Amtrak, Connecticut reach funding agreement on Hartford Line commuter-rail service

Amtrak and the state of Connecticut have reached an agreement spelling out cost ceilings and a timeline for completing the Hartford Line commuter-rail route, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced late last week.

Connecticut’s State Bond Commission this week will vote to approve an allocation of $155 million to complete construction of the future Hartford Line, according to a press release issued by Malloy’s office. For its part, Amtrak will deliver service with a ceiling on costs and a timetable for wrapping up the project.

The bond commission’s approval will bring the total funding for programs in this corridor to $643 million, with $208 million in federal funds and $435 million in state funds, Malloy’s press release said. The cost for upgrading the Hartford Line is $570 million.

Now in the construction phase, the completed Hartford Line is expected to triple the number of trains between New Haven and Hartford, and double the service between Hartford and Springfield.

Four station projects are underway and due to be completed prior to the launch of service, while critical fiber optic signal cable and communication nodes are installed along the corridor to power the system and its positive train control components.

Each weekend, centuries-old and undersized culverts and drainage structures are being replaced. The roadbed is currently being excavated for a second track.

“Instead of letting this languish for years and years, we are stepping up to the plate as a state to stand up for better transportation, more jobs, and economic development. This is a transformative project — and we have a commitment to get it done,” said Malloy, adding that communities to be served by the line are planning transit-oriented development projects around their stations.

An additional $73 million is being spent on related corridor investments, including adding a platform at the State Street station in New Haven, renovations at the Berlin station, continuing the design of five new stations along the corridor and studying the realignment of the line in Hartford as part of the overall Interstate-84 viaduct alternatives.

Construction on the future Hartford Line will extend into late 2017, with a service launch no later than January 2018, Malloy’s press release said.

The line will run along the Interstate-91 Corridor to connect New Haven, Conn.; Hartford, Conn.; and Springfield, Mass.


NYC transit: Best and worst moments in 2015, according to the Straphangers Campaign

This year, subway riders saw their fares hiked, worse service, and a record number of people cramming into trains, a riders’ advocacy group says in a new report.

On the bright side, the MTA, Gov. Cuomo, and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration also agreed in 2015 to spend $29 billion on the transit system over five years — which includes dollars for new subway cars, buses, and big construction projects like the Second Avenue Subway.

The Straphangers Campaign released the top 10 best and top ten worst moments for riders on Monday.

“On truly bad days, a subway and bus ride can feel like surviving the 10 plagues,” said Gene Russianoff, the staff attorney for the group, in a statement. “On good days, navigating the system is thankfully less daunting, but always challenging.”

Here are some of the lowlights for riders this year, according to the Straphangers Campaign:

Subway cars got even more cramped, with ridership hitting the highest levels since World War II and sparking overcrowding delays

The MTA raised the fare for a subway and bus ride by a quarter to $2.75. The monthly MetroCard went up almost $5 to $116.50.



Comets 2 @ Devils 3 (OT)

In the eighth meeting between the clubs the Utica Comets were finally able to record their first point against the franchise that used to call Utica home in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Albany Devils on Wednesday night at the Times Union Center. The Comets entered tonight’s contest having lost all seven of their previous match-ups in regulation.

Blair Jones (1-0-1), and Hunter Shinkaruk (1-0-1) handled the scoring for the Comets, while Richard Bachman turned aside 23 of the Devils 26 shots on goal.

For the third straight game the Comets surrendered the game’s first goal. Reid Boucher dug the puck out from underneath a scrum along the half wall and cut across the bottom of the face-off circle. With four Comets players stuck on one side of the ice, defenseman Reece Scarlett streaked in from the blue line unchecked and put the finishing touches on a cross crease pass from Boucher for his first goal of the season.

Just under 10 minutes later the Comets power play snapped an 0-for-16 skid to knot the game at 1-1. After he received a pass from Michael Zalewski, Jordan Subban skated across the blue line before wristing an innocent looking shot on net. Jones, who was camped out at the top of the crease, redirected the shot past Danis for his ninth goal of the season.

