Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Supply-Chain Management: Freight Planning.

Since I am a Logistics major, and since I study it incessantly, I thought maybe it's time to share with you a little about Freight Planning.

But first off, I'll let let the US Department of Transportation give you a great understanding of specifically what Supply-Chain Management is, and the importance of reliable, efficient modes of transportation.

They did a pretty good job, huh? Hopefully that gives you a visual understanding of how the supply-chain works. However, the supply-chain is more than just different vehicles utilized to carry products--it is the entire process that begins with raw materials and ends with the product in the consumer's hand. For a more formal definition:
Supply chain management (SCM) is the control of materials, information, and finances as they move in a process from supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer. Supply chain management involves coordinating and integrating these flows both within and among companies. The ultimate goal of any effective supply chain management system is to reduce inventory (with the assumption that products are available when needed).
So you see, the supply-chain is just not "boats-to-trucks-to-home", it is the entire system in place that brings goods to people. It includes the inventory that sits on a shelf, the raw materials necessary to produce a single unit, the people required to coordinate the creation and transportation of a product, the financial data necessary to continue to produce a product, so on and so forth.

Focusing specifically on Freight Planning, there are many, MANY questions to consider:
  • Is the current system working?
  • Is the current system under/over utilized?
  • Does the current system provide enough capacity to hold future freight loads in 2035?
  • What are the environmental impacts of rail freight versus truck freight?
  • What are the costs associated with rail, truck and ocean freight?
That is simply the beginning. Currently in North America more than 6,500,000 trucks travel on our highways. Due to linking rail and ocean freight, most trucks travel only within 50 miles of their base (although there are many outliers to this generalization). By 2035, however, this number is expected to dramatically increase, causing usage to balloon to over 600 million miles per day. Looking at the maps below, you can see where the increase in highway congestion will appear:

2002 of Highway Congestion

2035 Projected Map of Highway Congestion

Can you even see the states of Ohio, Ilinois, Indiana or Kentucky? This unfortunate truth gives us three options: we can expand the highways, expand the runways or expand the railways. I, along with the rest of sensible people, recommend expanding the railways.

CSX is one of the largest private rail companies in North America. Historically rail has been unreliable, hence the shift to relying on trucks instead. However, companies are recognizing that rail is CHEAP--like, real cheap. For example, a CSX Train can take one ton of goods 427 miles on a single gallon of gas. Is that not insane? As a private company, they are constantly seeking ways to improve, and since 1980 they have improved efficiency 80%. In addition, rail is not only the cheaper way to go--it is the more environmentally friendly way, too! Look at this graph on the difference in carbon emissions between a trailer traveling 1000 miles on a truck and a 1000 miles on a train:

Clearly, rail provides better financial outcomes and environmental stewardship. However, rail moves slower--and it isn't as direct. It is impossible to route trains to be able to deliver all kinds of material right to your doorstep. That is without question. However, planning practices that support rail and provide for a larger system across our country would significantly reduce transportation costs for a company and cut out carbon emissions by a huge margin. In addition, AMTRAK could utilize the rails to provide better commuter service. And, if there is one thing about transportation, it is this--it goes hand-in-hand with economic development. Just as a coastal city cannot trade if there is no port to receive goods at, a city cannot grow without modes of transportation for people to utilize. It will become stagnant. It will lose it's attractiveness and luster. It will, essentially, be Columbus.

Reduced Costs, High Environmental Stewardship, Better Transportation Options and less congestion on highways? And people argue against this?

Now you know why I'm going into the private sector and not into planning.

Not Too Far Away.

My friend recently moved to Maui, and she has nothing but lovely things to say about it. She wants me to visit, and so I became curious about the precise distance between us. In order to fulfill this curiosity, I went into Google Maps, clicked on "Directions", and then typed "Columbus, OH" to "Honolulu, Hawaii". That's when I got this:

God, I love Google. The answer, by the way, is 5,221 miles.

Monday, October 12, 2009

For Objectivity.

World leaders react to the Nobel Peace Prize announcement.

US President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his "extraordinary efforts" to build diplomacy and promote nuclear disarmament.

Since coming to office in January, President Obama has pursued an international agenda that includes a push to restart peace talks in the Middle East and negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Here is a round-up of world reaction to the award as reported by news agencies.


