All posts by penneyvanderbilt

Journalist who writes about Supply Chain Management, travel, railroad history and ice hockey

How New York City gets its water, from reservoir to tap: NYCurious

Penney Vanderbilt and KC Jones: All About Railroads

AM New yorK

Before it goes anywhere, the city’s drinking water starts out in three major watersheds — the Delaware and Catskill systems west of the Hudson River and the Croton system just north of the city. In 2017, New York City got about 97 percent of its water from the Catskill/Delaware systems and about 3 percent from the Croton system, the DEP said.

The watersheds feed more than a dozen reservoirs and controlled lakes. The largest reservoir, the Pepacton, has a capacity of 140 billion gallons. The Ashokan in Ulster County, pictured, has a capacity of 123 billion gallons.

Officials take measurements throughout the reservoirs, looking at things like turbidity (water clarity) and contaminants, to select the highest quality water available at that moment to be released downstate.

The water supply is so critical to the city that a dedicated police force with more than 200 members works 24…

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LIRR, NJ Transit and Metro-North should combine into one rail system, report says Merging the three commuter rails would better connect the tristate area, transit experts say.

Penney Vanderbilt and KC Jones: All About Railroads

The Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit and Metro-North Railroad should combine into one giant rail system, according to a new Regional Plan Association report released Wednesday.

Merging the Long Island Rail Road with the region’s other commuter rail systems is vital to supporting growth and improving access to jobs in the tristate area, according to a new report published Wednesday.

The report from the influential nonprofit Regional Plan Association details an ambitious, 30-year proposal to join the LIRR with Metro-North and New Jersey Transit, bringing crosstown rail service from New Jersey through Long Island and, eventually adding 60 new stations and more than 200 new or reactivated track miles for a new rail system called the “Trans-Regional Express,” or T-REX for short.

The RPA estimates that the metropolitan area is currently on pace to add 850,000 jobs and 1.8 million residents by 2040 — adding that it…

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Veteran GE researcher honored for lifetime achievement

Penney Vanderbilt and KC Jones: All About Railroads

Daily Gazette

SCHENECTADY — A veteran GE researcher has been honored with a lifetime achievement award for his work to integrate renewable energy into the nation’s electrical infrastructure.

Nick Miller grew up in Clifton Park the son of a General Electric steam turbine engineer, went to school at RPI, and has spent 37 years at GE’s Schenectady campus. That wasn’t his plan upon graduation from high school, but he developed a speciality and has stuck with it, particularly after GE re-entered the wind power business in the early 2000s.

Miller now holds several patents and is continuing his work as GE works to capture and hold market share in the growing renewable energy sector.

The Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group recognized this with its Lifetime Achievement Award last week at an event in Tucson, Arizona.

The 60-year-old New Scotland resident is senior technical director of GE’s Energy Consulting Group, a component…

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Japanese Soldier’s Remembrance of Iwo Jima – conclusion

Pacific Paratrooper

“Iwo Jima” by: Mark Maritato

Takahashi Toshiharu’s story continues….

I ran towards the sea.  The day got brighter.  When I jumped down, the enemy shot.  I felt as if I burnt a burned hot chopstick in my chest and I could not breathe.  There are plenty of US soldiers, but I was alive.  Blood flows a lot. Both shirts and pants were stained with blood.  I tried to stop blood even a little, but it didn’t work.

The enemy brought a flamethrower to the mouth of the hole.  The fire did not reach me. It was where I had been before.  The bullet was through, but it hurts because my body swells when I breathe.  It is a suffering to die.

I will die soon.  There is no doctor or medicine.  There is no food or water, death is near.  There was nothing I could do.  My eyes dazzle, I’m bleeding a lot…

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Why New York City Stopped Building Subways


Penney Vanderbilt and KC Jones: All About Railroads


Nearly 80 years ago, a construction standstill derailed the subway’s progress, leading to its present crisis. This is the story, decade by decade.

In the first decades of the 20th century, New York City experienced an unprecedented infrastructure boom. Iconic bridges, opulent railway terminals, and much of what was then the world’s largest underground and rapid transit network were constructed in just 20 years. Indeed, that subway system grew from a single line in 1904 to a network hundreds of miles long by the 1920s. It spread rapidly into undeveloped land across upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs, bringing a wave of apartment houses alongside.

