Residents cast their votes around the area in NY primaries

Voters line up outside the Utica Armory.

Voters across New York are casting ballots in presidential primaries that could be pivotal for both Republicans and Democrats.

New York is home to both parties’ front-runners, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. Democrats are choosing between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, while Republicans are deciding among Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

While registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by 2-to-1 in New York, many voters on both sides of the aisle have something to say about Trump. And some are calling this primary the toughest choice they’ve had to make at the polls.


NYCT subway ridership reaches highest point in nearly 70 years

Last year, MTA New York City Transit‘s (NYCT) subway system logged an annual ridership of 1.763 billion, marking the agency’s highest ridership since 1948.

The figure marks a 0.6 percent increase compared with 2014’s numbers, NYCT officials said in a press release.

In addition, 2015 weekday ridership nudged up 0.9 percent to 5.7 million, while weekend ridership fell 0.7 percent to 5.9 million.

Weekday ridership changes were “fairly evenly distributed” by borough last year, agency officials said. At Manhattan and Queens stations, ridership rose 0.9 percent, matching the systemwide increase. Brooklyn and Bronx station entries increased by 1.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

The entire subway system carried more than 6 million riders on 49 separate weekdays, NYCT officials said.

“As subway ridership surges along with New York City’s population, the increased number of customers creates challenges for the MTA to operate the subway system while minimizing delays, crowding and inconvenience,” agency officials said. “The subway system has traditionally performed maintenance work during off-peak hours, which are now experiencing record ridership.”

Weekend ridership along the “A” line, for instance, increased 9.6 percent.

Meanwhile, NYCT on Monday announced plans to increase scheduled service on its “2” subway line in light of substantial weekend ridership growth.

By fall, the agency will add a total of 31 extra round trips on Saturdays and 18 additional trips on Sundays on the line.

Last year, nearly every station served by the 2 Line logged increased ridership. The most significant jump in ridership — 13.6 percent — occurred at the East 180th Street Station in the Bronx.

“As ridership continues to soar, it becomes more challenging to provide service while doing the necessary work to keep the system in a state of good repair,” stated the press release. “Despite those challenges and in response to increased ridership demand, [NYCT] evaluated weekend service patterns to find opportunities for increasing trip frequency while accommodating ongoing capital work and critical maintenance work.”

The agency also plans to increase the 7 Line’s service on weekday evenings, prior to the start of construction-related service diversions. In particular, NYCT is adding two round trips between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on that line.

Implementation of both service additions is slated to begin in fall, depending on crew and schedule changes that will be finalized in the coming months. The cost of these changes is $2.5 million annually and has been included in the agency’s 2016 operating budget, NYCT officials said.

Jazzahead! Festival (21-24 April, 2016)

Jazz You Too

It seems like a great place to be in a few days, Jazzahead! is an annual exhibition, the most important meeting spot for the international jazz scene taking place in Bremen, Germany. The numbers are pretty impressive, the bands have to apply for the showcase festival. This year there were 587 applications from 42 different countries. Four juries had to select the jazzahead! showcase programme – they have reached the final selection – 40 bands from 16 countries. The bands will present themselves on the three stages of Exhibition Center Bremen and Kulturzentrum Schlachhof at jazzahead!  (21 – 24 April, 2016). I have posted many jazzahead showcases before, some of them are unforgettable, check the playlist below for some surprises!

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We Endorse Bernie Sanders Because We are Free To

What the US corporate press sells you as objectivity is really nothing more than a well packaged lie. In this election cycle the corporate press is pushing their candidate as hard as we are pushing ours. So how come we can be up front about it and they can’t.

We are supported directly by the people we report to.


Marc Ash
Curator, Reader Supported News

Sure, I’ll make a donation!

Internet Of Things For Rail

The Internet of Things (IoT) is but one of the phrases bandied about to characterize the advanced connectivity of devices, systems and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. It covers a variety of protocols, domains and applications. In addition to IoT, there’s the Industrial Internet, the Internet of Everything and variations on each as the concept continues its creep into the branding realm. For this month’s series of articles, we’ll stick with IoT.

IoT enables freight and passenger roads to use sensors, software M2M learning, “Big Data” analytics, cloud computing and other technology to gather and analyze information from various sources and data streams — and then use those analyses to drive efficiencies, better manage operations and, possibly, offer new services.

