Category Archives: Social Issues

The demonetisation of housing

SmartPropertyInvestment.com By Kyron Gosse

It seems kind of counter-intuitive as a property investor to be sitting here talking about how housing might one day be free, particularly when so much of the current conversation around housing consists of unaffordability, intense capital growth and generations condemned to rent, writes Kyron Gosse.

Yet the signals are there for those who know where to look. There is an impending sea change just around the corner that may result in housing becoming demonetised to the point where we can no longer charge our tenants.

Now before you start scoffing and calling me a communist – I am not saying this is going to happen anytime soon, nor am I saying that it is going to happen everywhere. All I am saying is there are some signs pointing towards a decreasing cost in living which might one day influence rents and house prices.

When we look at the biggest costs of housing, there are four things that contribute to the bill: land costs, construction costs, council bureaucracy and living costs.

Yet with the advent of hyperloop and flying cars, we will be redefining what a city means. These technologies will open up large amounts of land to be a commutable distance from cities.

In fact, if we look at Sydney, considering the possibility of hyperloop in the near future, everything from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast would be considered a commutable distance from the CBD.

What’s more, in the years to come we might see a decline in our reliance on traditional farming. Between vertical farms in urban zones and plant-based meat there will be very few farms left. This will result in thousands of hectares of farmland now accessible from major cities becoming almost insignificant of value.

On the construction side of things, we have found ourselves as spectators in the race for a commercially viable house 3D printer. China and Russia are neck and neck in this race, with each party having proved they can print houses for as little as $10,000. Given these are simply the first prototypes, costs are sure to come down in the future.

Energy costs are shrinking thanks to solar. Solar is now the cheapest form of energy available, and with Tesla’s Powerwall we are able to store that energy better than ever before.

Also thanks to water collection and reverse osmosis technology, as well as breakthroughs in sanitation, it is becoming possible for nearly anyone to move off-grid. Or better yet, to sell excess energy back to the grid thereby offsetting their mortgage payments.

So, imagine being able to pick up a section that is a 30-minute commute to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra or Brisbane CBD’s for next to nothing. Spend $10,000 3D printing your home, utilising technology to be entirely self-sufficient and sell any excess to cover your mortgage.

However this plays out and how strategies might change, I will always remember something taught to me by my mentor Steve McKnight – “as long as people live in houses, there will be an opportunity to make money”.

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Moody’s: Amazon still far from ruling retail

From Amazon’s Prime membership numbers to its entry into the grocery space to its retail “dominance,” Moody’s analysts led by Charles O’Shea tackled some widespread assumptions about the e-commerce giant’s place in the world in a recent report emailed to Retail Dive. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Analysts with the bond rating agency noted that, though Amazon dominates online sales, those sales account for just 10% of the industry as a whole. As for its recent acquisition of Whole Foods, the analysts wrote, “We believe it’s a big stretch to say — as many in the market have been doing — that Amazon will dominate food retail, and some have said this will happen within two years.” They pointed out that Amazon, even now with Whole Foods in the fold, controls only a $20 billion piece of an $800 billion market for food sales in the U.S.

O’Shea and his fellow analysts also called into question oft-cited estimates of Amazon’s Prime membership at 85 million, which they call “seriously overstated,” “highly improbable” and made “in the absence of any real guidance from the company itself.” Moody’s analysts, based on an evaluation of demographic data, think the figure for Prime members is closer to 50 million, well below Costco’s total of 86.7 million members.

RetailDive.com

HARVEY VICTIMS SAVED BY N.Y. NATIONAL GUARD

New York National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing has supplied dramatic video of air rescues of stranded victims of Hurricane Harvey. In the videos, members of the Guard can be seen hanging onto terrified, water-logged victims as they are hauled by rope up to a helicopter hovering over churning flood waters. Some of the littlest victims are bundled up in blankets — and at least one had a tail. The 106th has so far rescued 345 individuals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office saidWednesday. In total, Cuomo has deployed a total of 119 Airmen, three HH-60 Pavehawk rescue helicopters, two HC-130 search and rescue aircraft and several boats and watercraft to the Texas rescue effort. (via the Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Hurricane Harvey resource fact sheet

This resource includes customer updates from logistics companies and transportation providers, and ways people can contribute to charitable organizations to help those affected by the storm and flooding. This page will be updated whenever JOC learns of new resources.

