When the Lehigh Canal opened in 1818, Allentown grew rapidly as one of America's first urban industrial centers. Located in eastern Pennsylvania's geographic valley between two Appalachian mountain ridges—Blue Mountain, which rises to 1,000 feet (300 m) in the north and South Mountain in the south—Allentown became a center for manufacturing and heavy industry.
By the late 20th century, however, Allentown's heavy industry was losing its competitive edge. Many of the city's once-flagship factories—including Western Electric, Mack Trucks and LSI Corporation—downsized significantly or closed. As a result, working class families began leaving older Center City neighborhoods for suburban areas and the city gained a reputation as a prominent example of a Rust Belt city.
Today, Allentown is home to a diversified economy with growing healthcare and advanced technology industries, while its central business district is undergoing major revitalization. The city's renowned parks system and numerous community arts and cultural institutions add to the area's charm.
In addition to public busses operated by LANTA, there are also several private bus lines that offer commuters with a range of options. For example, Bieber Tourways provides direct service to Philadelphia and intermediate points. Trans-Bridge Lines also offers services to Hazelton, Philadelphia and other locations.
The Allentown Transportation Center has been redesigned and received an award from the Urban Land Institute for its innovative use of space. The redesign, a partnership between the city's parking authority and LANTA, prioritizes sustainable strategies while providing passengers with an environment that promotes joy, comfort and safety.