GE confirms layoffs at Schenectady

General Electric on Thursday confirmed a round of jobs cuts at its Schenectady/Rotterdam campus, the site of several earlier layoffs in 2017.

As in the previous layoffs, GE would not say how many employees are affected or what they do for the company. It indicated only that those affected are salaried employees, not the hourly workers who do production work.

GE employs about 4,000 in the sprawling complex at the foot of Erie Boulevard. A source there said the latest round targets about 75 of them.

The company has been struggling for years to increase profitability and reverse a long slide in stock value. The tempo and urgency of GE’s efforts have increased in recent months, with the arrival of a new CEO who indicated in November that Schenectady-based GE Power will need to cut $1 billion in expenses.

GE Power issued a statement Thursday about the layoffs in Schenectady:

“Based on the current challenges in the power industry and a significant decline in orders, GE Power continues to transform our new, combined business to better meet the needs of our customers. As we have said, we are working to reduce costs and simplify our structure to better align our product solutions, and these steps will include layoffs. These are difficult decisions, which does not reflect on our employees’ performance, dedication and hard work. GE will be providing a comprehensive severance package to impacted employees, including outplacement and transition support to new employment.”

By “combined business,” General Electric meant GE Power and GE Energy Connections, two businesses that were combined to form GE Power when GE Energy Connections President Russell Stokes took over as president of GE Power this past summer.

The publicly acknowledged rounds of job cuts earlier this year in Schenectady have been smaller than the one confirmed Thursday:
In September, a source within GE said 15 to 25 low-level management employees were laid off. The company would say only that a “small number” of jobs were eliminated.
In March, a “very small number” of jobs were cut, the company said, but again it would not identify them.
The only clearly defined round of Schenectady job cuts was in January, when another GE business — Current Powered by GE — reported 35 layoffs to the state Department of Labor as required by the state’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification process. The other GE layoffs in Schenectady apparently did not meet the requirements of mandatory WARN reporting.


Home Front in Early WWII

Pacific Paratrooper

Remember a FULL-service gas station? Remember a FULL-service gas station?

It Was Hard To Keep The Good Times Rollin’

Columnist Marquis Childs said after Pearl Harbor: “Nothing will ever be the same.” Thirty-five years later he added: “It never has and never will be.” We need to remember that in 1941 as much as 40% of U.S. families lived below the poverty level, approximately 8 million worked for less than minimum wage and another 8 million were unemployed. The median income was about $2,000 per year. The government, in virtually fighting two separate wars, entered into civilian lives by raising taxes, rationing, controlling prices and allotting jobs.   Once the war began, truck convoys became commonplace and train depots burst into arenas of activity. The movement was not entirely servicemen as women began to migrate into towns and communities near the military bases and jobs when they entered the workforce. Judy Guion’s (Greatest Generation Lessons)…

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The Days of New York’s 24/7 Subway May be Numbered


A new report suggests the MTA can’t be trusted to fix the system’s massive problems.

In brief, New York’s subways are in no short supply of two things: deep-seated, systemic problems and people who propose ways to fix them. Almost every day, a solution is put forth to unwind decades worth of deferred maintenance, bad political decisions, and infrastructure that ages by the minute. We look for answers abroad, nationwide, and often, here at home. In fact, there’s a vast community of NYC-based transit thinkers and tinkerers who have dedicated their lives to devising ideas on how our commutes can be a little less shitty.

However, most of the time ambitions fall upon deaf bureaucratic ears: after being asked at a recent board meeting about making the system more handicap-accessible, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Chairman Joe Lhota was reportedly overheard on a hot mic muttering, “Like I don’t have enough fucking problems.”

With that said, the Regional Plan Association’s (RPA) Fourth Regional Plan couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

Amongst critics, the 95-year-old urban research nonprofit—the oldest of its kind in America—is seen as a sort of master of ceremonies, crystal-balling development issues, and mega-projects in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut years in advance. In its time, RPA has released three such plans: in 1929, as the region was urbanizing; in 1968, during the great suburban sprawl; and in 1996, as the region recovered from two decades of decline. Then, the group called for, and ultimately influenced the creation of, transit improvements like the Second Avenue Subway and the East Side Access for the Long Island Rail Road.

