Archive for the ‘Other News’ Category

GE Transportation Likely to Take a Hit

October 21, 2017

GE Transportation may be among the business units of General Electric that will see an aggregate $20 billion worth of businesses cut from the GE’s portfolio within the next two years.

The Wall Street Journal reported that third quarter earnings statements from the locomotive and jet engine maker will reduce the company’s cash-flow outlook by $5 billion  to $7 billion.

GE managers have slashed $1.2 billion in costs from business units so far this year, surpassing the original $1 billion goal.

Earlier this year, GE Transportation said it will move locomotive production from its Erie Assembly plant in Lawrence Park, Pennsylvania, to a newer plant in Fort Worth, Texas, by the end of 2018.

The Erie plant will remain open producing parts and working on unspecified non-locomotive projects.

GE CEO John Flannery has ordered a review of every business unit and business practice, including expensive annual retreats to Florida and the company’s fleet of executive jets, both of which have been reduced.

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NEORHS to Meet on Saturday in Randolph

October 19, 2017

The Northeast Ohio Railway Historical Society will meet on Saturday (Oct. 21) between 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 at the town hall building in Randolph.

Attendees are asked to bring summer photographs to show during a slide show.

Pizza and beverages will be available, with a donation asked. Those attending are encouraged to bring food and beverages to share.

NEORHS will next meet on Nov. 18 and will hold its annual Christmas party on Dec. 16 at the Maple Street Gallery in the former Wheeling & Lake Erie depot in Hartville.

GCTRA Completes Building Green Line Station

October 19, 2017

Renovation of the Lee-Shaker station on the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Green Line has been completed.

The $11.7 million upgrade involved removing and replacing the original platform and waiting shelters.

Workers also installed new lighting, signs, railings and a safety security system with cameras and emergency call boxes.

The work began in October 2016 and the station remained open during the construction work.

In a news release, RTA said the renovations make the station compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“This station, as well as other recent renovations on both our light- and heavy-rail lines, are examples of RTA’s significant investment in our robust rail infrastructure,” said GCRTA CEO and General Manager Joe Calabrese.

Ann Arbor Park Commission Favors Putting New Amtrak Station, Parking Garage in Fuller Park

October 19, 2017

An advisory committee has accepted an environmental study favoring building a new Amtrak station in a park in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Despite some opposition, the Park Advisory Commission voted 6-2 in favor of agreeing that the use of Fuller Park for the station would result in a minimal impact on the park.

The environmental assessment was conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration and favors putting the station in Fuller Park rather than building along Depot Street.

The commission serves as an advisory body to the Ann Arbor City Council.

The FRA had made a preliminary determination that there would be minimal effect on the park from building a new Amtrak station elevated above the railroad tracks and an adjacent parking garage.

The station site would be in the footprint of an existing parking lot in the park along the south side of Fuller Road in front of the University of Michigan hospital.

The city council must now concur that building the station would have a minimal effect on the park.

City officials have said that 3.2 acres (5.4 percent) of Fuller Park would experience permanent impacts from construction associated with the station.

Several members of a grassroots citizens group called Protect A2 Parks argued against the minimal effect designation and in favor of locating the new station along Depot Street, where the current Amtrak station is located.

Protect A2 Parks member Rita Mitchell said a Depot Street site would be more likely to favor improved transit and train travel.

Mitchell also contended that a parking garage in the park would be unsightly.

Citing the parks master plan, Mitchell said there are just 4.53 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents in the central area of the city compared to a rate of 18.52 citywide.

Nancy Shiffler and James D’Amour of the Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club said using park property for a transportation facility sets a bad precedent.

“Fuller Park is an essential river-valley park providing some of the remaining open viewshed to the valley. There is no way to replace this value,” Shiffler said.

D’Amour, a former city planning commissioner, expressed fear that there could be more proposals to repurpose city parkland. He called for protection of parkland for future generations.

