Archive for November, 2013

Nov. 25, 2013

A stronger focus on customer collaboration and improved asset utilization are helping CSX Corp. respond more effectively to market changes, Vice President and Chief Transportation Officer Cindy Sanborn said Friday at the RailTrends conference in New York City.

Organized by Progressive Railroading, RailTrends was held Nov. 21-22 at the W New York Hotel.

\”Growth in our merchandise and intermodal sectors — the most service-sensitive parts of our business — means that the dual goal of focusing on asset utilization while gathering customer feedback is imperative to continue delivering the high levels of service to which they are accustomed,\” said Sanborn, according to a press release issued by CSX.

A dynamic resource planning model, which helps the Class I better deploy locomotives and rail cars, has provided ongoing productivity savings, she said. Along with a 6 percent gain in merchandise and intermodal business since 2011, the productivity savings helped offset a 21 percent decline in coal volume during that period. Improved locomotive utilization planning is expected to generate $20 million in productivity savings this year, and CSX remains on track to exceed $150 million in total productivity savings for 2013, said Sanborn.

The Class I also is creating value for shippers through programs like Service Excellence, which is designed to emphasize customer engagement and service execution at all organizational levels, she said. With help from customer input, the railroad is improving rail-car utilization, transit times and real-time communication, said Sanborn.

\”Superior service and coordination help set a foundation for our long-term growth,\” she said. \”Our customer satisfaction levels are at an all-time high, and we continue to focus on using our assets more efficiently and incorporating customer feedback.\”

via Rail News – CSX’s Sanborn at RailTrends: Customer feedback is key to high service levels. For Railroad Career Professionals.

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Nov. 25, 2013

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has completed all blasting operations for the first phase of its Second Avenue Subway project, marking a major milestone on the largest expansion of the New York City subway network in generations.

The final blast, which completed excavation for a future escalator entrance located on the north side of 86th Street and Second Avenue, occurred Nov. 18, MTA officials said in a statement posted on the agency\’s website.

Heavy construction to excavate and create the 96th Street station reached substantial completion earlier this month, as well, they said.

The controlled blasting operations began in November 2009 at 96th Street, and were used in the construction of all of the cavern excavations for underground structures for the subway stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets. The 63rd St. Station is being reconstructed to connect the Second Avenue Subway into the existing Lexington Ave-63 St. Station. Work at that site involved excavation, muck removal and reconstruction of the structural elements within the existing station for a future extension of the Q Line.

The Second Avenue Subway is scheduled to begin serving Manhattan\’s East Side by the end of 2016.

via Rail News – MTA reaches construction milestones on Second Avenue Subway project. For Railroad Career Professionals.

Nov. 22, 2013

SACRAMENTO – Southwest Airlines is now the latest carrier to allow you to use your personal electronics during all phases of flight. Six other airlines have also jumped on board with the easing of restrictions. But not every personal electronic device can still be used.

Southwest is reminding passengers that bulky laptops and devices larger than a tabled must be stowed during taxi, takeoff, and landing.

But at the same time, the airline is taking the opportunity to advertise its in-flight Wi-Fi services.

Under the new rules you can use your gadgets including your cell phone during takeoff and landing as long as the phone is set to airplane mode which will not allow phone calls or text messages.

Delta and Jetblue were the first airlines to change their policies. They were quickly followed by American, United, Alaska, and US Airways. The only major carriers remaining are Frontier Airlines and Virgin America.

This comes after the FAA ruled late last month that the radio signals from personal electronic devices didn\’t pose a threat to the safety of aircraft during takeoff and landing.

The remaining airlines are expected to lift their restrictions as well before the end of the year.

via Southwest Airlines eases electronics restrictions | news10.net.

Nov. 22, 2013

OAKLAND, Calif. – The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit board approved a tentative labour contract Thursday after stripping out a disputed family medical leave provision that officials with its two largest unions have said they want included.

Board members voted 8-1 to approve the deal, minus the provision that would give workers six weeks of paid annual leave to care for sick family members. The transit agency said the provision could cost $44 million over four years if one-third of union workers take six-week leaves each year.

BART officials announced last week that the provision had been inadvertently included in the proposed contract due to an error.

The parties agreed to a tentative deal Oct. 21 after six months of agonizing negotiations and two strikes that caused headaches for hundreds of thousands of people who ride the nation\’s fifth-largest commuter rail system.

\”We hope the unions will take the agreement, minus the six weeks of additional paid leave that was mistakenly included in the final document, back to their members,\” BART President Tom Radulovich said. \”Simply put, (BART) cannot afford to give its employees another six weeks of paid leave, on top of the generous leave already allowed in the BART employee benefit package.\”

The decision creates uncertainty about the fate of the tentative contract. Representatives from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 called the move by the board an unfair labour practice.