We are entering an era of renewed multilateralism, a new era where the challenges facing humankind demand global common cause and uncommon global effort. President Obama embodies the new spirit of dialogue and engagement on the world's biggest problems: climate change, nuclear disarmament and a wide range of peace and security challenges.


It confirms, finally, America's return to the hearts of the people of the world... you can count on my resolute support and that of France.


In a short time he has established a new tone, creating a willingness for dialogue and I think we all should support him to make peace in this world possible. There is a lot do but a window of opportunity has been opened. His advocacy of a world free of nuclear arms is an aim we all need to make real in the next few years.


I am really pleased. I want to congratulate him from my heart. I've seen the world changing since President Obama took office. It was outstanding when he made the speech in Prague calling for a nuclear-free world.


President Obama has made extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.

He has also demonstrated his strong commitment to help build peace and defend fundamental human rights, including through the atlantic alliance. This honour is well deserved.


There is nobody today in my view who is more deserving of that peace prize than Barack Obama. In less than a year he brought a radical change in the way we look at ourselves, in the way we look at our world. He is restoring the basic core values that every one of us should live by - dialogue, respect, democracy, due process, human rights, a security system that does not depend on nuclear weapons. His dedication to these values rekindles hope that, finally, we could have a world at peace with itself.


We have no objection if this prize is an incentive to reverse the warmongering and unilateral policies of the previous US administration and if this encourages a policy based on just peace.

The appropriate time for awarding such a prize is when foreign military forces leave Iraq and Afghanistan and when one stands by the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people.


We congratulate Obama for winning the Nobel. His hard work and his new vision on global relations, his will and efforts for creating friendly and good relations at global level and global peace make him the appropriate recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan. He has not taken a single step for peace in Afghanistan or to make this country stable.

We condemn the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for Obama. We condemn the institute's awarding him the peace prize. We condemn this year's peace prize as unjust.


You have already inspired so many people around the world, and I know that this award also expresses the hope that your presidency will usher in a new era of peace and reconciliation. Nowhere is such a peace needed more than in the Middle East, a region that has been long marked by terror and bloodshed.

I look forward to working closely with you in the years ahead to advance peace and to give hope to the peoples of our region who deserve to live in peace, security and dignity.


We hope that he will be able to achieve peace in the Middle East and achieve Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders and establish an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.


We are in need of actions, not sayings. If there is no fundamental and true change in American policies toward the acknowledgment of the rights of the Palestinian people, I think this prize won't move us forward or backward.


I am happy. What Obama did during his presidency is a big signal, he gave hope. In these hard times, people who are capable of taking responsibility, who have a vision, commitment and political will should be supported.


He's not even finished a year in his first term of office of a relatively young president. It's an award that anticipates an even greater contribution towards making our world a safer place for all.


So soon? This is too soon. He has not yet made a real input. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act.

This is probably an encouragement for him to act. Let's see if he perseveres.


It is a bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment to peace and harmony in international relations. It shows the hope his administration represents not only to our nation but to people around the world.


I think it's extremely well deserved. I think it will take some time before people put together all the different moves that linked his speech at the UN on the abolishing of nuclear weapons, his shift on the missile defence programme in Eastern Europe and the movement of Russia to joining the international consensus that confronted Iran to abide by the non-proliferation treaty.


I think that it is kind of foolish to think that the Nobel Prize isn't politicised - it's not a humanitarian prize, it's a prize in recognition of change in the world to contribute to peace, sometimes its a recognitions of visions for peace. He is facing huge contradictions as well - he is going to be sending 40,000 new American troops into Afghanistan just as he receives the Nobel Peace Prize? I think that is a contradiction that needs to be seriously looked at.


Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama is a way of encouraging him to not renege on the universal principles that he has championed.

We would have preferred a human rights defender like Oleg Orlov from Memorial in Russia or Natalia Estemirova [human rights activist murdered in Chechnya].

Call to Action. (From Barack Obama)

Chris --

This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award -- and the call to action that comes with it -- does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we've begun together. I'm grateful that you've stood with me thus far, and I'm honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oh That Love of Christ!

