Tough days for MBTA

first_imgAs Greater Boston was thumped by a historic series of storms that dumped 100-plus inches of snow this month, the area’s public transportation system, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), labored mightily to keep trains and buses running on schedule. But day after day of fresh snowfall that covered rail tracks and roadways, accompanied by frigid temperatures, proved too much for the nation’s oldest subway system. Mechanical failures forced widespread trip cancellations and lengthy service delays on commuter rail and subway lines, leaving frustrated riders running late, or even stranded, on a near-daily basis. Twice the entire system was shut down so the T could dig out buses, clear snow off tracks, and make sure train switches and other electrical components functioned.The problems prompted the replacement of top officials at Keolis, the French company that runs the commuter rail, and at the MBTA. The MBTA’s general manager, Beverly Scott, abruptly resigned on Feb. 11 amid public furor and criticism from the governor over the T’s spotty service. Scott blamed the breakdowns on outdated equipment that had been patched into service repeatedly because of historically inadequate funding for the agency.Critics agree and say the T’s problems date back decades, including: skyrocketing costs for fuel, electricity, health care, and federally mandated service for disabled riders, “The Ride”; insufficient funding to meet basic operational needs, despite several fare hikes, that left a $3 billion backlog of maintenance work undone; a $3.3 billion debt burden put on the T by the state during the Big Dig highway project; costly labor and other contracts; and a culture of inefficiency and sometimes mismanagement at the quasi-public agency.Jose Gomez-Ibanez ’70, M.P.P. ’72, Ph.D. ’75, the Derek C. Bok Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy jointly at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Design, studies transportation, infrastructure, and economic policy. Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Gomez-Ibanez, along with Harvard’s Executive Vice President Katie Lapp, to serve on an advisory panel that will evaluate the T’s operations and finances to determine how best to reform the agency. The panel is expected to deliver its recommendations by the end of March. Gomez-Ibanez spoke with the Gazette about the MBTA’s recent difficulties and the typical challenges transit systems face in providing an essential, but costly, public service.GAZETTE: How unusual are the mechanical failures on the subway and commuter rail and the system-wide shutdowns that the MBTA has experienced this winter?GOMEZ-IBANEZ: I think that it’s very common for big city transit systems to skimp on maintenance. The financial pressures are tremendous, and often there’s a general reluctance to raise taxes or tolls or fares. Moreover, often you can limp along for many years without replacing cars, signal and power distribution systems, etc., on time. And it really only becomes apparent when you have something like these storms, which remind us both how much we depend upon the MBTA for the smooth functioning of the metropolitan area and how much we’ve skimped on maintenance and modernization and renewals over the years.GAZETTE: Does anyone have a handle on what needs to be done and how much it would cost to bring the entire bus, train, and commuter rail system up to the appropriate standards?GOMEZ-IBANEZ: There are various estimates of what is known as “the state of good repair” that have been made over the years. I haven’t looked at them closely, so I’m not sure how accurate they are, but they’re all in the several billions of dollars, at least. And given the rates [at which] we have been spending on maintaining and renewing our assets, those calculations [show] the backlog is increasing rather than decreasing.GAZETTE: What constitutes a “state of good repair”?GOMEZ-IBANEZ: It means that you replace assets when they’ve worn out, when they’ve reached the end of their useful lives, so that the reliability of the system is maintained. One of the problems is that the procurement process for these public agencies is often very long and cumbersome.GAZETTE: Why does it take five years to order and receive a new subway car?GOMEZ-IBANEZ: I wonder that myself. One of the problems is that every rail transit system is a little different. They vary in how tight the curves are, the width of the tunnels, etc. And so it’s not as though you’re just going and picking up some fairly standard product like you could with, say, the typical 40-foot-long transit bus. Everything has to be customized. For example, you can’t operate Orange Line cars on Blue Line track. Even within our system historically, the geometry of the track and right of way varies enough from one line to another that the cars are not really interoperable.GAZETTE: How far behind does the U.S. lag compared with cities in Europe and Asia, and why? Is it that they place a higher priority on public transportation and see it as an integral part of a city’s smooth functioning?GOMEZ-IBANEZ: I think that’s part of it. European transit systems receive substantial financial support from their governments, and