Vince Caruso, another member of Protect A2 Parks, said a station in Fuller Park would be too far away from Ann Arbor’s activity centers.

He said a Depot Street location would be more walkable to downtown. He also said placing the station in Fuller Park would restrict economic development around the station.

“So if we wanted shops — coffee shops, stores, small shops in the vicinity of the station like you normally would see — Fuller doesn’t really allow that,” he said.

Parks Commission member Alan Jackson, who voted in favor of the resolution, said he suspects if the portion of Fuller Park in question was ranked using the city’s parkland acquisition criteria “it would rank exceedingly low and we wouldn’t want to acquire it.”

Commission member David Santacroce, who also favored the resolution, expressed hesitation about second guessing the work of experts who decided that Fuller Park is the best location for the station. He also said the site of the station would still be needed for parking for the park.

Ruth Kraut, who voted against the resolution, retorted she’s not sure it would always have to be a parking lot, saying some have argued the site has been a parking lot for too long and should be transformed into green space.

“I feel there are other alternatives. I’m not convinced this is the best alternative, even if it weren’t parkland,” she said.

Buffalo Station Makes Endangered List

October 19, 2017

Buffalo’s Central Terminal has made a list of dubious distinction. It has been added to the 2018 World Monuments Watch, a group of international cultural heritage sites facing “daunting threats.”

The former New York Central depot that was used by Amtrak between 1975 and 1979 and for a time in 1971, is No. 22 on the list.

Closed in 1979, the station has undergone some renovation in recent years. However, it was bypassed when Amtrak recently sought a site for a new Buffalo station.

Amtrak has two stations in the  Buffalo region. These include a small and antiquated station at Exchange Street in the city and a station in suburban Depew.

GE Transportation Names New CEO

October 17, 2017

General Electric has appointed Rafael Santana as president and CEO of GE Transportation, effective Nov. 1.

Santana

Santana is currently president and CEO of GE Latin America and has worked at GE for more than 17 years.

During his time with the company he has held management posts in GE Oil & Gas, Power and Transportation before becoming the president & CEO of GE in Latin America.

GE said in a news release that in the latter role, Santana worked closely with regional business leaders to make Latin America one of GE’s largest and fastest-growing regions.

Before joining GE, Santana worked at ExxonMobil and British American Tobacco.

“Rafael has deep roots in GE Transportation, having spent eight years in a variety of commercial and product management roles, as well as leading the Transportation team in Latin America,” said John Flannery, chairman and CEO of GE.

Santana will succeed Jamie Miller, who will become chief financial officer of GE on Nov. 1.

Akron-Canton, Youngstown Struggle to Attract Air Service in Competition with Cleveland, Pittsburgh

October 14, 2017

 

An Allegiant Air Airbus 320 lands at Cleveland Hopkins Airport last April. By early next year, Allegiant will have foresaken the Akron-Canton and Youngstown airports.

Shortly after learning that its last scheduled airline would be ending service in early January 2018, officials at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport hired a consultant to assess how the airport could regain commercial service.

The report by Mike Mooney of Voltaire Aviation was not promising. It will be a challenge for Youngstown to regain air service, although not impossible.

His report also carried ominous news for the Akron-Canton Airport, which has seen two airlines decamp to Cleveland in the past five years.

One of CAK’s current carriers, Spirit Airlines, has been posting load factors that are 8 load factor points under the Spirit system load factor for the period of November 2016 to May 2017.

Although Mooney did not draw any conclusions as to what that might mean for CAK, he did say the Akron-Canton and Youngstown airports are losing flights to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport as ultra low cost airlines Spirit, Allegiant and Frontier Airlines increase their presence in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Mooney said the profitability of the ultra low-cost business model has since 2012 changed the Pittsburgh-Youngstown-Akron-Cleveland air service market from a “backwater to full-scale [ultra-low-cost] battleground” with intense pricing competition.

Hopkins Airport today has the highest concentration of flights provided by the low-cost carriers of any non-destination airport in the county.

