LVIA Needs Nonstop Flights to Pittsburgh

The Express Times asks readers which destinations they want to see offered at Lehigh Valley International Airport.

Here is the map of cities currently served by LVIA:

Love how they just fade out the western half of the United States like it doesn’t matter. The LV Chamber of Commerce has been trying to change this by courting Southwest Airways.

There’s no doubt that more connections to the Southwest would be great for the Lehigh Valley’s economy, since it would reduce obstacles to business travel between the two regions. Shrinking the time and money costs for people in these regions to do business would be a big boost to the productivity of the LV economy, and it would make the region a better location choice for businesses.

But more important than the Southwest, I think, is the need for LVIA to offer nonstop flights to the other big job centers in the Northeast and Midwest megaregions.

Here is a map of “super-commuter” corridors. These are people who commute from one region to another by car, bus, rail or air:

I think the goal of federal, state and regional transportation policy should be to reduce the transportation costs of moving people and goods around within these regions, and between them.

If I’m the LV Chamber of Commerce, and my goal is to make the Lehigh Valley a more important node in the regional economy and transportation network, I think it would make the most sense to first focus on getting direct nonstop flights between LVIA and Pittsburgh, Boston, and Raleigh/Durham.

It may be the case that it’s not profitable for an airline to offer nonstop flights to Pittsburgh from LVIA, but I think that’s an argument for building out the Keystone Corridor high speed rail plan. If you could shrink the trip time between the LV and Pittsburgh from 6 hours down to 2 or 3 hours, that would go a long way to lower the time cost of transportation and open up more opportunities for trade between the two metros.

Ideally, we want to be moving toward a transportation system where we use air travel primarily between metros, and rail travel within metros. It would make less sense to take a train from the LV to Boston or Raleigh/Durham than it would for Pittsburgh, but even if you could get rail travel in the US up to TVA speeds (a not-so-impressive 155 mph), a trip from the LV to Boston would only be about 2 and a half hours:


  1. Rather then spend billions on high speed rail – just for the opportunity to spend more billions subsidizing it as it’ll lose that much annually – I’d rather subsidize each/every plane ticket between ABE and Pittsburgh. Substantially cheaper.

    Still idiocy, but cheaper idiocy.

  2. Your solution used a nuclear bomb to solve a problem that can be fixed with a howitzer. It’s easy to come up with very expensive solutions to problems – the challenge is coming up with ones that aren’t.

    Challenge yourself instead of taking the easy way out all the time.

  3. High speed rail is worthwhile to consider, especially on overcrowded air corridors like Boston-Washington. However, you have to see it as an alternative to flying, due to the complexity of the infrastructure and the cost. It can’t really be seen as an alternative to driving or especially commuting.

    The problem with HSR from Allentown to Boston is that unless some very unlikely corridors were chosen, it would be unlikely to be a direct trip, so you’d have to change in New York anyway.

    And HSR is only HSR because it only stops in the largest, most economically lucrative locations in order to maintain speed. Allentown isn’t big enough and it is too close to other urban centers to make sense as a stop. The TGV hardly stops at all between Paris and Lyon.

    Obviously LVIA lacks flights to the west because airlines tend to see it as more economically practical to send people from Allentown to Chicago or Detroit than to explore the so-far untapped market for direct fares from Allentown to Seattle. I don’t think “mattering” has much to do with it.

    Why not put some money into a quality luxury express bus service to the Port Authority or to 30th Street Station? Or Newark Airport and Philadelphia International?

    • Jon Geeting says:

      All great points.

      My hope would be that the LV would get a stop on the Keystone Corridor line between Philly and Pittsburgh. The current versions of the plans don’t have it going far north enough to include Allentown, which I think is a mistake, since they’d be keeping the third largest metro in the state out of the loop.

      If the LV was on the Keystone Corridor line, you could take KC to Philly (commuting) and then take Acela to the closest coastal cities as an alternative to flying.

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