CUSTOMER SERVICE ADVISORIES:

BNSF Railway reports on service disruptions: http://domino.bnsf.com/website/updates.nsf/updates?ReadForm&service

Cosco Container Lines North America reports its North American Customer Service Center is operating with up to 60 percent staffing: http://www.cosco-usa.com/docs/Harvey%20Customer%20Update%20August%2028.pdf

Dunavant Logistics reported Monday that “as of now, we have a few associates and contractors impacted by flooding or power loss, and thankfully no one has been hurt. … Our operating facilities in warehousing and transportation remain dry and have not been impacted by water or wind damage.”

FedEx said customers should expect delays and disruptions to service in parts of Texas and Louisiana: http://www.fedex.com/us/servicealerts/

Hapag-Lloyd omits a Houston call on Gulf Caribbean service, will drop cargo at Altamira: https://www.hapag-lloyd.com/en/news-insights/news/2017/08/gcs-service-_-frisia-lissabon–v–1730-nb-1735-sb—-houston-omi.html

Kansas City Southern Railway advisory on service suspensions, shipment embargo, and force majeure declaration: http://www.kcsouthern.com/customer-resources/service-status-updates/hurricane-harvey-update

Maersk Line customer advisory on Houston service: http://view.mktg.maerskline.com/?qs=dd89531f465220a36bfbaa5b84c27f81eea2f90923a6682c54a541b3722fc281f9d713fa165432c2a6879a5abd8d72b23cca61a386c5b5ba10a821194369ce479f5ffb83129c721d

SalSon Logistics reports its Houston staff is safe and working from their homes as the drayage company continues to monitor conditions.

Seaboard Marine is monitoring conditions that have closed Jacintoport, where its ships call in Houston: https://www.seaboardmarine.com/seaboard-marine-monitoring-hurricane-harvey/

Sealand advisory on Houston services: http://view.email.sealand.com/?qs=8b13988fa8b4a66c561c3582e5f11c33b14aa89c495945c52a20856d8d32626b517b89b31ef311f5a6d6f36c7ddfb089e49bafe316af3c77d26f822e3438a52e

Texas Department of Transportation map of flooded highways: https://drivetexas.org/#/6/32.553/-98.852?future=false

Union Pacific Railroad service advisory on storm impacts: https://www.up.com/customers/announcements/customernews/generalannouncements/CN2017-63.html

UPS said its service was affected in 728 zip codes in Texas and four Louisiana zip codes. A searchable list of areas affected is available here: https://www.ups.com/us/en/service-alerts.page

US Coast Guard update on port closures: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDHSCG/bulletins/1b3d57a

EMERGENCY AID:

Gulf Winds International‘s charitable arm, the More Than The Move Foundation, sends donations directly to employee and owner-operators’ families in need, with no overhead: https://morethanthemove.com/?page_id=1009

International Longshoremen’s Association relief fund to help ILA members affected by storm: http://www.ilaunion.org/ila-afl-cio-launches-fundraising-drive-to-aide-tx-ila-members-recover-from-hurricane-harvey/

Project 44, a transportation software company, is offering its less-than-truckload and truckload visibility products free for the next 30 days https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hurricane-harvey-supporting-houston-our-networks-tommy-barnes

Union Pacific Railroad donates $250,000 to hurricane relief, will match contributions up to $100,000: https://www.up.com/media/releases/170828-harvey-relief.htm

Joint US-Mexican rail facility to speed trains at Laredo

(Laredo, Texas) Kansas City Southern (KCS) (NYSE: KSU) president and CEO Patrick J. Ottensmeyer joined officials representing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Mexican Customs (SAT) Thursday in the dedication of a new, joint Unified Cargo Processing facility at the Laredo, Texas railroad
border-crossing.