The unions intend to discuss the matter with attorneys and members to determine the next step.

\”I am deeply disappointed in the actions that the board took,\” ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said after the vote. \”To take this action on something that was not presented to our members speaks to the fact that they are not adhering to the negotiation process.\”

She later told the board that it was \”a slap in the face to the negotiation process.\”

\”You vote on a contract in its entirety — up or down. We expected the board to step up and act with integrity and credibility,\” Bryant said. \”We did not get to pick or choose what we wanted to leave in or to leave out.\”

The unions did not mention the possibility of a third strike this year.

Zakhary Mallet, the lone BART board member who voted against the tentative deal, said it was too costly and shortsighted.

\”I feel for the negotiations we went too far, too quickly,\” Mallet said. \”I don\’t find it financially sustainable.\”

A labour expert who was an invited observer to the BART bargaining sessions said Thursday that the Family Medical Leave Act provision was routinely mentioned among the parties among the items they had agreed upon as talks resumed.

John Logan, the director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University, said the provision was seemingly resolved as the talks remained contentious over salary, benefits and safety conditions.

\”The idea that this provision was included as a mistake would come as a complete surprise to the unions because it was settled earlier,\” Logan said. \”Whether it was included in the contract due to gross incompetence or a mistake, that\’s the contract you\’re supposed to be voting on.\”

Logan said he can\’t recall hearing anything similar and suspects that the unions will be \”highly reluctant\” to renegotiate and will likely look into possible legal actions.

He said another strike is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

\”But I don\’t think anyone is considering a third strike because that would be the worst possible outcome for both parties,\” Logan said.

The unions went on strike for nearly five days in July and for another four days last month, angering commuters who had to find alternative ways to work.

During the second strike, two BART workers were killed by a train operated by an employee undergoing training. The parties soon returned to the bargaining table.

via San Francisco transit agency OKs contract after dropping key provision sought by unions – Business News – Castanet.net.

Nov. 25, 2013

American Airlines announced the delivery of its first Airbus A321 Transcontinental aircraft, which has fully lie-flat First and Business Class seats. The new aircraft is scheduled to enter service next year, making American the only U.S. carrier to offer customers more choices with a three-class configuration when flying between New York and Los Angeles, and New York and San Francisco.

The A321T will offer fully lie-flat seats in First and Business Class, with direct aisle access for all First Class customers. The aircraft is equipped with Main Cabin Extra seating, giving Main Cabin customers the option of up to six inches of extra legroom, and every seat onboard has in-seat entertainment with up to 200 movies, up to 180 TV programs, more than 350 audio selections and up to 20 games. Individual AC power outlets and USB jacks are available at every seat throughout the aircraft. Customers will have an enhanced experience connecting with Gogo’s upgraded ATG-4 Wi-Fi service.

American will begin operating the A321T between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in January. The aircraft will initially operate two of American’s daily flights between JFK and LAX and will operate all frequencies between the two airports in June, when American increases its frequencies to 13 daily flights. The A321T will also begin flying between JFK and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in March 2014 and will operate all frequencies between the two airports in June, when American increases its frequencies to five daily flights.

The new A321T incorporates the latest improvements to reduce fuel burn, marking another important advancement toward American’s efforts to build a more fuel-efficient fleet. On the road to building a younger and more modern fleet, American plans to take delivery of nearly 60 new aircraft total by the end of the year, including new Boeing 777-300ERs, Boeing 737-800s, Airbus A319s and Airbus A321Ts. The airline will continue its fleet renewal program in 2014 with more new aircraft deliveries, including the Boeing 787, which is scheduled to join American’s fleet late next year.

In addition, American’s current and future deliveries from the Airbus A320 Family, including the A321T, which has Airbus’ Runway Overrun Prevention System (ROPS).

Visit aa.com/newplanes.

via American Airlines Announces Delivery of First Transcontinental A321 | International Meetings Review.

Nov. 25, 2013

The Amalgamated Transit Union and its local unions — including Local 788 in St. Louis — plan to accomplish so much more in partnership with our riders and our systems than what Metro CEO John Nations mentioned in his narrow mischaracterization of our efforts.

His comment that “passengers are on the side of safe and dependable and financially viable public transportation systems” must have delighted the austerity-addicted politicians and their billionaire buddies who never tire of vilifying unions for their own political purposes and their friends’ economic gain.

They seek to lodge a wedge between bus drivers and the public by suggesting that, somehow, transit workers don’t care about things that are essential to their continued employment.

