Keolis gears up for tie replacement project on MBTA commuter-rail line

Keolis Commuter Services, operator of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority‘s (MBTA) commuter-rail system, this month will start trackwork on the Framingham-Worcester Line to end heat-related speed restrictions.

Crews will replace as many as 30,000 ties, Keolis officials said in a press release.

The company will perform and oversee much of the work.

The track on the Framingham-Worcester Line was built and maintained by previous railroads using different design and maintenance standards than the MBTA. When the agency took control of the line in 2012, there were insufficient records available about the original installation of the rail, according to Keolis.

Such records help engineers verify that the rail will respond to heat variations between winter and summer seasons, Keolis officials said.

To compensate for the unknowns, the MBTA has either replaced rail or de-stressed sections of rail to ensure the line’s safety. That work is continuing this spring between Worcester and Framingham, Mass., and between Newtonville and Wellesley Farms, Mass.

“Commuter rail’s performance on the Framingham-Worcester Line has improved dramatically thanks to the work we and the MBTA have already completed,” said Keolis General Manager Gerald Francis. “This next round of track work will help move trains more efficiently and finally end the speed restrictions riders have dealt with for many years.”

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Transit Museum in NYC shares MTA history, interactive exhibits

New York’s Transit Museum is in the former Court Street station on the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

The station opened in 1936, but closed 10 years later because it wasn’t used enough, explained Regina Asborno, director of the museum. There were plans at the time to eventually connect the station to the Second Avenue line in Manhattan, but that never happened.

Since the museum is inside a former station, the entrance is just like any other entrance to a below-ground subway station. There is also a handicap-accessible entrance, but this is the main entrance.

In 2015, the museum had a record year with 170,000 visitors,

There was a shuttle train that operated at Court Street, but it only brought passengers to one other station about three blocks away, so it wasn’t necessary to keep. It was turned into a museum in the summer of 1976.

The first exhibit in the museum is called “Steel, Stone, and Backbone: Building New York’s Subways, 1900-1925.” It takes visitors through the stages of building the subways. Asborno said many of the pictures they have of the construction were taken for insurance purposes at the time. Since the construction was quite dangerous and could potentially affect the buildings above ground, photographers were hired to take pictures along the routes of the first tunnels, she explained.

On the original platform and tracks of the station, the museum features vintage trains that were used starting in 1904. The train doors are open so people can go inside.

Asborno said there are also vintage buses, but they are too large to be shown at the museum. They are kept in various MTA bus depots and brought out for special occasions, such as the annual Bus Festival in September.

Take a step back to 1904 by walking through the oldest trains at the museum. The trains were used on the elevated tracks at the time, Asborno said. They are made of wood, which makes them lighter and more functional on elevated tracks but not practical for underground tracks.

These trains only had doors at either end of the cars, and at each stop, the gates had to be manually opened by an operator on each car. The operators communicated with the conductor using bells on each car to let him know he could start the train again.

The term straphangers, used to describe commuters, comes from the straps that hung from the top of these original cars.

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Advertisements have always been a part of the subway system. While the ads on each of the cars are replicas of originals, they give visitors an idea of the time period. Asborno said trains have a 40- to 60-year life span, so the ads would have changed many times in each of the cars.

A 10-car trial train was built in 1949 in anticipation of the Second Avenue subway line. Each car cost $100,000 to build, which is how it got its name, The Million Dollar Train. At the time, “The New York Times” deemed it the “car of tomorrow” because of its modern look, including new fluorescent lighting. But the train was never in full operation, as the Second Avenue line has yet to be built, and the cars were redesigned to operate with existing trains.

The newest car in the exhibit is just like many that run today. Asborno said this car is a favorite for kids because they usually aren’t allowed to explore the cars when they ride the subway. It’s also used for programs to help people with social or intellectual disabilities learn social skills to help them ride the subways, Asborno said.

SubwayturnstileRemember when the subway fare was only 15 cents? Neither do we, but you can see what the turnstiles looked like when it was that cheap. The earliest turnstile from 1904 didn’t even have a spot for coins, tokens or cards. Commuters would buy their tickets, hand them to an operator and the operator would allow them through the turnstile by pressing a pedal.