The objective of this new facility is to share Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) security scanning images; conduct Mexico export processing at the U.S. railhead; streamline the documentation review of northbound trains; and conduct joint inspections, when needed, on inbound shipments.

During the week that U.S., Mexican and Canadian trade representatives begin opening negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. and Mexican customs officials are dedicating this new facility to improving the fluidity and security of this vital, cross-border rail corridor.

“As our governments begin the important work of updating the North American Free Trade Agreement this week, we must all remember the importance of the NAFTA trade relationship to both countries and both economies,” said Mr. Ottensmeyer. “This project, and others to follow, are essential to facilitate the goal of expanding trade and particularly increasing exports of goods such as refined petroleum products and petro-chemicals from the U.S. to Mexico.”

The Laredo/Nuevo Laredo rail crossing is the busiest on the U.S.-Mexico border, processing on average 23 trains in both directions per 24-hour period, and carrying a wide variety of products such automobiles and parts, steel, grain and petroleum products. It is vital to the economic security of both countries. CBP, Mexico Customs, KCS and Union Pacific are committed to continually improving this border-crossing for security, safety and efficiency through government and private sector collaboration. Eliminating stopping trains on the bridge would increase velocity and fluidity of train movements over the border, which is important for all
stakeholders. Keeping trains moving increases security and throughput, while reducing traffic congestion within the city limits of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo.

“This project is a model for how communities, governmental authorities and private enterprises can work together to create outcomes that benefit everyone and strengthen our relationships with our key trading partners and neighbors,” said Mr. Ottensmeyer.

Demand for rail shipments across this busiest international rail gateway in both directions will continue to increase in the future, particularly with growth in U.S. agricultural and future energy exports to Mexico. New and innovative ways to keep this trade moving securely and efficiently over the border will be needed in the future to expand trade between the U.S. and Mexico and make North America even more competitive.

TRA NewsWire

Train To Fort Benning, Georgia : A Recruit’s Journey

I received a letter from a follower who is writing a book on her father’s life. She is using letters home which her father wrote and had a gap on how he got from New York to Fort Benning, Georgia. Questions like what did he wear, where did he eat, where did he sleep.

Told her I would write a fictional story based on what facts I knew.

Dad’s Journey started at Albany, the capitol of New York State. Dad got “orders” in the mail to report to the Washington Avenue Armory:

Dad’s orders wanted him to appear at 07:30 hours in the morning. When he got off the Central Avenue bus he recognized several others waiting in the crowd. A sergeant who looked like a veteran of the Great War was handing out papers to be completed.

In the meantime a train had left Utica with four passenger cars. One of them was a Lackawanna car just off their Utica branch. The other three were New York Central cars off of the Adirondack Division.

Dad and the other recruits were “formed up” into a marching group, administered an “oath of office” and walked past the Capitol building to Albany’s Union Station. There was no band playing, but they were cheered on by citizens on the street.

At the Albany Station, the train from Utica had arrived and a switcher had brought three more cars and what would serve as a diner over from the West Albany Car Shop. The “diner” was loaded with box meals from the New York Central contractor, a Madison Avenue bakery.

Once the train was through New York City, the rest of the trip would be on “foreign”railroads. New York Central put good power on the train: a “Mohawk” (called a “Mountain” on other railroads……but not on the Water Level Route).

The train leaves before 11am and makes stops at Castleton, Hudson and Rhinebeck. Now the train is filled.

Next stop is Harmon to change engines to an electric one.

Now the train runs to Mott Haven then switches to a New Haven electric motor for a trip across the Hell Gate Bridge. Now they hook up a Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 locomotive headed for Washington.

In Washington DC, the Pennsyania Railroad bypassed Union Station and went directly to the huge Potomac Yard across the river. The GG1 was replaced by a modern steam engine belonging the Southern Railway (a founder of the current huge Norfolk Southern System).