Then it stopped. Since December 16, 1940, New York has not opened another new subway line, aside from a handful of small extensions and connections. Unlike most other great cities, New York’s rapid transit system remains frozen in time: Commuters on their iPhones are…

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How the MTA battles to keep water from overwhelming the subways

Penney Vanderbilt and KC Jones: All About Railroads


When rain pounds the city like it did Monday, umbrellas are often useless — even in the subway.

During the height of Monday’s deluge, the 145th station on the 1 line was like an underground Niagara Falls.

At Times Square, riders had to step lively to avoid getting drenched.

“I noticed it, so I tried to like avoid it, like get out of the way,” one commuter said. “It’s kind of gross because I don’t know where that’s coming from.”

Transit officials said it could have been worse, if not for 300 underground pump rooms.

“They’re absolutely essential to keeping our system dry,” New York City Transit President Andy Byford said.

Transit officials described their efforts to keep water out of the subway system as a never-ending battle.

“Manhattan is built on a series of old rivers and streams, so there is…

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GE rides gene therapy wave with ready-made viral drug factories

Penney Vanderbilt and KC Jones: All About Railroads


Interest in such medicines, which use engineered viruses to carry healthy genetic material into the cells of sick people, has exploded recently as the first wave of gene-fixing drugs reach the market.

That has left some drug companies scrambling for sufficient capacity at a time when the industry is also grappling with shortages of DNA-carrying viral vectors.

GE, better known for making jet engines and turbines, sees an opportunity in the fast-growing field. It aims to build on its existing expertise in biotech manufacturing by delivering a “factory-in-a-box” service specifically for viral vector-based medicine.

The U.S. conglomerate already makes off-the-shelf modular factories for other complex biological medicines, such as monoclonal antibodies.

Its so-called KUBio factories are cheaper and faster to construct than traditional factories, offering GE a way to win business for its growing life sciences business. Depending on the factory design and the drug being made, an equivalent…

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Could Ohio replicate Florida’s high-speed rail system?

Toledo Blade

A little more than 35 years ago, Ohio voters shot down a Toledo legislator’s dream when they defeated a referendum for a penny increase in the state sales tax to pay for development of a high-speed rail program in the state.

Art Wilkowski, a liberal Democrat who represented Toledo in the Ohio House of Representatives for 14 years, believed fast trains could help wean Ohioans from dependence on cars and pricey foreign oil to fuel them.

Republican critics said such a project would cost too much and derisively nicknamed Mr. Wilkowski “Choo Choo” for his fervor. He retired from the legislature in 1983, the year after the sales-tax proposal failed.

Subsequent plans and proposals notwithstanding, Ohio today appears no closer to hosting anything more than the skeletal passenger-train service it had during the mid-1970s when Mr. Wilkowski, who died in 1999, took up that cause.

But train advocates hope the new rail-development model advanced in Florida by the company now known as Brightline could inform future efforts to develop rail services involving the Buckeye state.

“Brightline takes us back to the past in some ways … [to] the notion that transportation and real estate go hand-in-hand,” said Ken Prendergast, chief executive officer of All Aboard Ohio, a train-advocacy group. “It has changed the dialogue about how passenger rail in this country should be going forward.”

The Brightline model, however, relies on the passenger-train operator either owning or having assured access to the tracks over which it operates, as well as real estate to market.

Florida East Coast Industries had both of those attributes when it set up a subsidiary, All Aboard Florida, that now goes by the Brightline trade name.

At the time of All Aboard Florida’s creation, FECI and Florida East Coast Railway, which owns most of the route between Miami and Orlando over which Brightline trains are planned to operate, both belonged to Fortress Investment Group. The exception is a 40-mile stretch west of Cocoa, Fla., that Brightline plans to build for itself on right of way for which the state of Florida granted a 99-year lease.