In doing so Nations is deploying the same divide-and-conquer tactic that the “multiple transit agencies” he mentions use as an excuse to cut service, raise fares, retain austerity budgets and keep the taxes of the rich as low as possible.

Nations would have you believe that transit workers are to blame for transit’s problems in St. Louis and across the country, but the passengers drivers see everyday are not so easily fooled. ATU is one of the very few national organizations that speaks up for them and, together, we will continue to fight for their right to affordable, quality public transportation.

We have much bigger ambitions for public transit and want to work with John Nations and our elected officials and regional leaders to end the false choices of sustainable careers or sustainable systems. Expanded, reliable transit systems can serve as a pillar for regional economic growth, inclusive vibrant communities and environmentally responsible leadership. Transit jobs should be seen as the green jobs that get riders to good jobs.

CEO Nations could become such a leader if he secured the workers and passengers’ support to make the case that St. Louis is presently not served by a nationally acclaimed or productive system. In a 2011 Brookings Institution report titled “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America,” the St. Louis-area system ranked 68th for transit coverage and access to jobs right above Jacksonville and Memphis, cities with almost 1.5 million fewer regional residents.

Furthermore it’s clear the Americans supports more and better mass transit as voters in six states this past election passed ballot initiatives calling for more public transit. They were even willing to raise their own taxes to improve public transit. These votes are part of a continuing and growing trend in elections as 79 percent of transit ballot measures passed in last year’s election and 71 percent have passed since 2000.

The point being that strong, broad regional transit systems can be part of 21st century solutions on many levels. Yes, of course, the drivers and other employees of Metro want to keep the wages and benefits that allow them to provide for their families. But we are aiming for a deeper relationship with our passengers and those who benefit daily from Metro — real estate and business owners, students and schools, the community of people with disabilities, the elderly, the conscientiously or hard-pressed carless — to expand and improve service and the opportunities brought by public transit.

via Transit workers union has bigger ambitions for public transit : Stltoday.

Nov. 26, 2013

American Airlines parent AMR Corp. will have to wait a little longer to learn whether a bankruptcy judge will approve its settlement with the U.S. Justice Department of a lawsuit over the carrier\’s proposed merger with US Airways Group Inc.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane declined to rule on the settlement from the bench after a hearing Monday in New York. After hours of argument over a group\’s request to block the regulatory accord, the judge said he would have a decision by Wednesday at the latest.

\”This hearing represents the culmination of perhaps the most successful Chapter 11 case for an airline in recent history,\” Stephen Karotkin, a lawyer for AMR, told the judge.

Under the Nov. 12 accord, the Justice Department agreed to drop its antitrust challenge if the carriers gave up some airport slots.

American Airlines will form the world\’s biggest airline if the merger with Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways is completed. The federal district judge presiding over the antitrust case in Washington must also approve the proposed settlement after accepting comments from the public through Feb. 7.

The deal with US Airways is the linchpin of Fort Worth, Texas-based American\’s bid to emerge from bankruptcy after almost two years and repay creditors. Lane approved American\’s reorganization plan in September while barring it from taking effect until the underlying merger won regulatory clearance.

The announced settlement earlier this month was a relief to American Airlines and US Airways employees, union officials and industry insiders. More than 6,000 of those employees are in Tulsa at American Airlines\’ primary maintenance and overhaul facility.

To resolve regulators\’ concerns that the deal would give the merged airline too much clout at Washington\’s Ronald Reagan National Airport and boost prices, American and US Airways agreed to divest 52 pairs of takeoff and landing slots there. The combined carrier would also give up 34 slots at New York\’s LaGuardia Airport and make smaller concessions at five other airports.

The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit to block the merger of American and US Airways in August, arguing it would raise prices and harm consumers. American could emerge from bankruptcy and compete on its own without the merger, the U.S. said.

American Airlines and US Airways said the deal would be good for passengers, giving them more choices and generating more than $500 million a year in benefits.

AMR\’s total value for its stakeholders under the reorganization plan is about $13.1 billion based on current trading, representing an increase of $2.7 billion since Aug. 7, when a valuation was last completed, Karotkin told Lane Monday. He called the value created for creditors a \”remarkable achievement.\”

After the merger, US Airways Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker would hold that title at the combined airline, while AMR CEO Tom Horton would serve as chairman until the first annual meeting of the merged carrier.

In September, Lane challenged a $20 million severance payment under the turnaround plan for Horton, prompting Karotkin to say the payout would be dropped to win approval.

The agreement gives 28 percent of the stock of the combined company to US Airways shareholders, with the remaining 72 percent going AMR creditors, unions, certain employees and shareholders.

via Judge delays decision on AA settlement – Tulsa World: American Airlines.