Reaching Georgia, the train changed over to the Central Of Georgia Railway for it’s trip to Columbus, Georgia and Fort Benning.

Fort Benning at that time was relatively new. It had been created in World War I. So basic training housing was walking distance to the train. There was once a two-foot railroad around Fort Benning…..but the walk was easier.

Now Dad will have a better place to sleep than an old day coach

See the full WebSite on Dad’s trip to Fort Benning

So What Is Going On With TWITTER?

Last night I finished planned work early and decided to do something I had never done before! Go on TWITTER. So I typed “www.twtter.com”. I guess I am already logged in because of always posting blogs and WebSites. They must “track” my interests as I got a lot of train pictures.

Then I got a “tweet” from @Write inTrump
“Jeff Bezos may be the richest man in the World but how many nuclear submarines does he have?”

Then I got a picture of Amazon Headquarters

Finally, a cute little poster

Then I got tired and gave up.

How Retailers Can Stay OFF The Closing List

MultiChannelMerchant

In April, Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse released a report that sent shock waves through the retail universe. It predicted that more than 8600 brick and mortar stores could shutter before the end of 2017. That would make it the worst year on record for store closures. It’s the stuff of nightmares for retailers.

Whether or not you believe the Credit Suisse analysts are right, you can avoid being one of those stores — all it really takes is providing the experiences that today’s consumers demand. Movie theaters in the 1980s faced a similar environment when home video hit big. The industry feared that once people could rent and watch videos at home, nobody would pay to go to a theater and they would all go out of business.

In April, Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse released a report that sent shock waves through the retail universe. It predicted that more than 8600 brick and mortar stores could shutter before the end of 2017. That would make it the worst year on record for store closures. It’s the stuff of nightmares for retailers.

Whether or not you believe the Credit Suisse analysts are right, you can avoid being one of those stores — all it really takes is providing the experiences that today’s consumers demand. Movie theaters in the 1980s faced a similar environment when home video hit big. The industry feared that once people could rent and watch videos at home, nobody would pay to go to a theater and they would all go out of business.

Integrate Ecommerce and POS inventory
Omnichannel shoppers see no difference between your ecommerce and POS offerings and neither should you. Make every store’s inventory visible to online shoppers so that you can take advantage of the “buy online, pick-up in store” model. Integrated ecommerce and POS inventory management systems show real-time availability so consumers do not face unexpected out-of-stocks at brick and mortar locations. If an item is not available at the customer’s selected store, provide fast and free transfer from another store.

Use brick and mortar stores as fulfillment centers
Every physical store should also double as a fulfillment center for web orders. This opens up every item in inventory to sales from any channel and reduces time in transit for ecommerce orders. Orders that are automatically routed to locations closest to customers can reach front doors faster than from a central warehouse, often overnight or within two days without incurring express shipping charges.

Go mobile
It’s official — mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop traffic. If your website does not display properly on mobile devices, you’re missing out on a huge number of consumers. But just displaying properly is no longer enough. Navigation, inventory visibility and checkout must all be optimized for mobile users. This has massive benefits for brick and mortar as well when customers on the go can locate items in your stores; they may even make purchases from inside a competitor’s location.

Automate ordering with vendors
The long-time promise of just in time inventory management finally eliminated worries about out-of-stocks. Set minimum and maximum thresholds for SKUs and let your retail management platform automatically order the right amount of inventory from suppliers at the exact right moment. When you know every product you sell will be automatically replenished before it sells through, you do not have to keep as much inventory on hand and can open up shelf space for additional offerings likely to attract customers. You also don’t have to worry anymore about selling out on popular items and sending frustrated customers home empty handed.

Empower every employee as a checkout
One of the worst things that can happen in a store is when customers with intent to purchase leave upon seeing long checkout lines, or can’t find anyone to take their money. The in-store experience must be as smooth and easy as it is online — consumers are no longer willing to wait. Arm every employee with a tablet loaded with mobile POS software so they can complete transactions, look up inventory, and place customer orders from anywhere in the store.

