Building the Second Avenue Subway

Manhattan’s east side is a notorious subway desert.

But come December 2016, eastsiders will rejoice because phase one of the Second Avenue Subway is slated to finally be complete.

“The $4.45 billion project is 82% complete,” Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, president of Capital Construction at Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said, as he walked photographer Bhushan Mondkar along the newly installed train tracks.

“The remaining 18% is the toughest –- testing a multitude of new systems, such as signals, communication, electrical, fire safety to work together, and integrating them with the existing infrastructure is the biggest challenge — but we are confident the project will open on time.”

Phase one will add three new stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets, and the existing station at 63rd and Lexington Avenue is also getting a makeover. Once opened, the Q train will be rerouted along this line.

63rd Street Expansion
63rd Street Expansion

Arrangements have also been made to incorporate a new “T line” in the future, which is planned to run from 125th street down Second Avenue to Hannover Square in the Financial District.

UPS: Railroads rate accolades for fall peak performance

In fourth-quarter 2015, UPS delivered 1.3 billion packages, up 1.8 percent compared with volume from the same 2014 period. The primary driver: an extremely active peak delivery season between late October and December.

Propelled by busy holiday shoppers and retailers — who rang up robust online purchases — UPS’ fall peak volume reached 612 million packages versus 572 million a year earlier. Some hubs that process 100,000 packages on a typical day were sorting 200,000 daily during the harried holiday season.

“It was the heaviest peak we’ve ever had from a volume perspective,” says UPS Vice President of Corporate Transportation Services Ken Buenker.

And kudos to the railroads for providing exceptional on-time performance throughout the period despite the tsunami of packages, he says.

Ken Buenker Photo: UPS

The world’s largest parcel delivery company is served by all the Class Is, as well as dozens of regionals and short lines that lend a hand in moving packages from Point A to Point B. Parcels need to arrive and depart sorting hubs during strict time windows so UPS can meet delivery promises for customers.

Every railroad except one — which Buenker declined to identify — provided perfect performance without any service failures, he says.

“On-time performance is critical because it can interfere with our [sorting] operations,” says Buenker. “We usually give railroads an A grade for the peak. But for this past peak, they get an A-plus, with a star on it.”

To meet tight transit schedules, the railroads in some cases provided an extra train or eliminated a stop between an origin and destination. For example, a train that usually moved from Chicago to Toledo, Ohio, to Buffalo, N.Y., at times didn’t stop in Toledo, says Buenker.

“Train dynamics are critical. Every railroad we work with added trains,” he says.

The railroads’ performance also got a boost from intensive pre-peak planning, says Buenker. UPS worked with the carriers to determine the best ways to handle what was expected to be heavy package volume. The railroads then focused on optimizing locomotive and crew assignments, expediting train inspections and locomotive maintenance/services, and bolstering bad-order processes.

Railroads rated an “A-plus” grade from UPS for their service performance during the fall peak. Photo: UPS

UPS managers “had fairly good indications” it was going to be a busy fall peak after holding discussions with various retailers, says Buenker. The retailers shared the trends they were sensing, which distribution centers likely would be active and how online purchases were growing, he says.

This year, UPS completed more pre-peak planning work than usual — given the volume forecast — and the efforts “delivered exceptional results,” says Buenker.

In terms of rail service, the railroads planned their maintenance-of-way work around the peak, as usual. But they also more quickly recovered any mishandled single cars during the busy timeframe and strived harder to avoid service failures, says Buenker. One misplaced trailer of packages can impact thousands of UPS customers.

Overall, rail performance during the peak likely gained a small lift from the lower volume on Class Is’ lines compared with the same 2014 period, says Buenker.

“I think the availability of track capacity helped. There definitely were some velocity benefits,” he says.

But that doesn’t diminish the efforts that were apparent among all the railroads to meet UPS’ stringent transit schedules, Buenker says.

A misplaced trailer in railroads’ networks can impact thousands of UPS customers. Photo: UPS

Now, the emphasis is on finding ways to match that performance for this year’s peak. As they do every year, UPS officials in January held a post-peak meeting with railroad managers to review what did and didn’t work well last year.

“Perhaps the railroads will do some of the same things at the next peak,” says Buenker.

