The Perfect Metric? Take A Closer Look.

In a business environment that’s ever-increasingly dependent on and driven by metrics, the perfect order seems like, well, a perfect metric. R. Wang of Constellation Research originally conceived and developed the perfect order as a as a tool for retailers to monitor supplier performance.

Wang’s perfect order checklist included 20 items, but what makes it especially useful is that it’s easy to understand and can be easily adapted to just about any retailer-supplier relationship. At a most basic level, the perfect order checklist answers four questions:

  • Is the order on time?
  • Is the order complete?
  • Is the order accurate?
  • Is the order undamaged?

A fifth question – Is the documentation, including invoice, accurate and complete? – is also a key component of the perfect order for most retailers.

All Aboard Florida Rolls On To Orlando

It’s been a momentous week for All Aboard Florida. The controversial, privately owned venture got the blessing of a key environmental impact report and, more important, the OK to issue $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds it needs to proceed.

Now it’s up to the company, descended from Florida business and rail pioneer Henry Flagler, to make good on its optimistic vision of high-speed passenger rail service connecting the high-tourist cities of Miami and Orlando in three hours, by way of West Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast.

If All Aboard Florida succeeds, it would be a benefit for the most populous part of this still-growing state. It would boost the prospects for high-speed rail elsewhere in the United States. And if it fails, it will be a business failure that is the company’s and its investors’ alone. Neither taxpayers nor the counties and towns along the route will be stuck with the debts.

The critics have had their say. Now it’s time for residents of South Florida and the Treasure Coast to begin to learn to live with the reality of this project.

We understand those who fear the noise, delays, safety hazards and property depreciation that will accompany the 32 daily trips of All Aboard Florida trains. But it is disingenuous of Floridians to act as though they’ve never lived with a railway going through their cities before. Those Florida East Coast Railway tracks were carrying noisy freight before most of the towns were here.

And let’s get a grip about those feared disruptions. The high-speed trains that will carry passengers will be much shorter and much lighter than freight trains. They will create far less rumble and noise. Those delays? As the company shows in a video, when a train comes through, the gates will fall, the train will pass and the gates will rise, all in less than a minute.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) this week published its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for All Aboard Florida’s (AAF) plan to build a 235-mile passenger-rail line from Miami to Orlando, Fla.

The document evaluates Phase II of the project, which includes adding a second track within 128.5 miles of the existing Florida East Coast Railway right of way between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, as well as building a new 40-mile line parallel to State Road 828 between Cocoa and Orlando International Airport. In addition, Phase II involves building a new vehicle maintenance facility south of the airport, and improving grade crossings, bridges, signalization and adding new communication and train control systems, according to the FEIS document’s abstract.

In 2012, the FRA approved an environmental document that indicated AAF can proceed with the construction of Phase I, which involves building infrastructure for a line from West Palm Beach to Miami. The latest document, dated Aug. 4, 2015, addresses the environmental impacts of construction of both Phase I and Phase II.

Also this week, a Florida state financing agency gave AAF the green light to sell $1.75 billion in tax-exempt municipal bonds to help finance the private company’s $2.5 billion project.

The Florida Development Finance Corp. (FDFC) voted in favor of AAF’s application following an all-day hearing, Florida news media reported yesterday.

AAF still faces a federal lawsuit filed by Martin and Indian River counties, which are seeking to stop the bond issue.

The Second Avenue Subway Sinatra Is Missing

New York City’s Second Avenue Subway has been underway for so long that it even has it’s own folk heros.

Gary Russo of Queens, a.k.a the Second Avenue Subway Sinatra, has been missing since last week, according to the NYPD. 54-year-old Russo, a union ironworker, was last seen a week ago Tuesday, shortly after midnight, at his home in Howard Beach. His family reported him missing on Monday, and the investigation is ongoing.

Russo first eased our MTA-induced pain back in the summer of 2011, when a reader spotted him crooning with a portable amp on his lunch break outside of the Second Avenue Subway construction site at 73rd Street. The perpetually delayed project was particularly noxious at the time, which made Russo all the more endearing. That August, his uncanny cover of “Summer Wind” went viral, with more than a million hits in one week. Here he is, performing next to an equally-endearing handwritten sign that reads “FORGET ALL THE NOISE,TRAFFIC, AND THE IMPACT OF THE 2ND AVE SUBWAY ENJOY THE MUSIC.”