Personalize direct marketing to customers
Target individual customer segments with the offers most likely to appeal to them through marketing automation. Integrate online and POS customer data to segment personas effectively and send promotions that are personalized to known preferences and likely to bring customers into stores. Specific behaviors should trigger customized messages, and look for opportunities to leverage ecommerce and in-store offerings. For example, an abandoned shopping cart may trigger a reminder message that could also include a note like, “this item is also available at your nearest store, would you like us to hold it for you?”

Expand inventory exponentially with drop shipping
Drop shipping today does not resemble what it looked like 15 years ago. Many vendors offer drop shipping that can use your branding and fulfill lightning fast. Offering items for sale that you do not have hold in inventory opens up your website to endless opportunities and it can also be integrated into “buy online, pick up in store.” Give customers the option of having the item sent to their homes or to their nearest store with no shipping charges. If they select a store, simply have the vendor pack the item along with your next regular order.

The next time you see a headline about a retailer closing stores, refer back to this list. It will become clear that one of the major reasons the merchant is in trouble is because it is not responding quickly enough to the changing demands of modern consumers. Provide the experiences today’s empowered shoppers expect and you will have much less to fear from predictions of impending doom.

New York’s subway has always been a chamber of horrors. But when did it get this bad?

From Los Angeles times via California rail news via Nice, France

Featured image:John Raskin, center, executive director of Riders Alliance, leads a rally demanding improvements in New York public transportation.

“Die Kitties Die!” screamed the headline in the New York Daily News when, in 2013, former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Joe Lhota criticized a decision to pause trains in a Brooklyn subway station to rescue a pair of kittens lost on the tracks.

These days, New York so badly needs to get the trains to run on time that Lhota, whose unfortunate anti-cat comments caused a minor scandal, has been brought back as chairman of the transit agency.

Extreme measures are in order to fix the 112-year-old subway system, and nothing — not budget cuts, political infighting, or cats — can stand in the way.

Delays have doubled over the last five years, and accidents are on the rise. A subway derailed last week, crashing into a wall and igniting a trash fire after hitting equipment left on a track near 125th Street in Harlem. Nobody was seriously injured, but hundreds of terrified passengers had to evacuate through a smoky underground passage lighted only by their cellphones.

On the heels of the derailment, Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week signed an executive order declaring a “state of emergency” on the subways, making official what many New Yorkers in their gut already know. The governor also allocated an additional $1 billion for improvements.

Few think it will make much impact for the largest subway system in the United States, with 665 miles of track and 472 stations.


A woman with a baby stroller fails to get on a train at Grand Central Terminal. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times).

“It’s a good start, but where will the other billions come from?” asked John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance, a grass-roots passenger advocacy group.

The alliance has been holding impromptu protests demanding improvements in service and has even published a book, “Subway Horror Stories,’’ with first-person accounts of mishaps on the subway.

Recent months have brought plenty of fresh anecdotes. Passengers improvised a graduation ceremony May 31 on a stalled E train from Queens to Manhattan for Jericho Marco Alcantara, who missed the real thing at Hunter College because of the delays.

When a rush-hour train stalled for 45 minutes last month without power or air conditioning, doors and windows locked, turning the cars into a virtual steam bath. Passengers stripped nearly naked and someone scrawled on the steamy window, “I will survive.” Two weeks ago, passengers escaped from a similarly stalled train by walking along the subway tracks, in peril of electrocution.

“Subway riders are tired of risking their lives, their jobs, their sanity,’’ yelled one of the protesters, Jackie Cohen.

To be sure, the system isn’t as bad as it was in the 1980s, when cars were covered with graffiti and riders had to look over their shoulders for fear of being mugged.

Today the subways are in some ways victims of their own success. The city’s economy is booming and so is public transit ridership. Nearly 6 million people a day use the subway, up from 4 million in the 1990s, and they are packed into a system that has barely grown at all.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s own data show that about one-third of the 58,651 delays reported in April, the most recent month available, were caused by overcrowding.