And what will package volume be like come November? For all intents and purposes, a similar big wave, Buenker believes.

“The early indications from shippers is that we will likely see the same type of peak,” he says.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard stated she’s vacating her position as the DNC’s vice chairwoman in order to support the Sanders campaign.

In a bold statement on NBC’s “Meet the Press” — not totally different from the senior Republicans defecting amidst a “time for choosing” — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) stated she’s vacating her position as the DNC’s vice chairwoman in order to support the Sanders campaign.

 

Her announcement appears to be based on some vague notion of altruistic ethics and an aversion to more military might in the face of ISIS.

 

Hillary Clinton, she claims, is not fit to carry the burden of the progressive agenda into the White House under the banner of being a Democrat. Clinton voted to invade Iraq, and then again was a proponent for military action in Libya.

 

“I know how important it is that our commander in chief has the sound judgement required to know when to use America’s military power, and when not to use that power,” she says in the video. “As the vice chair of the DNC I am required to remain neutral,” she said. “But I cannot remain neutral any longer. The stakes are just too high.”

 

Too bad other members of the Democratic National Committee don’t stay neutrel.

The Supply Chain Is Everywhere!

It wasn’t long ago that Apple was lauded for it’s finesse in managing its supply chain. Getting its bazillions of iPhones from China to the US and everywhere else required some groundbreaking advances and a lot of tight controls. Those lessons have gone mainstream as the world took notice and of the company’s strategies and success. And partly because of that expansion, the supply chain now extends to areas as unexpected as social media.

Some of these areas make perfect sense in light of new technologies. An article in Forbes Business lists several areas. Here are the ones that I think are already making a difference.

3D printing is interesting in itself. The idea of creating a physical object by simply plugging in a computer to a printer lets children print their own dolls and other toys for an investment of $300. And a slightly higher investment lets people print their own designs of pretty much anything they like. But as these printers become less expensive and more capable they will act more like a StarTrek tranporter by allowing one person to scan an object and have a duplicate printed at a friend’s house. There will be items that can be ‘purchased’ online and printed locally, completely avoiding shipping.

Today, printing a product still takes hours, so until 3D printers become much faster Amazon and others are upping their delivery game to deliver in much shorter timeframes. Their Amazon Prime Hubs are set up to deliver within 60 minutes and their Drone delivery project is slated to deliver within 15 minutes. These changes to the supply chain bring together all the technologies we have so carefully honed over the years and supercharges them with technologies we didn’t envision just a few years ago.

Morristown & Erie completes third straight year of traffic growth

Morristown & Erie Railway logged an 8 percent increase in freight-rail traffic last year, the third consecutive year of traffic increases, the New Jersey short line announced late last week.

The increase in 2015 equates to more than 2,000 trucks removed from New Jersey’s highways. Since 2010, freight-rail traffic has increased 72 percent on the 26-mile railroad, Morristown & Erie officials said in a press release.

Marketing and Logistics Manager Rudy Garbely attributed the short line’s traffic growth to a number of factors.

“We improved our efficiency, expanded and rebuilt our facilities, and acquired the equipment and tools necessary to improve service and expand growth possibilities for our customers,” said Garbely.

Also last year, the railroad recorded traffic gains at its Bayway Refinery switching operation in Linden, N.J., continuing a trend that started in 2010. Morristown & Erie boosted that growth by helping to coordinate service times between Class Is and the receivers within the refinery, which helped improve the refinery’s efficiency and output, officials said.

For 2016, the railroad is projecting similar traffic increases as a result of several capital improvement projects, such as the recently completed construction of the new Troy Hills Road Bulk Transload Facility. The facility’s  13 rail-car posts and location off Route 10 in Whippany will help contribute to freight-rail traffic growth, railroad officials said.

Another factor expected to boost freight-rail traffic trends is the recent increase of vertical height clearances on the New Jersey Transit Morristown Line, which enables the Morristown & Erie to interchange tall Plate C rail cars with CSX in Kearny, N.J. That includes the majority of box cars, all center-beam lumber cars and covered hopper cars.

“As we enter our 121st year of continuous service in 2016, we are continuing to look for ways to help our customers develop,” said Morristown & Erie Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Chuck Jensen.