they operate in a more favorable environment because fuel prices are much higher and their cities are denser. In at least some cases, I think they also benefit from having stronger regional or metropolitan governments than we have. One of the things that’s very difficult is that, in a Philadelphia or a New York or a Boston, the central city is only part of the metropolitan area, and there are different perspectives and priorities in the suburban areas or in the areas of the state that aren’t served by the transit system. And that makes it difficult to figure out how to fund transit in a way that is politically acceptable.GAZETTE: How well does the T gather and analyze data about ridership and things like traffic and road closures/diversions in order to assess efficiency and optimal delivery of service to meet daily surges in demand?GOMEZ-IBANEZ: I think the MBTA has been pretty open about sharing data on real-time performance. Several years ago, it allowed private firms access to its real-time information on the locations of buses and subway lines, so that apps like “Next Bus” soon appeared — developed at no cost to the MBTA — which exploit their traffic information to help passengers know when to walk to a stop. So the MBTA has been innovative in that regard, at least.Adjusting routes to address longer-term changes in travel patterns and needs is more difficult, in part because cutting services is politically controversial, and adding new services is expensive because almost all transit services cannot recover their operating or capital expenses from fares alone. There’s a lot of pressure for service. Most people would like to have a commuter rail line go to their community or to extend a bus line to this senior center or that hospital, but because those services are all money-losing, it’s difficult for the metropolitan transit authority to say yes. And getting the resources to operate a new route by cutting back on an existing route is difficult because cutting a bus route inevitably brings out lots of people who are dependent upon it. You don’t realize how dependent people are on a service until you try to cut it. And that constituency for an existing route is more easily mobilized than the constituency for a new bus route.In the past 20 years, we’ve greatly expanded the MBTA service, both by extending commuter rail lines and by building the Silver Line and adding new stations on some of the other rail lines. But that has contributed to the financial problems of the T because you need money to operate the new systems as well as build them. For example, the new Greenbush commuter rail line cost $600 million [to build], and the operating cost per passenger is very high.GAZETTE: What’s the feasibility of privatization or a public-private partnership for certain aspects of the business, and what are the benefits and risks?GOMEZ-IBANEZ: I think in general you could think about contracting out more or some services or some activities. The Pioneer Institute, for example, argues that we ought to contract out bus maintenance because our costs for doing that are too high. I don’t know whether that’s true or not; I suspect it is. On the other hand, the poor performance of Keolis, the commuter rail operator, in the storms makes it clear that you have to manage these private involvements very carefully.GAZETTE: Former state transportation secretary Richard Davey was quoted in The Boston Globe as saying, “You can only motivate people with crisis or opportunity when it comes to transportation …” Given how vital public transportation is to a city, why is it subject to such political procrastination?GOMEZ-IBANEZ: I think it’s partly because these services don’t recover their costs out of the fare box, and so if you want an improvement in service, it often requires raising funds from other sources. And with maintenance and renewals, you have the added problem that the effects of neglect are not immediately obvious, but rather grow slowly and steadily over the years. My colleagues who ride the Red Line have been complaining for years that the reliability of the service was going down.I think it makes sense for the taxpayer to contribute to the cost of the MBTA, as they do now, primarily in the form of one cent of the state’s sales tax. There are important public benefits to having lots of people use mass transit. It’s what allows the densities of downtown Boston, Harvard Square, Kendall/MIT, and the Longwood Medical Area to be as high as they are, and that density is very important to the productivity of the firms and to the people working there. The other reason for subsidizing it, of course, is that the automobiles don’t pay their way for the congestion and the pollution that they cause. But we want to make sure we are getting good value for money, and that includes maintaining the assets we have.GAZETTE: Does the fact that the recent T troubles cost local businesses lost productivity and sales suggest we might be able to move forward with some substantive changes?GOMEZ-IBANEZ: Oh, yes. I’m hopeful that three blizzards is an opportunity to address some long-standing problems because I think it made it clear how dependent the metropolitan area is on our transit system.last_img read more