The Devils would regain their lead in the beginning stages of the second period. Off a three-on-two rush, Paul Thompson put a shot on net that Bachman denied. Jim O’Brien crashed hard and had two point blank rebound chances. Bachman turned aside the first chance, but did not have an answer for the second one.

Grenier forced a turnover at center ice and along with Shinkaruk broke in on a two-on-one. With the Devils defender’s stick laying flat on the ice, Grenier saucer passed the puck over the stick of the defender, and across the slot, to Shinkaruk who quickly roofed it over the sprawled out Devils’goaltender.

Regulation ended with the teams tied at two.

The Devils only needed 58 seconds in overtime to claim their eighth straight victory over the Comets. The 2015-16 American Hockey League’s MVP, Brian O’Neill, entered the Comets zone with his linemates flanked to either side. He slipped the puck to O’Brien who wristed a shot on goal from just below the dot that Bachman appeared to have gobbled up. However, the puck dribbled out to the far side and O’Brien tapped home the rebound before Bachman or a defender could clear it.

With the overtime loss the Comets record fell to 16-15-3-2. The Comets power play snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a power-play goal in the first period, and ended the game 1 for 4. The Devils top-ranked power-play unit was blanked on four attempts by the Comets penalty-killing unit.

The Comets and Devils will conclude their home-and-home series tomorrow night at The AUD. The New Year’s Eve showdown is scheduled for a 5 p.m. puck drop.

Don’t Let Omni-Channel Pressures Force You Off the Supply Chain Grid

Seamlessly managing business in today’s ever-changing omni-channel environment is a lot like competing in the Super Bowl: It requires a superior level of skill, agility and collaboration to take home the championship ring. Coaches must devise a strategy and reach consensus about their offensive and defensive lines before they finalize the game plan. Yet, once the players are on the field, any number of things can happen—players get injured, the ball gets intercepted, etc.—to disrupt a team’s plan. The team that can react more quickly to these disruptions, and then execute a newly revised plan to score, is the one that wins.

The same is true in business today. How quickly a company is able to see and react dynamically to market trends, disruption, or change in consumer demand is dependent on the agility of its supply chain and the collaborative relationships it has developed with its supply chain partners. Just as a football is rarely carried in a straight, uninterrupted path toward the goal line, getting a product from one end of the supply chain into the customer’s hands requires significant coordination, adaptation and collaboration between all players of the extended supply chain.

Yet, in reality, often little to no collaboration occurs between retailers, manufacturers and their partners because of differing or conflicting business objectives. We rarely see suppliers, manufacturers, third-party logistics (3PL) providers, warehouses, and retailers operate in unison, and the evolution of today’s connected consumer has only amplified this problem.

Consumers’ expectations are higher than ever now that smart technologies have become an intrinsic part of the shopping experience. Increasingly connected via social media, consumers are more informed and influenced by their peers than ever before. These consumers expect a personalized shopping experience—from initial promotion to post-purchase communication—that’s tailored according to how and when they like to shop. They are also willing to pay more for products and services they value, and they expect these preferences to be anticipated and met.

As a result, succeeding in this new consumer-driven environment is not easy. Increased complexity in the marketplace, data overload, fluctuating demand, trust issues and competitive threats are just a few of the challenges retailers, manufacturers and distributors are facing.

The Impact of Omni-channel in Manufacturing

Fearful of being left behind, many companies are embarking on a “me-too” omni-channel game plan, rushing to offer consumers more personalized products and services. The problem, however, is that few businesses are earning a return on these investments. In fact, according to a recent study conducted for JDA Software by PwC, only 16% of companies can fulfill omni-channel demand profitably today.

In a rat-race to address consumers’ ever-changing expectations, companies are paying a high price to sustain or grow their market share. As businesses sell and deliver products across multiple channels, it’s the high cost of fulfilling orders that is eroding margins. Plus, 67% of companies in the study report that their fulfillment costs are growing, not shrinking, as they increase their focus on selling across channels.