IoT, then, represents a world of opportunity for railroads and the technology providers that serve them. And it’s a world strategists in all railroad departments — from information technology (IT) to transportation to engineering to mechanical to communication and signaling — will need to tap into and be engaged with as the digital evolution continues.

“It’s not ‘Build it and they’ll come’ — it’s ‘What is the outcome you want to drive?’” says Jamie Miller, president and chief executive officer of GE Transportation, which now characterizes itself as a global digital industrial supplier to the rail, mining, marine, stationary power and drilling industries. “From there, you work backward into the data.”

From AEI to IoT

In rail country, the data seeds were sown with automatic equipment identification (AEI) tags, the first of which were installed in North America in 1989. A train crew received a message from a wayside detector, and AEI readers updated a database with passing and directional information. They were passive tags; the power was supplied by the reader.

When the Internet entered the mainstream in the mid-1990s and the general public was well on its way to untangling the Web, North American railroads weren’t exactly early adopters. But some of their customers were. At Procter & Gamble, brand manager Kevin Ashton put radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags on packages as they moved through the supply chain, and then linked them with the Internet.

“Early on, it was just RFID,” says Keith Dierkx, IBM’s global industry leader-rail and director of the company’s Global Rail Innovation Center.

In 1999, Ashton coined the “IoT” term, using it in the title of a presentation he made at P&G, or so conventional wisdom/IoT lore goes.

From there, Ashton and others — including Dierkx, who in the late 1990s worked for sensor analytics firm Savi Technology Inc. and served with

Ashton as a technology board member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Auto-ID Center — continued to ponder the possibilities connectivity/IoT afforded within the supply chain.

Railroads, in the meantime, continued to install trackside AEI readers, and more and more rail cars featured RFID tags. The AEI sensors could provide information on rail-car location and then interact with an increasing array of monitoring and detection devices to provide an even more detailed view of the conditions of the cars, as Dierkx noted in a 2009 white paper he penned for IBM titled “The Smarter Railroad: An Opportunity for The Railroad Industry.”

GE Transportation now characterizes itself as a global digital industrial supplier. For good reason: The company’s Evolution™ Series Tier 4 locomotive features more than 200 onboard sensors that monitor performance and health and process more than 1 billion instructions per second.
Source: GE

“It’s like those Russian nesting dolls,” says Dierkx, who works with railroads around the globe on a range of IT and business transformation issues, including the use of predictive analytics. “Nested visibility is where this started.”

And as the rail industry became “more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent,” business model innovation became more attainable, Dierkx wrote. “For rail executives to capitalize on such change, they need to accelerate investment in new intelligence,” he noted.

Investing in intelligence

Railroads have been investing in that new intelligence, particularly in recent years. For example, Union Pacific Railroad has been connecting wayside hotbox detectors systemwide, creating a single network to determine trend lines and identify bearings before they fail. UP also is developing a proprietary ultrasonic wheel crack detection system to prevent derailments, which in turn drives safety and efficiency.

Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration granted BNSF Railway Co. permission to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to obtain video after a derailment or to perform bridge inspections in unsafe conditions.

“We’re leveraging video coming back from those UAVs and hope to predict failures before they happen,” BNSF Vice President and Chief Information Officer Jo-ann Olsovsky told attendees of GE’s 2015 Minds + Machines summit, held Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2015, in San Francisco.

But all the major freight roads, really, have been investing in remote and real-time monitoring technology to measure rail-car and locomotive health, track condition and component condition; increasingly, short lines and regionals are, too (see page 18). Ditto for passenger railroads and transit agencies.

“The big challenge is the integration of all this,” as CN VP and CIO Serge Leduc told Progressive Railroading in 2013.

Technology providers are more than happy to help on the integration front. They’re well aware of the transformation railroads are going through — they’re going through it, as well.

Last fall, GE launched a marketing campaign to reinforce its position as a “digital industrial company.” As GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt told Minds + Machines attendees last year: “Our CIOs and IT professionals are the biggest drivers of productivity in our company.”