Travel Alert: Black ice causes havoc on Donegal roads this morning

first_imgA number of cars have gone off Donegal roads this morning with black ice reported across the county, including on some main roads.Gardaí are dealing with a number of minor incidents across the county.Motorists are advised to drive with extreme care. Some of the worst affected areas are reported around Letterkenny, Kilmacrennan and South Donegal. Donegal County Council has mobilised gritters to treat main routes. However, drivers should assume that no road is ice-free.“Road surface temperatures are a few degrees below forecast this morning,” said the council roads department. “Black ice and slippy roads widespread across the county. Gritters are being mobilised. Drive with extreme care.”Travel Alert: Black ice causes havoc on Donegal roads this morning was last modified: November 15th, 2019 by Rachel McLaughlinShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

New campaign to power South Africa’s Proteas

first_imgFootball Fridays united South Africans asthey wore their football jerseys to showsupport for the national team Bafana Bafana during the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The country will now be using that same united spirit to get behind the Proteas, ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup. (Images: Big Media) MEDIA CONTACTS • Yusuf Abramjee Primedia +27 11 506 3000 RELATED ARTICLES • Get kitted for Football Friday • Fly the Flag Fridays launched • Football Friday fever mounts • Fly the Flag campaign launchedNosimilo Ramela South Africans are using the legacy of the 2010 Fifa World Cup to show their support for the country’s cricket team ahead of this year’s Cricket World Cup, which starts in February.Initiated by the Lead SA campaign, which encourages South Africans to make a difference in their various communities, Pure Protea Fridays take place at the end of every working week.South Africans are encouraged to mark these days by wearing a Proteas cricket shirt to show their support for the team in the build-up to and during the Cricket World Cup.The idea stems from Football Fridays in 2010, when South Africans donned football jerseys at the end of every week to rally behind national squad Bafana Bafana.There’s been an enthusiastic response to Pure Protea Fridays following its official launch on 10 January.“We united for the Springboks in 2007 and they won the Rugby World Cup, we united for Bafana Bafana in 2010 and we hosted the most amazing Football World Cup. Let us do it again in 2011 for the Proteas,” said Richard Holeness from Johannesburg.“I am going to buy myself a Proteas top and get ready to show my support,” said Tamryn Graeme from Linden in northern Johannesburg.“Football Fridays brought about such amazing spirit – I hope we can continue with that same spirit and pride in our country with Protea Fridays.”Sifiso Mbembe, from Diepkloof in Soweto, south-west Johannesburg, agrees: “Im not a cricket supporter as such, I know very little about the sport, but I am a South African and anything that has to do with showing pride and support for our country gets my vote.”“There is something powerful about having your country behind you when competing in an important event such as a world cup. I think the nation’s support has a unique magic about it – it can really will teams into victory,” Mbembe added.Cricket South Africa (CSA) has also welcomed the initiative: “CSA supports any initiative that is 100% behind the Proteas,” said the organisation’s CEO Gerald Majola.“Let’s lead the Proteas to victory,” said Charlotte Lombard from Howick in KwaZulu-Natal. “I’m excited that we are carrying the spirit and legacy of the Fifa World Cup through to other sporting events that continue to bring us together as South Africans.”Yusuf Abramjee, head of Primedia which came up with the Lead SA initiative, said: “The Football Fridays initiative united the nation and created patriotism. Our intention is to do the same for cricket.”Lombard said she would be travelling with her husband to attend some of the Proteas’ matches during the tournament co-hosted by India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. “We are huge cricket fans and are excited about going to watch the Proteas play. Let’s go Proteas!”South Africans can get themselves official Proteas supporters’ shirts from sports shops around the country or through the CSA website.last_img read more