Mooney told Youngstown officials to be patient in looking for a replacement airline.

At the same time he said with the rising number of flights from Cleveland and Pittsburgh to resort areas of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, it will be difficult for Youngstown to attract another carrier to provide service to those points.

Allegiant now flies from Youngstown to the Orlando-Sanford Airport and to Clearwater International Airport in the Tampa Bay region. None of those flights operate daily.

Allegiant once offered flights from Youngstown to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Punta Gorda, Florida.

John Moliterno, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, noted that Allegiant flights from Youngstown have had over 90 percent occupancy.

“We know what the numbers were. We had a very high percent occupancy on those flights. We had a very high percentage occupancy on flights that Allegiant canceled prior,” he said.

“Something has changed how they look at their business model. Something has changed in terms of how they operate and where they want to go,” Moliterno said.

Mooney suggested that the changes include declining load factors in, the loss of a low fare advantage, and decisions by carriers to focus on markets in larger cities that were once dominated by legacy airlines.

The first ultra low-cost carrier to serve the Pittsburgh-Youngstown-Cleveland-Akron region was Allegiant, which began flying into Youngstown in 2006.

Back then, Continental Airlines had a hub in Cleveland and Pittsburgh still has substantial service from USAirways, which had operated a hub there until 2004.

As recently as 2000, USAirways and its regional partners operated more than 500 daily flights from Pittsburgh to more than 110 destinations. By 2007, that had shrunk to 70 flights to 21 destinations.

Hub airports may offer travelers a wide number of non-stop flights to numerous destinations, but they also tend to have higher fares.

When Allegiant landed in Youngstown, the airport had been without commercial air service for more than three years.

At the same time, another low fare carrier, AirTran, was beginning to expand service from Akron-Canton to Florida. AirTran soon became CAK’s busiest carrier and eventually began service to New York and Boston.

Yet another low fare carrier, Frontier, offered flights from CAK to Denver.

Both airports benefited from the low fares offered by Allegiant, Frontier and AirTran. Many travelers from the Cleveland and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas began driving to the Youngstown and Akron-Canton airports to take advantage of them.

In the meantime, USAirways continued to cut flights in Pittsburgh and Continental merged with United Airlines, which in 2014 began phasing out its Cleveland hub. United reduced its 200 flights in Cleveland to 72 serving 20 destinations.

On the heels of these service cuts by the legacy carriers, the low fare carriers saw opportunity.

Frontier bolted from Akron-Canton in 2012 for Hopkins where it has since established a major presence.

AirTran was acquired by Southwest Airlines in 2014 and initially kept most flights out of CAK, flying to Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Orlando, Las Vegas and Tampa-St. Petersburg.

Southwest began pulling back from Akron-Canton in 2015, ending all service except to Atlanta. The last Southwest flight from Akron-Canton left this past June as Southwest deployed planes once serving CAK to new routes from Cleveland and Columbus, among other cities.

As Southwest was cutting service at CAK, Allegiant in May 2015 came into the airport located near Green with flights to Florida and the Southeast. Many of those flights were seasonal and none operated daily.

Then in November 2016, Spirit Airlines began flying to CAK, not long after Allegiant announced it was withdrawing from the airport in favor of service from Cleveland Hopkins to 10 destinations, which was more than the airline ever had from Akron-Canton.

Spirit continues to serve Akron-Canton, but with far fewer flights to fewer destinations than it offers from Hopkins. Spirit’s service from CAK is oriented to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Myrtle Beach and Las Vegas.

Airline consultant Mooney told Youngstown officials that their airport has suffered from the changing strategies of the low-cost carriers in the Cleveland-Pittsburgh service market that will make it difficult to attract other carriers.

“Youngstown’s service just got overwhelmed by all three carriers competing with each other at Cleveland and Pittsburgh,” Mooney said.

This competition also has affected Akron-Canton although it continues to have a moderate level of service, much of it provided by regional carriers operating under the brand names of legacy carriers United, American and Delta.