Always a friendly bunch, those non-judgmental Christians!

The Greatest...?

  1. Norway
  2. Australia
  3. Iceland
  4. Canada
  5. Ireland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Sweden
  8. France
  9. Switzerland
  10. Japan
  11. Luxembourg
  12. Finland
  13. United States

In order, that is the UN's 2009 List of the World's Most Highly Developed Countries. The United States Ranks 13th behind all of these other countries.

Bike Traffic.

This is cute. Well, cute if you can imagine there ever being Bike Traffic in the USA.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The System Map of France.

At over 260,000 square miles, and with a population of over 65 million people, France is not a small country. For comparison, the total area of France is larger than Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, South Carolina and West Virginia--combined.

And yet a country such as France can have a system map that rivals independently each one of these states. The mobility for the French, and for the rest of Europe, acts as a catalyst for more business opportunities, higher quality of life for the citizens and for sustainable infrastructure that doesn't need to be updated every 20 years. Why, oh why, does the United States rely so heavily on the automobile when other countries provide transportation options like this to their citizens which in the end raise the standard of living for everyone?

Just look at how the many nations of Western Europe have built a system together that mutually serves their part of the continent! Why is it that "the best country in the world" can't even get rail into the states like Texas with 34 million people, or in Ohio with 12 million, yet it can be done all over Portugal with 10 million?

I realize it just seems like I whine and complain incessantly about the void of transportation options in this country, but I just feel so helpless. Even with my rants, the people I am close with have no desire to demand change. Much less do the other 304 million people care! They are far more concerned with watching spectacles like Glee or American Idol than actually caring about the state of country that they call the greatest in the world.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ohio Fails Again.

Ugh. My endless lamentations about how awful transportation in Ohio is never seem to come close to resolution. My complaints are founded on the lack of intercity rail, the seemingly nonexistent state commuter rail and the incredible reliance that the 7th largest state in the US has on the single-use automobile. I recognize, however, when efforts towards smoother transportation-system use are made and try to be optimistic towards these efforts.

Recently the Ohio Department of Transportation had a slight opportunity to improve highway efficiency with its E-Z Pass program for the Ohio Toll Road. Many states--including Maryland, Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, etc.--have implemented these fast-pass lanes with grand reception and simple implementation.

But, unfortunately, Ohio fails again.

The adage Keep It Simple, One Thing at a Time wasn't heard in Ohio.

Instead Thursday October 1 they had a cash toll hike plus the startup of electronic tolling simultaneously.

And they grossly overestimated first day uptake of electronic transponders.

Initial lane allocations were based on an estimate that first day penetration of E-ZPass transponders would be 30% of traffic.

The actual percentage Thursday, Day One, turned out to be about 10%, officials said.

E-ZPass Only lanes went unused while traffic backed up at cash lanes.

Plaza superintendents scrambled to change lane modes.

At first they changed dedicated E-ZPass transponder lanes to mixed mode.

[And] then there was sign confusion.

Mixed mode lanes signed everywhere else in Inter Agency Group country CASH/E-ZPass in Ohio were signed TICKETS/E-ZPass which apparently led many cash-paying motorists not to understand they could use the lanes.

So the mixed mode lanes went underused while traffic queues grew at the cash lanes. The Turnpike Commission apparently felt they couldn't call the non-E-ZPass lanes CASH because they have payment machines that not only accept cash, but also credit/cards.

[Continued in the article...]
From a planning perspective, Ohio is rarely the forefront state leading the way in unique initiatives. A few consummate examples of states really introducing unique planning practices include Maryland's Smart Growth program, Oregon's Urban Growth Boundaries, and California's Coastal Protection Program. Ohio has nothing like these. So am I surprised when a state that never introduces new ideas fails at ones that have already been properly executed?

Unfortunately, when the state is Ohio, the answer is no.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Are You on...THE LIST?

I can't remember if I ever posted this on FITC, so here it is. (Again?). It NEVER gets old though!

"Booze, Guns and the Rise in Rural Suicide"

It was a long time ago that I took Sociology 100, but I remember learning that suicides were always in higher percentages in small states than large states. My Professor showed us how Wyoming has an incredible number of people offing themselves, and yet in New York the per capita numbers make it look like it never happens.