ABC News quickly caught on, and by November Russo had co-written a self help book called Don’t Die With Your Song Unsung. (From the description: “If you’re so stuck doing what you need to do that you can’t find the time to do what you love, let Gary’s story inspire you to change your perspective, set goals, and take action to achieve them.”)

Indeed, it seems that Russo’s aim has always been—in addition to performing in Sinatra cover shows—to help others achieve their latent dreams. “I have always felt there was a true artist hidden inside of me,” Russo writes on his website. “Don’t be afraid to share your talent with the world. It’s never too late to follow your heart. You never know what life has in store for you.”

This January, the Huffington Post did a mini-profile on Russo, noting that he had been going through a divorce and “fighting depression” when he took up the Sinatra gig. According to the news website, singing on his lunch break was a way for Russo to “exorcise his demons.”

According to the NYPD, Russo is 5’9″ and about 180 pounds.

 

AUGUST 29 We Got SOME SAD NEWS

The karaoke-loving ironworker — dubbed the “Second Avenue Sinatra” — who went missing nearly a month ago was found dead in an apparent suicide less than a mile from his Queens home, according to police.

Gary Russo, 54, a former Local 40 ironworker who in 2011 was helping to build the Second Avenue Subway, vanished from his Howard Beach home just after midnight on July 28.

He had been reported missing to authorities less than a week later and hadn’t been heard from since.

The Sinatra singer had been feeling blue after a recent breakup with a girlfriend, a source said.

Then about 2 p.m. Friday, officers discovered Russo’s body dangling from a rope on a tree by a near Spring Creek Park, police said.

The late hardhat gained notoriety four years ago when he belted out Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin standards during his 30-minute lunch break at the Upper East Side construction site.

For days in the sweltering August heat, Russo would lug his Karaoke gear into work with him and perform for co-workers and passersby in front of a sign that read, “Forget all the noise, traffic and the impact of the 2nd Ave. Subway. Enjoy the music.”

 

When streetcar systems serve as transit-oriented development tools

The popularity of streetcars as a mechanism for drawing residents, visitors and businesses to downtown areas continues to spread across the United States. Dozens of cities now are home to streetcars, and another 30 are designing or building new systems, or expanding existing lines.

In just the past two years, the streetcar renaissance has led to new lines in Salt Lake City; Dallas; Atlanta; Tucson, Ariz.; and Charlotte, N.C. Cities with lines under design or construction include Los Angeles; Seattle; Detroit; Cincinnati; Milwaukee; Kansas City, Mo.; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Others — St. Louis; Baton Rouge, La.; and Minneapolis, among them — are studying the possibility of launching streetcar lines.

Less expensive to build than light-rail or subway systems and less likely to be moved or rerouted than bus lines, streetcars can help attract residents, tourists and businesses along the routes. Another major component of the streetcar trend is the transportation mode’s use as a tool to revive downtown districts to make them attractive places to live, work and visit, proponents say.

“Good streetcar systems are planned along urban corridors where development is already happening or it is anticipated to happen,” says Michael Townes, senior vice president and national transit market-sector leader of HNTB Corp., a design and engineering firm working on a number of U.S. streetcar projects. Planners typically try to locate streetcar systems in dense areas where they’ll circulate among employment, residential, commercial, health care and educational activities, he adds.

The trend raises a classic chicken-and-egg question: Are cities building streetcars lines to transport people to businesses and venues, or to attract developers who will build or rejuvenate urban corridors that will attract people? Typically, it’s a mix of both, says Townes, who helped author a recent HNTB white paper on streetcars and transit-oriented development.

“Elected officials are looking to serve both of those needs, so they want a streetcar system to be planned so that it facilitates development but also meets the perceived and real needs of serving a particular corridor,” he says. “Good planning takes all of that into account.”

Even in cities where proposed streetcars have been controversial (which is pretty much all of them), developers are rarely among the naysayers, says Townes. A case in point: M-1 Rail’s 3.3-mile circulating streetcar now under construction in Detroit. Business leaders pushed the project hoping it would help jumpstart a revival of Woodward Avenue and contribute to the city’s economic recovery. The $137 million project is expected to spur $500 million worth of development in the corridor, according to HNTB.

In Milwaukee, developers helped sell to a wavering city council a plan to build a new streetcar line that would connect the city’s lower East Side with an Amtrak station just south of the downtown. The council’s vote of approval followed an acrimonious, decades-long debate over the project, which is now in the final design phase.