This includes service to New York, Newark, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Delta operates three non-stop flights daily between CAK and Atlanta using MD88 mainline jets. All other flights use regional jet equipment.

Youngstown, though, has not enjoyed the level of service that Akron-Canton has had.

Aside from service by Allegiant, Youngstown is served by periodic public charters oriented to trips to casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and in Mississippi.

A service between Youngstown and Chicago O’Hare International Airport by Aerodynamics Inc. began July 1, 2016, but ended in late August of that year.

Mooney said neither Youngstown or Akron-Canton can draw on the nearby Cleveland and Pittsburgh metroplexes for passengers as they once did.

Youngstown’s best chance to land commercial air service after Allegiant leaves may lie with a regional carrier flying small planes and which does not have an operating agreement to fly under the brand name of a legacy carrier.

One such carrier might be Southern Airways. Based in Memphis, Tennessee, Southern operates single-engine turboprops.

“We are going to talk to them all. We are going to try to bring another airline to this airport,” said Moliterno of the Western Reserve Port Authority, which operates the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

Although Moliterno said commercial service accounts for less than 10 percent of the airport’s overall business, an empty terminal creates a negative public perception.

“Which is the other reason it is very important for us to get that service back,” he said.

Hearing Set on Closing Bridge in Erie over CSX

October 14, 2017

A hearing has been set for Oct. 25 in Erie, Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation on a proposal to remove the McBride Viaduct over the CSX Erie West Subdivision tracks between East 12th and East 19th streets.

The bridge was built in 1938 and has been deemed to be structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.

PennDOT said it plans to remove the 1,170-foot bridge and all piers, steps and ramps. Fencing would be installed to prohibit pedestrians from crossing the tracks.

Report Calls for More Action on Tank Car Safety

October 13, 2017

Tanks cars could be made safer if the Federal Railroad Administration would “enable and incentivize more frequent and comprehensive inspections of rail routes with regular energy liquids traffic,” a report by the Transportation Research Board concluded.

The TRB said that although the vast majority of hazardous liquids have been transported safely by the rail, pipeline, and maritime industries, the volume of that traffic has grown significantly since 2005 and there is an “incomplete understanding of the dynamics of tank-car unit train derailments and a lack of clear guidelines and resources for state and local emergency responders.”

Among the issues that need to be addressed are the technical basis for track inspection standards, lack of training of first responders, and differences in the ways that officials gather and share accident data among states and communities subject to liquid fuels.

The report said some railroads continue to use older and less crashworthy tank cars.

That was disputed somewhat by the Association of American Railroads, which told a congressional committee recently that through the first two quarters of 2017, only 156 DOT-111 cars remain in flammable liquids service.

AAR said the weaker DOT-111 cars are being phased out in favor of the sturdier DOT-117 tank cars.

The TRB reports called for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to ensure that preparedness grants meet the needs of communities, and make sure that first responders are taking advantage of training opportunities.

It wants the FRA to provide incentives for more frequent inspections along routes used for transporting flammables, including the use of sensors and other monitoring technology.

Regulators need to encourage carriers “to make greater use of quantitative risk analysis tools … to inform decisions about priorities for maintenance and integrity management of the equipment and infrastructure.”

Allegiant to End Service to Youngstown

October 11, 2017

The last scheduled commercial airline service at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport will end on Jan. 4, 2018, when Allegiant Air ceases flying to  two Florida destinations.

Allegiant said demand is not high enough to continue service from Youngstown to the Orlando-Sanford and Clearwater airports.

In a statement, Allegiant said passengers booked out of Youngstown beyond early January will be given a refund or rebooked on Allegiant flights from Cleveland or Pittsburgh.

Airport officials, though, dispute that the Allegiant flights are doing poorly.

John Moliterno, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, said the flights have had over 90 percent occupancy.

Allegiant has been flying to Youngstown since 2006. For a time in the past two years it also flew to the Akron-Canton Airport.