The “Bringing Back the City: Mass Transit Responds to Crisis” exhibit gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how the MTA operates. There are first-hand experiences from MTA employees about the attacks on 9/11, the 2003 Northeast Blackout, the Blizzard of 2010, Hurricane Irene and superstorm Sandy. Asborno said people often don’t realize how many different jobs there are in the MTA, which employs over 60,000 people.

The Transit Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children and senior citizens.

By Nicole Brown

Inventories remain full, depressing US freight demand

ORLANDO, Florida — Could U.S. freight volumes rise and overall economic growth slow? If that increase in freight volume accompanies significant de-stocking of “bloated” inventories, the answer is yes, an economist said at the 2016 NASSTRAC Shippers Conference here.

Investment in private inventories contributes to the expansion of real GDP, American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello said in comments after a presentation to the conference. Cutting those business inventories pushes GDP down.

In 2014, inventory investment added 0.05 percentage points to annual GDP growth of 2.4 percent, Federal Reserve Bank data show. In 2015, that figure leaped to 0.17 points out of 2.4 percent growth. U.S. GDP growth would have been closer to 2.2 percent without the buildup.

GDP growth seems to have evaporated in the first quarter, after the economy expanded only 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s latest “GDPNow” estimate of first-quarter economic performance puts GDP growth at 0.6 percent in early 2016.

Fourth-quarter growth was actually 0.4 percentage points greater than the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis anticipated in its preliminary estimate, in part because the expected draw-down in private inventories wasn’t as great as economists thought it would be.

For trucking operators, however, a steep cut in inventories wouldn’t be a bad thing. Bloated inventories remain “the overriding thing impacting freight volumes today,” Costello said during his presentation, depressing replenishment demand and transportation revenue.

“Usually, there are three and a half things that drive truck freight: the consumer, factory output, housing starts and then the ‘half thing’ is the inventory cycle,” Costello said. “Sometimes, the inventory cycle has no impact on truck freight volumes. That’s not the case today.”

“Inventories remain bloated, well above historical average,” Lee Klaskow, senior analyst for transportation and logistics at Bloomberg Intelligence, told NASSTRAC shippers. The national average business inventory-to-sales ratio in February was 1.41, up from 1.37 a year ago.

The “optimal” range for the general business inventory ratio may be 1.30 to 1.35, Costello said.

“People would like to see the ratio come down 20 to 30 percent, but it will take time because the demand is not there,” Klaskow told NASSTRAC. “High inventories should be an issue that will be with us for the remainder of the year, if not into 2017, unless we all go shopping real soon.”

Inventories have been rising since the recession, but the inventory-to-sales ratios spiked following 2014, driven higher by stronger consumer demand that year and the West Coast ports labor dispute, which led many shippers to import earlier in the season and build up inventory.

“At the end of 2014, many shippers were telling me we can’t have that happen again,” Costello said. “They said we need to carry a little more inventory, have a little more of a cushion. Now you have too much inventory on hand and everybody says it needs to come down.”

In late 2014, inventory-to-sales ratios that had reached a plateau in the “soft patch” suddenly shot upward, and they’ve been climbing since. Shippers haven’t forgotten how to manage inventory, Costello said; they’re simply keeping more, and having difficulty forecasting demand.

Unusually warm weather last December, for example, cut deeply into demand for winter clothing at a time when stockpiles of coats, hats, gloves and other seasonal items had peaked. Retailers that had “invested” in inventory to avoid out-of-stock moments in stores had too much stock.

The rapid increase in the growth of online shopping also complicates inventory management as it reconfigures not only sales models, but how retailers source, store and ship goods.

Shippers at NASSTRAC and in other interviews have told JOC.com reducing inventories is a priority in 2016, but de-stocking is much harder than stocking. Everything depends on the consumer. Weak consumer demand means stockpiles of goods are likely to be reduced slowly.