Anyway, this article seems to not only reinforce this, but it actually says its getting worse!

Attempted and completed suicides take place at higher rates in rural communities, especially in areas that have more bars and taverns than other rural places, according to a new study.

The numbers of suicides were highest among white men.

Suicide rates were higher in both urban and rural places with concentrations of bars and taverns, according to the report by Fred Johnson, Paul Gruenewald and Lillian Remer. The authors speculate that a wide range of factors contributed to higher suicide rates in rural areas, including widespread use of firearms, local economic problems and alcoholism. Three out of four rural suicides involved firearms, according to the report.

The study shows a sudden and sharp increase in the rural suicide rate beginning a generation ago. In the early 1970s, suicide rates of rural men exceeded the urban rate by just 4%. But by the late 1990s, the suicide rate for rural men exceeded the urban rate by 54%.

Check out the link for more on how they conducted the study.

My love for cities and city development goes beyond just the aesthetics of a skyline and the incredible alacrity that comes over me when I'm in the heart of a metropolis--if I boil it all down, it comes down to opportunity for community. Within a city you have the ability to create your own version of what you experience. Take Columbus. To some, there is the Buckeye/Ohio State Columbus, the city that has 'the best damned band in the land' and the football team that squashes Michigan (6 years in a ROW!). To others, they have the fancy downtown and the arts districts. To the gays, Columbus is a unique surprise, an unexpected liberal haven tucked in the center of such a fickle state. To someone like me, I view it as a temporary home--a place I will always look back on fondly. The bottom line is we all view it differently, and yet it is the exact same place.

In small, rural areas, there isn't that ability to re-create your own village. When you have 1200 people in a town and nothing for 50 miles in any direction, it is what it is and you just accept it. This lack of mobility and diversity in a community is really the destruction of community, and it's one of the main reasons why suicides are so frequent there. If you can't find friends, if you can't find your community, if no one knows if you exist...why bother? Why keep going? Would anyone even know you were gone in the first place?

More Rail Options in DC!

There are many, MANY reasons whyI do not like Ohio, but the lack of rail options is by far one of the biggest. Organizations like All Aboard Ohio are working hard to change this, but for now the reality still exists--if you're in Columbus, there ain't shit for transportation options. And this affects what Urban Planners define as "Transportation Behavior", which is the belief that your surrounding area,not your personal preference, will control which transportation mode you select. For example, you would be deemed insane if you were living in Westerville and decided to walk to work in Reynoldsburg. On the flip side, that's about the same distance between College Park, MD and Washington, DC--and thousands upon thousands of people use the bus and Metro system to make that journey. Why the change? Because frankly driving to DC is a pain in itself, and the parking fees are so astronomical that taking the metro is way more convenient! Here in Ohio we don't have those options, and because of this our transportation behavior is solely single-use automobile.

So, now get this. Virginia is about to launch rail service from Lynchburg to Washington DC, and it's part of a test to see how VA would benefit from more rail options. Why can't this happen here in the Buckeye State?
Virginia launches its first state-funded intercity passenger train Thursday from Lynchburg to Washington, a move that will enhance mass-transit options for Northern Virginia commuters and people across the state.

The new service is part of a $17.2 million, three-year pilot program the state is running, and fully funding, to determine whether enhanced rail service is viable in Virginia. The pilot program will offer two trains, one from Richmond and one from Lynchburg, that will travel to Union Station and then on to Boston. Service between the Virginia terminuses and Washington will include stops at some Virginia Railway Express stations; service between Washington and Boston will include stops in Philadelphia and New York.

However, the train set to run from Richmond will not launch until Dec. 15 because the necessary infrastructure improvements -- about $78 million worth -- are not complete, said Jennifer Pickett, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. She noted that $43 million in improvements were completed so that the Lynchburg service could begin.

"This is a pilot project. It is the beginning of something, not the end of something," said Sharon Bulova (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. "We are going to see this grow."
It's sad that in one of the largest cities in the US (Columbus), there is no intercity rail service, nor is there any kind of commuter rail whatsoever. If Lynchburg, VA can get it (and St. Cloud, MN; Madison, WI; Portland, OR; etc.)...why can't we?