The fourth plan, released on Thursday after five years of research, comes at a time when the transit landscape appears grimmer than ever, with delays and breakdowns now daily occurrences, and short- and long-term improvements measured both in years and billions of dollars. RPA argues that, although the economic picture now may look rosy for the region, dismal transit networks could hamper growth going forward. As we already know, New Yorkers are losing jobs and money due to subway woes.

The 25-year plan touches upon a number of issues and ultimately offers 61 recommendations to amend areas like housing, affordability, and the growing spectre of climate change. But since Tunnel Vision is a blog about subways, we’ll keep it to just transit. And to get the subways up and running again, RPA’s plan offers two major pathways forward.

The first would be, perhaps, the most shocking to New Yorkers: switching the subway system over to a ‘24/3’ model, where New York’s subways would shut down from 12:30 AM to 5 AM on weeknights, but stay open entirely from Friday to Sunday. As it stands, New York’s metro is known internationally for being the subway that doesn’t sleep. “But that’s why the stations look like they do,” said Rich Barone, RPA’s VP of transportation.

Shutting down the subways overnight would allow for more routine maintenance, which other cities that do close temporarily are better able to complete, Barone argued. The report found that only 1.5 percent of total daily ridership actually occurs during those hours, and asserts that the population can instead be serviced by overnight buses. The idea here is that buses would be able to better move people at that time, with less-congested streets. But few things piss off New Yorkers more than hearing that a shuttle bus is running in lieu of a subway.

Secondly, the plan asks New Yorkers to improve their tolerance for—or, really, get used to—12-18 month-long shutdowns like the one that inspired this blog. Using the L train shutdown in 2019 as an example, RPA says that wholesale closures of entire lines are really what’s needed to make them palatable to the modern age. (It was RPA that told VICE in April that the L train shutdown could be an “opportunity.”)

In order to do this, the report calls on New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to create a ‘Subway Reconstruction Public Benefit Corporation,’ an independent entity, separate from the much-maligned MTA, whose single task would be to overhaul the city’s subway system in 15 years flat. This would include speeding up the modernization of the much-decried signal system (critics say it’d take 50 years at the current pace), and switching to a universal payment system, à la London (which is in the works). The latter would be beneficial for the myriad of transit projects—new and expanded subway lines; regional light rails; reactivated railroads on former freight lines; tunnels; etc.—that the report puts forward to keep up with the region’s rapid growth.

Elon Musk to compete for high-speed rail loop in Chicago


The billionaire tech entrepreneur joins the competition to build a high-speed loop connecting O’Hare Airport to downtown Chicago.

Elon Musk wants to take his train to Chicago.

The billionaire tech entrepreneur tweeted Wednesday that his Boring Company will compete to design, fund, build and operate a high-speed loop connecting O’Hare Airport with downtown Chicago.

Musk’s statement came after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for proposals to build and operate a high-speed rail line that will whisk passengers from the airport to downtown in 20 minutes or less, cutting travel times in half. Contractors will also have to figure out how to finance it without taxpayer dollars, Emanuel said.

Musk, the brains behind SpaceX and Tesla, created Boring Company to build transport tunnels that provide an alternative means of transportation and alleviate traffic congestion. But Musk’s plan for Chicago is a little different than his Hyperloop, a futuristic form of transportation that, if it ever moves past the drawing board, would use electromagnetic pulses to shotgun passengers through low-pressure tubes at near-supersonic speeds.

“A Loop is like a Hyperloop, but without drawing a vacuum inside the tube,” Musk tweeted. “Don’t need to get rid of air friction for short routes.”

So how will passengers travel, you might ask?

“Electric pods for sure. Rails maybe, maybe not,” Musk said in a reply in the thread.

Flexibility is the key to survival in a rapidly-changing world

International Railway Journal

THE quest to reduce the emission of greenhouse and noxious gases from diesel engines appears to have taken on a new sense of urgency judging by the recent flurry of announcements about pilot projects for alternative-fuelled trains and contracts for the supply of trains with innovative traction systems. Such developments are vital if rail is to maintain its environmental competitive edge over other modes.