Streetcar lines offer permanence

What is it about streetcars that developers find appealing? Permanence, says Townes. Once the track is installed, it’s hard for cities to dig it up and move it. That sense of permanence signals to developers that a community is committed to making the streetcar route a success. When cities are willing to invest in track and stations, developers take notice.

But it takes more than a “build-it-and-they-will-come” approach to use a streetcar as a successful transit-oriented development (TOD) tool, Townes cautions. There are some best practices that cities must apply if they want people to ride the streetcar and developers to invest and build around it, he says.

According to HNTB, those efforts should include:

• zoning policies and financial incentives that encourage private developers, such as the sale of publicly owned land at attractive prices, long-term development rights on public land, and public-private procurement;

• a mix of land uses that cover the “live, work, play” spectrum;

• developer involvement in the project early on in the planning process;

• city support for existing businesses along the streetcar route during the disruptive construction period;

• hybrid systems that combine an on- and off-wire (no overhead contact system) route; and

• integration with the rest of the community’s transportation network, such as bus routes, light-rail transit or commuter rail.

“High-capacity rail and bus routes must be efficiently linked to the streetcar network to provide for seamless transfers between modes,” according to HNTB’s white paper.

To that end, the streetcar’s fare policy should provide the rider with one pass that can be used for all transit purposes. Also, streetcar systems should make real-time arrival and departure information easily accessible to customers, Townes adds.

Probably the streetcar best known for its impact on TOD is in Portland, Ore., where $3.5 billion in new economic development has sprung up around the line, which opened in 2001. What did Portland do right? Townes says the streetcar was part of a broader vision for the city’s economic development strategy.

“Portland placed [the line] specifically for that purpose and connected it with the rest of the city’s transportation network to make it a viable system and provide access to areas with significant development,” he says.

One city that appears to be applying the best-practice approach is Kansas City, Mo., where construction of a two-mile downtown streetcar starter line is on target for completion this fall.

“We have over 80 percent of the embedded track installed, over 80 percent of overhead poles and foundations installed, and overhead wire is being installed as we speak,” says Tom Gerend, executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, who spoke to Progressive Railroading in mid-June. “Our vehicle maintenance facility is also at about 80 percent complete.”

When the KC Streetcar begins revenue service in 2016, the north-south route will travel in mixed traffic along Main Street and connect the River Market to Crown Center and Union Station. It will serve the Central Business District, Crossroads Art District, and Power and Light District, as well as numerous businesses, restaurants, art galleries, educational facilities and area residents. The streetcar will consist of four vehicles, and will make 16 stops.

The $102 million project is already being credited with stimulating development in the area. Since the project began, about $1 billion in new investment has entered the downtown picture; about $381 million of that is due to the streetcar line, authority officials say.

“We are seeing development levels and transformation of properties at a rate and scale that we’ve never seen before,” says Gerend.

The activity includes mixed-use projects that will feature multiple floors of residential units and ground floors reserved for retail. Over 3,000 new dwelling units are under construction in the streetcar corridor. Older buildings that have been largely vacant are being repurposed into office space.

“It’s been a combination of residential and commercial, but I would say residential has been the primary driver,” says Gerend. “The demand for residential development downtown has been overwhelming.”

The streetcar corridor will help the city leverage existing civic assets and amenities — the Sprint Center, Power and Light District, Union Station and River Market, for example — to help attract visitors and new residents to the downtown, he says.

KC Streetcar: A catalyst for growth?

Civic leaders view the KC Streetcar as a long-term catalyst for future growth. Currently, more than 87 projects are advancing within the transportation development district that city planners established to fund the streetcar project.

“We anticipate the energy will only continue to increase, as folks see the value and benefits of the transit investment, as well as other adjacent improvements that are being made to public and private properties,” Gerend says.

He agrees that cities have to put meaningful TOD policies in place.

“We acknowledge that it’s not just about the rail in the ground,” he says.

For example, Kansas City officials changed zoning policies along the corridor to allow for higher density development and removed certain impediments — such as costly parking requirements — that could unnecessarily add to a project’s cost.

The city also created a downtown streetcar transportation development district with a tax assessment and financing mechanism to help fund streetcar construction and annual operating costs.

Still, the KC Streetcar’s naysayers and nonbelievers remain, particularly as city officials and business leaders discuss possible future expansion of the line. “There is always opposition,” HNTB’s Townes says. “That’s a healthy thing. These [proposals] do need to be reviewed openly and the questions need to be analyzed. But, at the end of the day, we have seen over and over again that well-planned transit developments — and, lately, streetcar developments, specifically — have returned their value of investment.”