While Fortress has since sold Florida East Coast Railway to Grupo Mexico, a large Mexican industrial conglomerate, All Aboard Florida/Brightline retained access and owns the additional track it paid for to support the passenger trains’ operation over what had been, since the late 1960s, a freight-only railroad.

Brightline trains began running in January between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and operational testing is under way for service to Miami expected to start within weeks.

No date has been set for service to start between West Palm Beach and Orlando, but with construction having yet to start, it is at least several years away and is subject to a federal lawsuit from opponents in several counties along the Florida coast north of West Palm Beach.

Before this year, Florida’s recent passenger-train service was limited to long-distance Amtrak trains between New York, Tampa, and Miami; the Auto Train between the Orlando area and northern Virginia, and commuter trains between Miami and West Palm Beach and in metro Orlando.

In Ohio, two pairs of Amtrak trains plod across the state’s northern tier each night on routes between Chicago and the East Coast, while a third route running three times per week each way has stops in Hamilton and Cincinnati on its often scenic, but slow and circuitous, trips along the Ohio River and through the West Virginia mountains.

Ohio’s most recent attempt to expand passenger rail in the state beyond those existing corridors would have involved using tracks owned by CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern, the two largest private freight railroad systems in the eastern United States, to link Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

Under Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, Ohio in 2010 obtained $400 million in federal funding for capital outlays associated with that project, including track, signal, and station construction as well as the purchase of trains.

While critics said the 6½-hour proposed schedule for the 255-mile run, including several station stops, meant the trains would be uncompetitively slow, rail advocates said the route would serve as a starting point for a network of train routes throughout the state for which speeds could increase incrementally as funding and technology allowed.

But when Gov. John Kasich took office the following year, one of his first executive actions was to send the $400 million back to Washington — just as Florida Gov. Rick Scott did with a similar grant to pay for new government-sponsored intercity trains between Miami and Tampa via Orlando.

Mr. Kasich and Mr. Scott, both Republicans, declared that their states’ obligations to subsidize the trains’ operating costs once they started couldn’t be justified.

Patrick Goddard, Brightline’s chief operating officer, said decades of studies showing popular demand for better trains motivated Florida East Coast to start its project after the state-sponsored plan derailed.

South Florida “has a major capacity problem” driven by its population growth and its geographic confinement between the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades, he said.

“There’s nowhere to go, and no room for more roads,” Mr. Goddard said.

Based on cell-phone data, he said, 500 million trips are made annually between South Florida and Orlando, so “if we can take 2, 3, 4, 5 percent off the roads, it will make a meaningful difference.”

While Brightline is focused on “proof of concept” in South Florida, the potential exists for similar rail development in “any city pairs that are too far to drive and too short to fly,” Mr. Goddard said.

He cited Texas and the Atlanta-Charlotte corridor as places Brightline has contemplated, along with an eventual extension of the Miami-Orlando route to Tampa.

“Obviously here [Miami-Orlando] we have a shorter putt, because we already owned the right of way,” Mr. Goddard said.

But in other corridors, he said, “there’s the possibility for government to intercede for mobility in the region.

“It’s a relatively complex environment out there,” he said, but from discussions Brightline has had, “there’s a high level of interest.”

While nobody in Ohio is proposing huge office towers near train stations, Mr. Prendergast said there have been the beginnings of transit-oriented development in several cities that should encourage belief that trains and real estate can grow symbiotically here as well as in Florida.

Some “pretty remarkable development” is occurring near a bus rapid-transit corridor in Columbus, he noted in particular, as well as near the HealthLine busway and the Blue Line rail transit station in Shaker Heights.

Ohio’s Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati corridor was part of a broader “Ohio Hub plan” the Ohio Rail Development Commission issued in 2002 and revised in 2007 that envisioned it as part of a network of trains — starting with a 79-mph top speed but eventually running at higher speeds — linking all of Ohio’s major cities along with Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Toronto via Buffalo.

Its startup as that plan’s first stage also was envisioned in a broader state “rail plan” the agency issued in 2010. ORDC is soliciting public comments for a 2020 update to that plan, but the state has no funds budgeted for passenger-train startup projects.

Michigan is farther along with passenger-rail improvements.

