Lehigh students looking to go home for Pacing Break — and Bethlehem residents trying to navigate the northeast region — have noticed some significant changes to transportation options in recent months.
Since June 4, all South Bethlehem transportation and ticket agent services have been relocated by Trans-Bridge Lines Inc. from Mechanic Street in South Bethlehem to the Bethlehem Transportation Center in North Bethlehem, according to lehighvalleylive.com. The transportation center is located on the corner of West Broad and Guetter streets.
Prior to the relocation, the transportation center on the North Side was occupied only by Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority, or LANTA.
The Trans-Bridge and Bieber bus lines provide regular service to Philadelphia and New York City, among other locations. In addition to changing bus locations, technology company OurBus returned to Allentown to provide new stops to customers.
How the change has impacted commuters and travelers
Trans-Bridge Lines President Tom JeBran said in a release the company thinks it is a positive change.
“We have a good partnership with LANTA and feel this relocation will add more transportation options for the community,” he said in the release.
Owen O’Neil, the executive director of LANTA, said the station has smoothly incorporated the Bieber and Trans-Bridge lines.
“There was capacity at the bus platforms,” O’Neil said. “We haven’t run into any issues where there is not enough room for them to come in along with our buses. We haven’t run into any operational problems.”
O’Neil said Lehigh University students, faculty and staff can now ride LANTA buses for free with their Lehigh ID cards. Lehigh students who need to ride a Bieber or Trans-Bridge bus can board the LANTA bus on Fourth Street directly to the Bethlehem Transportation Center.
Despite the successful operation of the Bethlehem Transportation Center and LANTA’s efforts to make transportation from Lehigh more convenient and accessible, some South Bethlehem citizens need a bus station closer to home.
“If you look at a majority of the people that are using the buses, it’s people that for whatever reason don’t have a car — whether it’s affordability or they’re in college and really don’t have the funds for it,” Bethlehem City Councilman Bryan Callahan said. “I think it’s really fair to assume that there is probably more of a need for it on the South Side.”
Bethlehem City Councilwoman Olga Negrón said the relocation of South Side bus lines is only a temporary fix until the city can find the best location for the station.
“There’s a lot of residents in the city, not just Lehigh students, that utilize the bus, so we need to have a station in the South Side,” Negrón said. “We’ve always had one. We need one in the South Side.”
OurBus returns to Lehigh Valley
Another transportation option has opened new avenues for travelers, however.
OurBus, which returned to Allentown on Sept. 21, offers service to Binghamton and Ithaca, New York as well as Washington D.C. The bus stop is located in Allentown Service Plaza on Cetronia Road.
“I think one good way to describe the company is not a traditional transportation company, but more like a network transportation company,” said OurBus Co-Founder Axel Hellman. “We don’t own any vehicles or drivers. But for the customer, it is the same as any other (company). You go to our website, buy a ticket, show up and get on.”
OurBus provides long-distance transportation services using crowdsourced bus routes as opposed to local public transportation options. It does not use public stations, which prevents physical overlap between the two.
OurBus previously stopped services from Allentown to New York due to a lack of demand, but the company is now trying out a new route to Washington D.C.
“We chose (Washington D.C.) because basically, it was the biggest destination in the area that people from that part of Pennsylvania had no good way of reaching,” Hellman said.