The aim is to help customers drive productivity, too. Introduced in 2012 and field tested in 2013, GE’s Evolution™ Series Tier 4 road locomotive features more than 200 onboard sensors that monitor performance and health, process more than 1 billion instructions per second and provide about 10 gigabytes of data per year. So far, GE has delivered more than 500 Tier 4-compliant locomotives to North American customers.

“The value capture [from these units] so far has been incredible,” says GE’s Miller, who was named president and CEO last September after serving as GE’s SVP and CIO.

Miller cites the company’s Trip Optimizer software as an example of that value capture. Installed on 7,000 locomotives in North America, the software builds an optimal operating plan based on data collected about a train’s characteristics. In 2015, it saved customers $200 million in fuel costs, says Miller.

Other GE applications, from Movement Planner (crew management) to Yard Planner (hump yard optimization) to OASIS (operational control for intermodal yards), also continue to “unlock value,” says GE Transportation Chief Digital Officer Seth Bodnar. Linking it all is GE’s Predix Cloud™, a platform-as-a-service.

Predix captures and analyzes the volume, velocity and variety of machine data within a secure cloud environment. The platform soon will be commercially available to customers and other industrial businesses for managing data and applications.

Technology providers also are lining up to serve passenger railroads. In 2014, Cisco Systems unveiled Connected Rail, a solution designed to modernize aging rail networks, improve safety, drive down expenses and provide passengers an “improved connected experience.” The technology, which integrates onboard, trackside, wayside, signaling and back-office systems, includes a positive train control component. The Cisco® IoT System comprises a range of products designed to address network connectivity, physical and cybersecurity, data analytics, management and automation, cloud-based application development and Cisco Fog Computing.

“When you’re talking about massive amounts of data like we are here, there’s only so much you can house onboard a locomotive,” GE’s Miller says.

All this data …

And we’re talking massive amounts of data. Some of the new-generation track geometry cars with digital video are generating nearly a petabyte of data a year, says Allan Zarembski, research professor and director of the Railroad Engineering and Safety Program in the University of Delaware’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

A petabyte and counting. In December 2015, a presenter at the university’s second annual “Big Data In Railroad Maintenance Planning” conference in Newark, Del., talked in terms of technology generating brontobytes of data. A petabyte is 1,024 terabytes and a brontobyte is “a million times bigger” than that, says Zarembski, the Big Data conference’s co-chair. “What we’re trying to tackle is the proverbial mountain of data — railroads need to convert the data into usable information to guide their capital maintenance planning programs,” he says. “We also try to highlight the new generation of tools and how they’re used.”

Attendees ranged from railroaders in the engineering, IT, operations and transportation departments; railroad contractors; and suppliers. Representatives from five Class Is and Amtrak also spoke, sharing their respective roads’ “needs” from Big Data.

Zarembski and two of his colleagues presented a case study titled “Using Big Data Techniques to Determine the Relationship Between Rail Defects and Track Geometry Defects.” It featured the results of a Federal Railroad Administration-sponsored project that made use of five years of inspection data from 21,000 miles of track on a major freight railroad and used Big Data analysis techniques. More than 335,000 track geometry defect records and 26,000 rail defect records were analyzed.

The analysis showed that the probability of a rail defect occurring at a location where there were one or more preceding geometry defects was “strong and significant.”

“If I’m a maintenance planner, that’s immediate action,” says Zarembski, who founded railway technical consulting and applied technology company ZETA-TECH Associates Inc. in 1984 and has studied rail inspection data for more than three decades. “This is the kind of usable information we’re talking about.”

Even more valuable information can be gleaned via IoT. In theory, strategists could be able to use Big Data analytics and cognitive computing to predict market shifts like the crude-by-rail traffic boom from a few years back and other energy trends, IBM’s Dierkx suggests. For now, rail execs appear to have their data drawers full integrating the tools they already have.

“If nothing else, we want to be proactive rather than reactive, so we can look ahead and identify where our problems are going to be and plan accordingly,” says Zarembski, adding that the University of Delaware’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering plans to host its third annual Big Data conference sometime in December.

“So much of it is what people have talked about for years, but the tools are catching up to us so we can do a much better job of it.”

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Labor stability key for mega-ships handling at US West Coast ports

LONG BEACH, California — With U.S. West Coast ports facing increasing productivity challenges as more mega-ships call their docks, it’s abundantly clear that labor stability is essential if the ports want to keep, and grow, their share of U.S. imports.