In 2012 the Michigan Department of Transportation bought from Norfolk Southern the tracks between Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti, Mich., that Amtrak used as part of its Detroit-Chicago route.

Since then, it has spent $347 million in federal grants for track, signal, and safety upgrades intended to allow 110-mph train speeds on that segment that are expected to begin in sections later this year.

MDOT previously arranged for similar work on the track between Kalamazoo and Porter, Ind., that Amtrak itself already owned and already has a 110-mph top speed. Separate federally supported projects have added track capacity along the congested rail corridor west of Porter that all of Amtrak’s Michigan and northern Ohio trains use and provided a bridge on Chicago’s south side to replace an at-grade crossing of that corridor with a busy commuter rail line.

Amtrak operates three round trips per day between Chicago and Pontiac, Mich., via Detroit, plus daily roundtrips on routes to Grand Rapids and Port Huron.

Mr. Prendergast said the strongest possibilities for passenger-rail development in Ohio relate to two proposed corridors: Columbus-Fort Wayne-Chicago and Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit.

The former could come into focus if CSX Transportation, which has been on a cost-cutting binge over the past year and has stated an interest in selling off marginal routes, could be persuaded to sell necessary track for such a service, he said.

The latter, Mr. Prendergast said, could be developed as an extension of Michigan’s ongoing project.

CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Canadian National have roughly parallel routes between metro Detroit and Toledo, so if some form of consolidation could be arranged in that corridor, one line could become available for passenger trains, he proposed.

Between Toledo and Cleveland, however, a new corridor specific for passenger trains is likely to be needed for any higher-speed operations, because the existing main line owned by Norfolk Southern is a heavy freight-train route. Mr. Prendergast said that might be an opportunity for the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission to get involved, “now that it has the legal authority to do things other than highways along the highway corridor.

“The fact the the Ohio Turnpike Commission is no longer just the turnpike commission, I consider an opportunity,” he said.

Norfolk Southern declined to comment for this story. A CSX statement was not specific to any proposed rail corridors in Ohio.

“CSX hosts more passenger trains on its network than any other Class I railroad in the eastern United States, and we have a long history of working well with our passenger rail partners,” spokesman Katie Chimelewski said in an emailed statement. “Our participation in any passenger rail initiative is threefold: ensuring the safety of our employees and the public; maintaining sufficient capacity to serve current and future customers; and protecting the company’s shareholders. These are the principles to which we adhere when considering any such proposal.”

Mr. Prendergast said Ohioans should not rely on Amtrak to push fast-train development in the state, because it “only reacts in response” to others’ initiatives. But Ohio could respond to a private-sector initiative like Florida did when it added hundreds of millions in supplemental projects related to the Brightline project, he said.

“If they, or someone like Brightline, came in with a similar message, I think it would resonate,” Mr. Prendergast said.

TLP Living: 4/16/18


Working for the Railroad

Happy Monday to you from the Heartland of America. I thought I’d share a little story with you today about two best friends…

Jack and Tom were best friends all through school. They played ball together, had adventures together… they were inseparable. When the day came for their graduation from high school, they both went to the railroad office near the place where they lived and filled out job applications. A few days later they were both interviewed and hired, and the following Monday they reported together for their first day of work.

Yes, Jack and Tom were the best of friends.

As time went by, both of the boys married their high school sweethearts and began families, and for some time they remained close friends. One day however, Tom was promoted to a new job in another town, and they saw less and less of…

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Forget that trolley plan


Queens Chronical

Western Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer probably summed up the status of Mayor de Blasio’s waterfront streetcar plan as best as anyone could when he told us on Tuesday, “I personally thought this was dead already.”

In the news pages, we’re reporting that the mayor now admits the Brooklyn Queens Connector, or BQX, cannot be built without federal aid, contrary to what its supporters have been saying for the last two years. That there’s still no sign of the feasibility study on the project, first supposed to be produced by early 2017 at the latest. That the city is stonewalling Freedom of Information Act requests from a group opposing the plan for documents related to it. And that it’s no longer answering our questions about the project [see story in some editions or at].

Here in the opinion pages, we can just say the plan is dead…

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