagine what they'll do for healthcare.

  3. Michael:
    You bleeding heart liberals, always speaking up for the bus riders, mental patients, the poor, minorities and people who cannot afford bicycles, are ruining our community. Get more sleep.

  4. Looking To Escape,

    It is absolutely amazing that anyone has ANY trust whatsoever in the government after episodes such as the Louisiana Purchase and the Cornhusker Kickback, etc. the past 12 months.

    It is absolutely amazing no one seems to remember Obama's arrogant proclamations of transparency.

    I am amazed people believe there has been "transparency" with respect to the local Park development projects, what with the Mayor's wife's alleged emails and other such schenanigins.

  5. Say Ledebur,

    Bleeding-heart Progressive Liberals ARE ruining the community.

    And country.

    Open your eyes sometime. You are missing so much.

    PS - The Porkulus failed.

    Perhaps it is you who needs to lie down a while and sleep it all off!

  6. the final public meeting (of three) on the trail network plan, jan. 19th, was the only one which received adequate public notification. before the meeting, weitzel reprimanded me for not attending the october meeting. the october meeting was not for the public, and received no publicity. contrary to paid consultants, and the bike lobby, this plan is not in the public's interest, as it will distract both attention and resources away from important maintenance. with the exception of the very small, short steps at irving park, not one dollar or thought has gone into the WPA structures.

  7. Actually, Mr. Molovinsky, in some states and communities, public transportation buses had a cotton curtain to separate races.