Shippers aren’t convinced the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association are doing enough not only to mend relations, but to improve the efficiency of cargo handling.

After listening to representatives of two shipper organizations express the same pessimistic view that labor and management learned little from the embarrassing port meltdown during the 2014-15 West Coast labor contract negotiations, ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe assured importers and exporters the dynamics are going to change.

“I get what you’re saying. You don’t want excuses. You want results,” Familathe told the JOC’s 16th Annual TPM Confernce Tuesday in Long Beach.

The TPM conference heard from top officials of the ILWU, the PMA, the Office Clerical Unit of ILWU Local 63 and the shipping lines and terminal operators that negotiate with the OCU Their message was consistent: a reliable work force is needed at West Coast ports, beginning today. Equally as important, labor and management must cooperate to improve cargo-handling processes so the biggest ships calling in North America can be worked efficiently and consistently week after week.

If the ILWU and PMA truly fix the labor-management problems that have plagued the ports since 2002, they will have simply taken the first step in a complex process that is needed to reduce port congestion, said Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition.

If West Coast ports do not address port productivity immediately and effectively, the “drip, drip, drip” of cargo diversion to other ports will continue, he said.

Cargo interests feel betrayed by the PMA and ILWU. The organizations that represent importers and exporters met with management in the months leading up to the start of negotiations in May 2014. “We were assured nothing would happen. These disruptions should never have happened,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy of the National Retail Federation, which represents large, medium and small importers.

AgTC represents exporters of agricultural and forest products, many of whom are captive to West Coast ports because the value of their freight and thin profit margins dictate they can only export through ports close to the point of production. AgTC members told labor and management that the inability to fill orders due to labor disruptions could result in agricultural exporters losing overseas customers for life. Agricultural exporters ended up suffering more than any other shippers during last year’s port congestion, Friedmann said.

The overwhelming lack of trust in West Coast labor and management was graphically revealed in an electronic poll taken during a beneficial cargo owner panel at TPM. The poll revealed that 85 percent of the respondents do not anticipate any significant improvements going forward.

Labor and management leaders told three separate TPM panels they intend to prove those doubters wrong. ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, sitting next to PMA President James McKenna, said that if the PMA formally requests there be negotiations to extend the existing five-year contract beyond July 1, 2019, in order to convince customers there will be labor peace on the West Coast, he will present the request to his people.

McEllrath said the ILWU does not want a repeat of the 2014-15 negotiations. The union wants to win back the cargo that was lost and grow the cargo base further through efficient cargo handling. “We have to do a good job,” he said.

McKenna said the contract agreement that was reached on Feb. 20, 2015, and formally ratified in May, contains the elements needed to ensure labor peace and reduce unexpected work stoppages. The contract includes a new, objective arbitration process that will ensure neutrality in reaching decisions. The contract will promote labor stability and provides the foundation for improved cargo-handling processes, so a contract extension makes sense. “Look for the letter,” he told McEllrath.

Although the PMA lockout of the ILWU that followed work slowdowns in the 2002 contract negotiations, and the destructive work slowdowns and employer retaliation during the 2014-15 negotiations may seem to be unprecedented, they fit into an historical context in which a period of gut-wrenching change in the maritime industry is met by extreme measures by labor and management.

The introduction of containerization in the 1960s and 1970s was such a period, said Tony Scioscia, principal, Anthony A. Scioscia Management, an industry veteran of operations and labor relations for shipping lines and terminal operators the past 40 years. Fearing a significant loss of  jobs due to containerization, the International Longshoremen’s Association on the East Coast struck four times between 1962 and 1977. The ILWU engaged in a 130-day strike in 1971-72. “It was a tumultuous period,” Scioscia said.

Some 30 years later, the employer lockout of 2002 and the work slowdowns during the 2014-15 negotiations were reactions to the next wave of change in the industry, said David Arian, a commissioner on the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners who began working as a longshoreman in 1965. Arian later served as president of Local 13, the largest ILWU local on the coast, and also as international president.