If low unemployment and rising wages spur U.S. consumers to open their wallets wider this summer, inventory may fall more rapidly, though that could also reduce the support private inventory investment lends to GDP, cutting into GDP growth. Imports also subtract from GDP.

Greater personal consumption expenditures and fixed residential investment — more consumer spending and more housing starts — could help fill the gap, however, along with government infrastructure spending and, more unlikely, an increase in exports, all of which contribute to GDP.

Costello expects U.S. GDP to increase about 2 percent in 2016, compared with 2.4 percent the past two years. “That’s not good, but it’s not contraction either,” he said. “This is a very mature economy. If you’re sitting around waiting for 3.5 percent growth, don’t hold your breath.”

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Naugatuck Clean-up Pilot A Great Success

THOMASTON, CT –  Volunteers from the Railroad Museum Of New England (RMNE), the Naugatuck River Revival Group (NRRG), O&G Industries, and the Boy Scouts completely exceeded all expectations on Saturday by removing enough tires to fill two 30 yard dumpsters from an area less than 3 miles long between the Naugatuck River and CT Route 8 in Thomaston and Watertown. More than 20 people devoted their Saturday to clean up the environment and pull tires both big and small.
Volunteers rode the train to Jericho Bridge. There they pulled the tires from the riverbank and brush and rolled them next to the Naugatuck Railroad mainline. From there a tie crane lifted them into a dump car. The train dumped the tires at Thomaston Station where a bucket loader lifted them into dumpsters. For the trial run, two teams started at Jericho Bridge, one on each side of the mainline and worked their way south and one team started at Frost Bridge Road and worked their way north. After lunch, volunteers returned to work south of Frost Bridge Road and pulled out more tires.

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Maite Hontelé & Linda Briceño: live at JazzAhead! 2016

Jazz You Too

On the day of the live streaming at Jazzahead! 2016 I could only watch a small part of the concert. I checked it later on, here it is the meeting of two trumpet players – amazing music!

Line-up: Maite Hontelé (tpt), Linda Briceño (tpt, voc), Thomas Böttcher (p), Camilo Villa (b), Sebastian Nickoll (cja), Daniel Hahnfeld (tim)

Watch the concert at:http://tinyurl.com/jpggp9f

linda maite

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INFOWORKS Great Railroad WebSite: 1980 Olympics, Troy Union RR and MORE

It all started out when we got a note from Richard O. Aichele from Information Works Inc. in Saratoga Springs, NY. He commented on one of our WebSites about “Who Owns Grand Central” and then: “Back in 1980 I lived under GCT for several days between runs of the Irving Trust Winter Olympics Spacial.  I was the guy who had the fun of getting the five private cars together, dealing with the railroads and making the trips run as smoothly as possible.  I have some the details of it on my website www.inforworks.com/trains.htm
Still remember how different – quiet like a cathedral –  GCT was about 3 or 4 AM.

Took a look at his Website. Before I even got to the 1980 Olympics, I ran into a section on the Troy Union Railroad. (One of our favorites).

Then I got to his section on the 1980 Olympics and the Irving Trust Company special train. Great details, great pictures.

He also has a section on the Railroad Steam Era.

Boston MBTA unveils rehabbed Government Center Station

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) yesterday reopened the Government Center Station in Boston, marking the completion of a two-year reconstruction project.

The station now features a glass head house structure and elevator access from street level to the Green and Blue line trolley routes.

Additionally, the station is now compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Previously, riders could access the station only by stairways and escalators, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) officials said in a blog post.

Other upgrades include new escalators, LED signage, a new and expanded fare collection area, upgraded backup electrical power supply, improved interior finishes, and a new emergency exit structure on Cambridge Street.

“Crews have worked hard to keep our pledge to reopen the station in two years – a feat they were only able to accomplish by closing the entire station, rather than parts of it,” said MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola.

The project was completed on time and under budget, added Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. The reconstruction cost $82 million, radio station WBUR Boston reported.

Comets Bow Out in First Round

The Utica Comets third season came to a halt with a 6-3 loss to the Albany Devils Thursday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Devils took the best-of-five series three games to one.

Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) had a multi-point night for Utica, while Alex Friesen (1-0-1) and T.J Hensick (1-0-1) had the other two Comet goals. Travis Ehrhardt (0-1-1), David Shields (0-1-1), Jordan Subban (0-1-1), and Jon Landry (0-1-1) each had an assist on the night.

Albany fed off of a Comets mistake to jump out to a 1-0 lead early in the first. A Utica pass was picked off in the Comets zone by Matt Lorito. He took the puck down the center of the ice and ripped a shot past Joe Cannata.

The Devils were able to strike again seconds later on a Joseph Blandisi goal. Blandisi brought the puck down the left side of the ice and in on net. He made a move to get Cannata off balance and backhanded a shot into the net to give Albany a 2-0 lead.

Mike Sislo extended the Albany lead just over halfway through the first period. The Devils got out on a two on one and Blandisi skated down the right side with the puck. He then zipped a pass to Sislo, who streaked down the middle for a one-timer, Which gave the Devils a 3-0 lead.

Reid Boucher added on to the Devils lead in the second, turning defense into offense. Boucher stole the puck in the Comets zone, had an open scoring chance and took advantage, as he sent a shot past Cannata to make it 4-0.

Utica showed some urgency towards the end of the second, as they connected for a goal to make it 4-1. Shields fired a shot on net that deflected off the net minder. Ehrhardt grabbed the rebound and rifled a pass across the slot to Grenier who one-timed it into the open net to give the Utica crowd some life.

Albany was able to strike shortly after with a short-handed goal. Pavel Zacha got the puck on the goal line and passed it out to Blake Pietila, who put a wrist shot to the right of Cannata for a 5-1 Devils lead.

The Comets didn’t go away easy, as they cut the lead to 5-2 early in the third. Subban set up Friesen, who stood above the right circle. Friesen ripped a shot that went through the legs of the goalkeeper and kept Utica in it.

Hensick and the Comets chipped away at the Albany lead again midway through the third. Albany goaltender Scott Wedgewood went behind the net to get the puck and Grenier snuck up on him and stole it. Grenier found Hensick in the crease for a one-timer, as Wedgewood was trying to scramble to get back. The Hensick goal cut the Devils lead to 5-3.

Richard Bachman was pulled from net with just over two minutes left in the game and Pietila put one in from mid ice to close out the scoring and give the Devils a 6-3 win.

Utica totaled 35 shots on the night, while Albany finished with 34 shots. Cannata (23 saves) and Richard Bachman (5 saves) combined for 28 saves in net for the Comets. Wedgewood made 32 saves in goal for the Devils.

Digital Supply Chains: What’s the Big Deal?

There’s an interesting report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Three Paths to Advantage with Digital Supply Chain, that illustrates the urgent need for companies today to transition to a digital supply chain. The report brings good news… and a dire warning.

BCG recognizes that the digital supply chain is not new, and it has been productive, but notes that it has failed to deliver on its full potential. BCG pins the blame on its “inability to connect disparate systems, provide end-to-end visibility into the supply chain, and crunch massive amounts of data.” (Three Paths to Advantage with Digital Supply Chain, p1)

Thanks to recent developments in technology, that is changing. And most importantly, the companies that are adopting the technology are seeing some impressive results (see below). But first, lets get some clarity on the term “digital supply chain.”

What is the Digital Supply Chain?

Definitions vary, but Capgemini has useful definition that I think captures the essence of the concept.

Traditional supply chains rely on a mix of electronic and paper-based processes and documentation. The organizational structure is often characterized by functional and geographic silos which do not share information openly, thereby leading to sub-optimal performance.

Digital supply chains, on the other hand, have the capability for extensive information availability, and enable superior collaboration and communication across digital platforms resulting in improved reliability, agility and effectiveness.

Source: Digital Transformation of Supply Chains, p3, Capgemini Consulting (PDF)

The distinguishing feature of digital supply chains is their “connectedness.” Rather than siloed and fragmented, data, visibility, workflows, etc., are seamlessly integrated.