Many of the subway system’s cars date back to the time of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. And the system cannot ease overcrowding by simply ordering new cars because the 70-year-old switching system is too antiquated to manage more cars on the same tracks without a risk of collisions.

There have been no upgrades over the years. With champagne toasts and a live jazz band, a black-tie crowd of dignitaries hosted by the governor attended the New Year’s Eve opening of the long-delayed Second Avenue subway, built at a cost of $4.5 billion. Many subways now have WiFi and a link to free downloads from the New York Public Library. Buses are adding USB charging stations.

But upgrades that don’t lend themselves to photo opportunities have gone neglected.

“What we need is the unsexy, behind-the-scenes maintenance and equipment that actually keeps the subway running,’’ said Raskin.

“The tracks are not well-maintained. When something goes wrong, they do a quick fix on them,’’ said John Ferretti, a subway conductor and shop steward for the Transport Workers Union. “We work on cars that are almost 60 years old where the power and the air conditioning is not working. People yell at us because we are wearing an MTA uniform. When that train is stuck, it’s up to us to keep 2,000 customers from freaking out.’’

Politically speaking, the New York City subway system is something of an orphan. Contrary to expectations, it falls under the jurisdiction of the state, not the city, a situation that has allowed the mayor and the governor — in this case Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo, Democrats who don’t particularly get along — to blame each other when something goes wrong.

“The governor has been indifferent to issues surrounding the subways. He feels he can take the votes of urban Democrats for granted and that he has to spend his time wooing swing voters in the suburbs,’’ said David Bragdon, executive director of TransitCenter, a foundation dedicated to public transportation.

New York City also gets the short shrift because, unlike Paris, London, Beijing, Tokyo and Moscow, which also have large subway systems, it is not a national capital.

“The London subway system is older. So is the Paris subway system. But they are national capitals. New York is not, and we have a federal government that is hostile to urban areas,’’ said Bragdon.

The rising chorus of complaints about the subways prompted Cuomo last month to bring Lhota back. A respected administrator, Lhota is credited with getting the transit system up and running quickly after the devastating flooding in 2012 from Superstorm Sandy — after which he resigned to make an unsuccessful bid for the Republican mayoral nomination. (It was during that mayoral campaign that he became famous for his comments about the kittens.)

His reappointment has raised expectations.

Lhota has been given 30 days to conduct an audit that he calls the subway recovery and transformation plan. At a conference of transportation experts this week, he said his priority is to upgrade the technology to current standards.

“The system opened in 1904. It was designed in the 19th century. For the most part, it is still running on concepts that were developed by folks in the late 1800s, and that’s problematic in this, the 21st century,’’ Lhota said at the conference.

The promised improvements may come just in time for subway riders who say they are losing patience. This year for the first time in decades, subway use dipped slightly — a phenomenon attributed to commuters switching to ride-sharing apps and bicycles.

“I haven’t had anything terrible happen to me, but honestly I’m worried. I’m old now. What if I have to climb out of a train?’’ said 82-year-old Marilyn Savetsky, a retiree clutching her Chihuahua who attended a protest last week. She has now switched to the bus.

Pictured above is the NY Subway “Control Room” way, way underneath W 4th Street. Equipment, except for PC and a FAX is from the 1920’s. Picture by Penney Vanderbilt.

Google’s Idea for a New Silicon Valley

NY Times via California Rail News

Google and other technology companies have been criticized for contributing to the sharp increases in housing costs in the San Francisco Bay Area — and not doing much to address the fallout for the hundreds of thousands of lower- and middle-income workers who can no longer afford to live there. The Diridon station plan does not immediately address this problem: It calls for office space for 15,000 to 20,000 workers and only 2,500 units of housing, according to the mayor.

But through a web of public transportation it could connect Silicon Valley to more affordable areas.

By 2025, Diridon station would host Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains and, if fierce opposition by the state’s Republican Congressional delegation is overcome, a high-speed rail line already under construction in the central valley, which would allow someone to live in Fresno and get to San Jose in less than an hour.