Renfe in Spain will begin pilot tests this month of a two-car passenger train powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) in what it says are the first such trials in Europe. A CAF train is being used for the tests, in which one of its two diesel engines has been replaced by an LNG powered engine, with the remaining diesel used as a comparator.
Researchers expect to identify the technical requirements for LNG traction during the trials, which will offer a clearer idea of the environmental implications and the potential use of LNG on non-electrified lines.

In Germany, Lower Saxony Transport Authority (LNVG) signed a contract with Alstom and gas supplier Linde Group on November 9 for 14 Coradia iLint hydrogen fuel multiple units – the first order for iLint, following its debut at InnoTrans last year. Linde will install dedicated hydrogen refuelling facilities for the trains, which will have a range of 1000km on a single tank of hydrogen.

Meanwhile, the EcoTrain project led by German Rail (DB) is harnessing lithium-ion battery technology as an alternative to diesel operation, while last year, eight German railway associations called for further development of new traction systems such as batteries, fuel cells and hybrid systems.

In addition, Ballard Power Systems has signed an agreement with Siemens to develop a 200kW fuel cell engine for Siemens’ Mireo multiple unit, with the first main line trials planned for 2021. Siemens Mobility CEO Mrs Sabrina Soussa described the deal as “a decisive step towards replacing diesel-powered rail vehicles with emission-free vehicles.”

Ballard is also working with CRRC Tangshan, China, on a hydrogen-powered LRV and trials began on a 14km light rail line in Tangshan in October.

In the Netherlands, Arriva has signed a contract with Stadler for 18 Wink multiple units, which will initially operate on biodiesel. The trains will have engines designed to use hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), with provision for conversion to battery and overhead electric operation.

But it is not only rail which is developing new types of traction. A new potential threat to rail comes from Tesla. Mr Elon Musk, its founder and chief executive, unveiled the company’s first electric lorry, the Semi, in Los Angeles on November 17. Musk claims the overall cost of ownership for the Semi will be 12% less per kilometre than for diesel vehicles. The Semi will be able to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 20 seconds with a payload of 36 tonnes compared with around 1 minute for a diesel lorry, and it will climb 5% gradients at 105km/h compared with about 70km/h for a diesel. Tesla says the Semi will be able to regenerate 98% of kinetic energy to the battery. The Semi will have a range of 800km, and Tesla says it plans to introduce rapid dc chargers that will produce a 640km charge in 30 minutes.

The Semi will have an enhanced autopilot as well as automatic emergency braking, automatic lane keeping, lane departure warning, and event recording. But Musk’s most important claim is that several Semis will be able to autonomously follow a lead Semi as a convoy which he says would make it cheaper to send freight by road rather than rail.

While electric trains have better performance than diesel trains, if the Semi becomes a commercial reality and lives up to expectations, it could make life more difficult for rail freight operators wedded to diesel traction such as those in North America.

Nevertheless, one US railway has just made the switch from diesel to LNG. Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) has become the first North American railway to adopt LNG for its entire mainline locomotive fleet following the modification of its fleet of 24 GE locomotives, which operate in pairs with a purpose-built fuel tender.

LNG has been tested as a locomotive fuel for 25 years in North America and is still under evaluation by several Class 1 railways including BNSF. FECR has switched from diesel to LNG because its mainline locomotive fleet is captive to the Jacksonville – Miami main line, and it has access to a ready source of LNG.

While adopting LNG would enable railways to move away from their polluting diesels, it is not the game changer that electric traction can offer in terms of tractive effort and efficiency. And an electrified railway can be powered by any fuel which makes it ideally placed to withstand future changes in fuel availability.

India’s railway minister, Mr Piyush Goyal, made a bold announcement on November 21 that Indian Railways will phase out mainline diesel locomotives within five years in favour of electric traction. While laudable, this appears unrealistic as only around one third of the 62,600km network is electrified and GE won a contract to build 1000 diesel locomotives just a year ago.

Electrification coupled with other innovations such as last-mile diesel-equipped electric locomotives, EMUs with batteries to take them beyond the wires, and dual-mode trains, demonstrate the increasing operational flexibility which is now available and will be one of the keys to success in the future.