Turkey hunters checked nearly 18,000 birds this spring

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Ohio hunters checked 17,793 wild turkeys during the combined 2016 spring wild turkey hunting season and youth wild turkey hunting season, April 16 to May 15, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).Hunters checked 16,229 birds during the four weeks of the 2016 wild turkey season compared to 16,049 birds in 2015. Young hunters checked 1,564 birds during the 2016 youth season compared to 1,589 in 2015.Ohio’s 2016 spring wild turkey season was open April 18 through May 15. Youth season was April 16-17. Find more information about wild turkey hunting at wildohio.gov.Wild turkeys were extirpated in Ohio by 1904 and were reintroduced in the 1950s by the ODNR Division of Wildlife. Ohio’s first modern day wild turkey season opened in 1966 in nine counties, and hunters checked 12 birds. The wild turkey harvest topped 1,000 for the first time in 1984. Spring turkey hunting opened statewide in 2000, and Ohio hunters checked more than 20,000 wild turkeys for the first time that year.last_img read more

Turn Your Vehicle Into a Camera Car With MotoCrane

first_imgThe whole MotoCrane system is controlled by an iPad. With the Command Central iOS app, you’ll have FIZ control over the rig with zero-latency wireless HD monitoring. The MotoCrane also has software-enabled limits to protect the camera and vehicle — where users will save critical positions that define a safe range of motion.As the MotoCrane was just announced, we wanted to know more — so we talked to MotoCrane’s founder and CEO Zachary Nelson about the eye-catching rig.PremiumBeat: Are there attachments to power accessories that will allows users to operate the MotoCrane as a traditional crane — not on a vehicle?Zachary Nelson: MotoCrane was designed and optimized to turn any car into a camera car. While there are not currently accessories  for turning MotoCrane into a traditional studio crane or motion control system, our modular design leaves the door open for future development.PB: Any ETA on the launch or pre-orders? Any idea on cost?ZN: Pre-orders will be opening early February. Pricing and shipment details will be released at that time. (Update: The MotoCrane is available for $39,500.)PB: What exactly does the car’s 12V power supply power?ZN: As an alternative to heavy batteries that are difficult to handle and ship, MotoCrane is powered by an ultracapacitor bank contained within the system. The vehicle’s 12V power supply is used to trickle charge the “ultracap.” During setup you simply plug MotoCrane into the 12V power supply of the vehicle, and let it charge for about four minutes. Once the MotoCrane iOS app notifies you that the system is ready, you can operate it as long as the car is running. The ultracaps power everything in the system including the 200W D-Tap connector located on the head. MotoCrane can operate all day without ever swapping a single battery. We love it.PB: How long has the MotoCrane been in development?ZN: MotoCrane, LLC was founded in March 2013 by Zachary Nelson, Scott Tovsen, and Teal Bunbury.PB: How long has it been tested?ZN: We’ve been rigorously testing our prototypes for 12 months.PB: Where are the parts being manufactured?ZN: MotoCrane is manufactured around the world with components coming from Germany, Hong Kong, Denmark, United States, and more. All assembly, testing, and quality control is maintained in-house at our space in Minneapolis, MN.PB: Do you have any additional footage captured from the MotoCrane?ZN: Demo footage, system walkthroughs, behind-the-scenes and more will be released in the next couple of weeks.Are you excited about the MotoCrane? How would you use it? Share your thoughts in the comments below? We talked to the team behind MotoCrane, a powerful camera crane system that can turn almost any hunk o’ junk into a state-of-the-art camera car. Here’s what they had to say.All images via MotoCraneThe MotoCrane is the coolest new camera rig so far this year. Unlike traditional camera cars and process trailers, this camera crane system is portable and can mount to nearly any type of vehicle — giving it countless configurations.The MotoCrane comes in three main parts; the ATLIS base, ARMA Boom, and ACRO Head. When assembled, operators will have incredible control over their camera — all powered by the vehicle’s 12V cigarette lighter.The ATLIS base requires a minimum 2.5 feet x 2.5 feet platform, with a maximum of 4 feet by 4 feet. This allows the rig to work with a variety of vehicles — though not every single one. The base comes with four six-inch suction cups and four security straps rated for over 300 lb each. This will keep the MotoCrane attached to a vehicle at speeds up to 80 miles per hour.The ARMA boom has unlimited rotation, can raise 30-degrees up, 45-degrees down, and can complete a 360-degree swing in four seconds. The ACRO head also has unlimited rotation, with a 180-degree tilt and roll, and can complete a 360-degree pan in one second.The MotoCrane weighs 95 lb on its own and has a max payload of 25 lb. The ACRO head is currently compatible with all of these cameras:ARRI ALEXA MiniRED EPIC, SCARLET, RAVEN, WEAPON, DRAGONBlackmagic URSA MiniSony FS7, FS5, F5, F55, F3, A7SCanon C100, C300, C500, 1D C, 5DPanasonic GH3, GH4, GH5last_img read more