This article originally appeared in “Rail Insider

Proctor & Gamble’s SCM Control Tower ooops Business Sphere

Procter & Gamble (P&G) has one of the best supply chains in the world.  But when their top supply chain executives talk about supply chain management, it can be hard to understand what they are talking about.  P&G has rather forgone talking about supply chain systems and instead talks about their investments in analytics. They believe their supply chain systems are too siloed and they are missing global optimization opportunities. They are looking for a “fully interconnected platform” that delivers “holistic optimization.”  If they can get to a “real-time instrumented supply chain,” P&G believes the upside is a 1-2% sales increase, 2-5% margin improvement, and 5-10% improvements in asset utilization.  (See Procter & Gamble Speaks at the 3PL Summit).

But what could a real-time instrumented supply chain actually be?  Some hints are starting to emerge. One thing it appears to mean is a cross functional control tower that exists in a “visually immersive data environment.”  P&G does not call it a control tower, they call it a Business Sphere. But if you read the description, and look at some pictures, it sure looks like a control tower environment.

One of the partners they list that helped them build this “patent-pending integration of technology, visualization, and information” is BOI Solutions.  The BOI technology is really cool.  In science fiction movies we see users manipulating computer images with their hands, stretching some images, swatting other images off the screen.  That is pretty close to what BOI’s technology allows users to do.

 

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Amtrak announces service plans for papal visit

Amtrak has announced that it is adding extra trains with more seats to help handle the increase in riders during the pope’s visit to the United States in September.

Heavy demand is expected as Pope Francis travels from Washington to New York then Philadelphia.

Amtrak outlined the following plans:

Operations

With some minor exceptions, operations in and around New York and Washington will be normal, although passengers should expect large crowds during the Pope’s scheduled events. Amtrak service will operate on a normal weekday schedule Monday, September 21 through Friday, September 25, with extra coaches added to some trains to accommodate additional demand.

Starting Friday, September 25, through Monday, September 28, reservations will be required on all Acela Express, Northeast Regional and Keystone Service trains. As outlined in the timetable at Amtrak.com/PapalVisit, Amtrak will operate Philadelphia-centric “Event Extra” service on Saturday, September 26, and Sunday, September 27, in some cases utilizing equipment from our commuter partners.

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.To better ensure efficient train movements for all users of the NEC, Amtrak will suspend maintenance activities, pre-position rescue equipment to quickly respond to any disabled trains, and continuously share real-time dispatching information with our regional transit agency partners.

Except for suspending maintenance, shouldn’t Amtrak be doing these in some form everyday?

30th Street Station

To ensure public safety and aid in crowd control, some special procedures will be implemented at Philadelphia 30th Street Station during the weekend of the papal visit. In addition to Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains, SEPTA service to/from Levittown, Marcus Hook, Wilmington, Croydon and Cornwells Heights, will operate from the lower-level/main concourse. Specific boarding procedures and recommended points of entry will be announced at a later date. Additional station personnel and ambassadors will be on hand to assist, but passengers should expect long lines and crowded conditions.

Taxi service and rental cars will not be available to/from 30th Street Station Friday, September 25 through Sunday, September 27. Station restrooms will be closed to the public but facilities will be available outside. Food court eateries will be open and accessible from the Market Street entrance.

Tickets

Tickets for all Amtrak trains are available now at Amtrak.com. Passengers are advised to book as early as possible to ensure availability. Additional announcements with more detailed information will be made in the weeks to come and posted to our custom web page, Amtrak.com/papalvisit, which will be updated regularly.

http://www.amtrak.com/papalvisit

Terminal Railroad of St Louis

July 30, 1899 The Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis is formed to handle switching and transfer chores in St. Louis. The sponsoring railroads are the Missouri Pacific, Iron Mountain & Southern, Wabash, Ohio & Mississippi, Louisville & Nashville and the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis.

Since 1889, the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis has played a vital role in the railroad operations and growth of the St. Louis metropolitan area.

The Association was originally created to satisfy the need for an efficient, safe, and economical method of interchanging rail traffic at the railroad hub of St. Louis, Missouri: the “Gateway to the West.”

Over 120 years later, the employees of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis make the same commitment to efficiency, safety, and value to our customers, owners, and the public with each new day.

At a crossroads: Miami-Orlando train service could get $1.75 billion boost