One of the reasons behind this increase is the complexity and high costs associated with managing a fulfillment network that is essentially driven by the end consumer. Smaller order quantities (e.g., eaches or cases), more order variants (e.g., a zillion yogurt flavors) and temperamental consumers who now have access to many different shopping channels are all factors influencing the complexity of the supply chain and the new level of coordination required of all supply chain players. According to the study, businesses report their highest costs associated with omni-channel selling are related to handling returns, shipping directly to customers and shipping to the store for customer pick-ups.

It’s no surprise, then, that the need for multi-channel management has created a plethora of planning and distribution challenges not just for retailers, but for manufacturers, wholesale distributors and 3PLs. In the face of increasing competition and rising demand volatility, companies often make ambitious price/product/service offers in order to win the sale—without considering the true cost of fulfilling those offers.

Manufacturers and their trading partners need to work together as collaborative partners to achieve the ideal balance between too much product and not enough. By tightly connecting the planning and execution processes to what is actually happening with demand, inventory visibility is increased and products can more effectively flow through a synchronized supply chain.

To achieve this level of seamless supply chain planning and execution, companies must build a new type of supply chain—the supply chain grid—that will enable them to thrive in an omni-channel environment.

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BNSF transports cargo from largest ship to reach U.S. coasts

The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin — the largest vessel ever to call at a U.S. port — arrived at the Port of Los Angeles on Dec. 26, where BNSF Railway Co. was waiting to move more than 2,500 containers of the ship’s cargo to inland intermodal facilities.

BNSF will use 10 trains to move the containers to intermodal sites in cities that include Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and Memphis, according to the railroad’s website.

Longer than the Empire State Building, the 18,000-TEU (20-foot equivalent) container ship is 1,300 feet long and 177 feet wide, according to CMA CGM.

Managing Your Supply Chain

Everyone is suggesting what the trends in Supply Chain Management (SCM) are for 2013. Most of the writers agree on a “core” of important trends (sort of like the  “motherhood and apple pie” thing. Then there are even some new ones that pop up too. I am going to bring out as many as I find. Where they are not as common, I will provide a link to more information. Read on and tell me if you agree or disagree.
Everyone agrees that Globalization is important and changes the way SCM operates. Likewise, increased Competition and a push on prices is here to stay. Along with competition, Product Life Cycles are getting shorter and requiring more complex solutions. Throughout 2012 we saw a continuing trend for Collaboration with suppliers. The move towards Lean manufacturing and supply chain means an increase in Demand Planning. We have, of course, see the rise of Outsourcing, but keep an eye on Insourcing too. The growing number of SKUs (because of changing customer preferences) for consumer-facing businesses will impact the SCM operation.  Consumer products folks are pushing to open Direct-to-Consumer Channels. Last, but not least, is Social Media.


Not necessarily major “trends”, but never-the-less “issues” are important too. An on-going reduction of operating costs, remains the primary mission for supply chain managers. Along with this, companies must keep SCM on the same page as business strategy, for example, concentrating on enhancing customer service and loyalty. SCM continues to play an important role in supplier relationships, faster product-development cycles, and business expansion. E-Commerce will continue to be highly important, especially if the end-user is in near proximity.

Careful What You Wish For

Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

Is the Federal Reserve nothing but a tool for big banks? According to an op-ed by Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT), it sure looks that way. The presidential candidate and hero to millions of progressives made the case for an audit, tighter controls, and other measures to rein in the nation’s central banking system.

There are clearly problems with the Fed and it’s very mixed charters to tame inflation, encourage full employment, maintain the value of the US Dollar, and regulate banks. The more presence and power the Fed gains the more this is an important issue. But today’s “progressives” aren’t in a mood for just reform – many are in a mood to “End the Fed!”

While that position is understandable it’s horribly misguided. But it’s a great highlight for the tension inherent in not-that-subtle difference between a “liberal” and a “progressive”.  And it’s ultimately a rather irresponsible position that…

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Miami Beach Light Rail Project Study Phase Approved

The City of Miami Beach appears to have fast-tracked the long-debated light rail project, after years of talk. The proposed light rail would operate throughout Miami Beach and connect Miami Beach to Downtown Miami via the MacArthur Causeway.

Previously known as the ‘Baylink’, the project was first proposed in 1988 and presented again in 2002.