Golar LNG Secures Deals for Another FLNG Project

first_imgzoomIllustration; Image Courtesy: Flickr-Kees Torn under CC BY-SA 2.0 license Gimi MS Corporation, a newly incorporated subsidiary of LNG shipping firm Golar LNG Limited, has entered into a 20-year lease and operate agreement (LOA) with BP for the charter of an FLNG unit, Gimi.Expected to commence production in 2022, the FLNG unit will liquefy gas as part of the first phase of the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim project and be located on the Mauritania and Senegal maritime border.FLNG Gimi is designed to produce an average of approximately 2.5 million tons of LNG per annum, with the total gas resources in the field estimated to be around 15 trillion cubic feet.Concurrent with its entry into the LOA, Gimi MS has entered into a subscription agreement — subject to closing conditions — with First FLNG Holdings, an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Keppel Capital, in respect of their participation in a 30% share of FLNG Gimi.As informed, Gimi MS will construct, own and operate FLNG Gimi and First FLNG Holdings will subscribe for 30% of the total issued ordinary share capital of Gimi MS for a subscription price equivalent to 30% of the project cost.Construction of FLNG Gimi is expected to cost approximately USD 1.3 billion, excluding financing costs.Keppel and Golar have previously partnered on the FLNG Hilli Episeyo, the world’s first FLNG conversion project, which has been a successful proof of concept as a quick and cost-efficient solution for monetizing stranded gas reserves. Hilli Episeyo has maintained 100% uptime since commencing commercial operations in June 2018 and consistently despatched two LNG cargoes each month.“The potential of Golar’s floating LNG solution was reinforced by FLNG Hilli Episeyo’s proof of concept, Heads of Terms were agreed with BP and its partners in April 2018 and work has been ongoing via the previously reported Limited Notice to Proceed,” Iain Ross, Golar CEO, said.“We are pleased to further strengthen Keppel’s relationship with Golar in capturing growing opportunities in the LNG space. This transaction reflects Keppel’s confidence in the prospects of the FLNG sector,” Loh Chin Hua, CEO of Keppel Corporation, commented.“The Gimi investment can also be a seed asset for a possible infrastructure fund managed by Keppel Capital in the future. After the asset has been completed and de-risked, the 30% interest may be injected into Keppel Infrastructure Trust,” he continued.With the funds from the subscription of shares by its shareholders, Gimi MS will acquire and own the Moss LNG carrier Gimi which will be converted into an FLNG vessel by Keppel Shipyard.In December 2018, Keppel Shipyard received the limited notice to proceed from Golar to commence early conversion works. The carrier has been relocated from layup to Keppel Shipyard in Singapore where conversion works will soon start.Related:Golar LNG Moves Ahead with Another LNGC Conversion at Keppellast_img read more