Terminal operators are still in the process of implementing information technology systems and automation of cargo-handling machines. These advancements will eliminate some jobs but will create new work opportunities. Labor peace is possible if employers, beginning at the marine terminal level, work closely with the union and provide proper training so ILWU members can efficiently perform the work, he said.

Developing this partnership is a work in progress. It is playing out in Oakland, where ILWU Local 10, one of the most militant locals on the coast, continued to engage in job actions last summer over regional issues even as other ports were back at work.

Chris Lytle, the port’s executive director, has formed an efficiency task force comprised of shipping lines, terminal operators, ILWU locals, truckers, customs brokers, cargo interests and other port stakeholders. The task force, which meets regularly, is charged with developing measures to improve cargo-handling efficiency and reduce truck waiting time at the terminals, but there is also a heavy element of education involved.

The various industry sectors began to realize that they have little knowledge of or appreciation for the challenges that other sectors face, and how their individual actions affect others. “There were a lot of misconceptions,” Lytle said. The education process took some time, but now there is a level of trust in the harbor in which the ILWU local officials are not only cooperating more closely with the PMA, but also with the importers and exporters who rely on Oakland as their main gateway, he said.

Building upon that trust is key to taking the next step, which is to examine ways in which all members of the supply chain can cooperate to reduce bottlenecks so ports are facilitators of trade rather than impediments. Arian said this is where all West Coast ports must go now that the new contract is in place and labor peace is assured. “It’s one thing to have stability. It’s another to have efficiency,” he said.

Developing efficient cargo-handling involves stowage of vessels in Asia to expedite unloading at West Coast ports, consistent crane productivity against the vessel, increasing cargo velocity through the container yard, seamless transfer of containers to trucks and trains and creative measures such as container dray-offs and free-flowing of containers to off-dock yards. Arian said the ports are taking the lead in these efforts. They are moving beyond their traditional landlord roles and are becoming actively involved in helping the various stakeholders to collaborate across industry lines.

Even with this positive buzz on the waterfront, the maritime industry must address an albatross that continues to weigh heavily on port operations. During  the 30 years of peace and prosperity from 1972 to 2002, management and labor built “negative patterns,” Scioscia said. The industry fell into a pattern of costly contracts and inefficient work practices, a dangerous environment marked by expectations of escalating salaries and benefits even as productivity declined. This is not sustainable in an era of big ships and unprecedented cargo surges, he said.

Similar expectations arose in the office clerical sector of the industry. The OCU, with about 900 members, represents the office workers who process shipping documents that are crucial to the shipment of cargo to and through marine terminals. Like the cargo-handling sector, the OCU workers also feel threatened by computer technology that can be used to outsource work to non-union workers in other states and even other countries.

The OCU workers, while members of the ILWU, have a different contract from the dockworkers. In fact, the office workers have 20 individual contracts that present a level of complexity in negotiations unmatched in any other industry, said Stephen Berry, a partner in the employment law department of Paul Hastings LLP who represents employers in OCU negotiations.

This complexity resulted in marathon negotiations for the current contract. Those talks began in 2010 and continued for two and one-half years into 2013. The negotiations included an OCU job action that was honored by ILWU dockworkers, thereby shutting down cargo handling at a number of the terminals, and the dispatching of a federal mediator in Southern California.

“I was certainly determined to do it differently this time,” said John Fageaux, president of ILWU Local 63 OCU. The current contract does not expire until June 30, but negotiations are moving along quickly, and on Tuesday Fageaux announced that the 17th of the 20 contracts was signed.

As with the dockworkers, wages are rarely a sticking point in negotiations. “The OCU are the highest-paid clerical workers in the world,” Berry said. In an industry where information technology continues to advance, jurisdiction is a critical issue and that is a major focus of the negotiations. Successful conclusion of the process will give a big boost to stability as the contracts being negotiated will last for seven years.

Berry and Fageaux agreed that growth of West Coast cargo volumes depends upon labor reliability and efficiency of work process in the office clerical worker space, and that is where their efforts are pointed. “We have to do things differently. No one is going to tolerate disruptions,” Fageaux said.

This is also the direction in which the PMA and ILWU must head in the cargo-handling sector, Scioscia said. “We know what the problems are. We know what the fixes are. We must work together jointly on these issues,” he said.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at and follow him on Twitter: @billmongelluzzo.