“Supply chains” is a poor designation for this, and far more appropriate for the traditional supply chains than the new “digital supply chains.” The new, connected “digital supply chains” are networks rather than chains; all parties are equals, privy to a “single version of the truth,” and capable of collaborating with all other parties in the network.

Why Digital Supply Chain?

Results! Consider the results BCG says the leaders in digital supply chain management are seeing compared to their slower competitors:

  • 10% better product availability
  • 25% improvement in response to demand
  • 30% improvement in realization of working capital reductions
  • 40-110% higher operating margins
  • 17-64% fewer cash conversion days

Source: Three Paths to Advantage with Digital Supply Chain, BCG

What Do You Need to Do?

BGC identifies three key strategies that separate the leaders from the rest and that will help you focus your efforts and not get overwhelmed.

Fix Performance Gaps – use digital supply chain to handle the most laborious and important tasks, such as providing critical analytics, calculating optimal inventory allocations, and forecasting demand more accurately.

Innovate Business Processes – automate traditionally manual processes, from dock door scheduling, to replenishment, and even fine tune the supply chain in real time with a supply chain “control tower.”

Advanced technology today is capable of automating many supply chain processes, and “process robots” can continuously and incrementally optimize the supply chain as demand and supply conditions change. 

Disrupt the Supply Chain – find new opportunities to reach customers and speed up delivery. For example, companies can easily reach consumers directly, via ecommerce, their own estores or by using established and proven marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba.

Many-to-many networks are particularly relevant here. With every participant in the network potentially connected to every other participant, the network is rich with opportunities. Many-to-many networks are a vast “inter-enterprise social network,” perfect for finding new trading partners, sharing infrastructure and costs, achieving end-to-end visibility, and collaborating across trading partners to deliver superior service to the consumer at lower total cost.

“He Who Hesitates….”

BCG provides a warning:

“Digital supply chain management has matured and is generating substantial value. Organizations need to move quickly to apply the highest priority opportunities to their business and industry context. They must find the right mix of fixing performance gaps, innovating business processes, and disrupting the supply chain…. Companies cannot afford to wait.”

There is much more in the report, I highly recommend it. You can read it here: BCG Perspectives on Digital Supply Chains

Devon Transfer Reopens as Metro North Track Work Resumes

MILFORD, CONNECTICUT — The temporary Devon Transfer point on Metro North’s New Haven Line trains will go back into service.

Work to the overhead catenary lines and the metal bridge over the Housatonic River is resuming, requiring that the transfer point be reopened, Metro North officials said.

The Y-shaped wooden platform on the Milford shore of the river was closed in mid-November when the bridge rehabilitation work was stopped for the season. Waterbury branch trains that had been using the Devon stop to transfer onto the main New Haven Line went back to making that transfer in Bridgeport.

“The temporary station at Devon Transfer will be reactivated until October,’’ Metro North spokeswoman Nancy Gamerman said. “It’s a planned continuation of last year’s bridge and track work.’’

Work on the project began last April and continued seven days a week, weather permitting, Metro North officials said. The state Department of Transportation is a partner on the project that involves steel repairs, a new wooden deck and new miter rails on the Track 3 span.

The northbound side of the Devon bridge spanning the Housatonic River in Stratford became stuck in the open position, delaying traffic for days in July. The incident occurred during a routine bridge test and was not related to the repair project.

The work on Devon’s Track 3, known as the inbound local track, is part of a $5.8 million project the railroad calls a “priority repair project on Devon Bridge, ” that is designed to keep the span operating.

Timber and rails are being replaced on the section of Track 3 on the bridge itself; some minor steel repairs are also being done.

During this construction season, the following changes will be in effect:

—Southbound customers who usually transfer to main line trains at Bridgeport will instead get off at the Devon Transfer Station.

—Customers who travel to New Haven will transfer again at Bridgeport for a main line train to New Haven.

—Northbound customers will be dropped off main line trains at Devon Transfer Station and board a waiting train for Waterbury.

Devon Transfer features a walkway connecting two four-car length platforms. The temporary location has lights and a public address system and will solely provide train-to-train transfers.