We tend to think in nice round numbers, such as fives, tens, hundreds. Despite being a nice round number, 2020 will always be the year with the asterisk.
Researchers will seek to account for the social, economic, and political events of the year by assuming 2020 can be “normalized”. This is too simple a concept. If the economy can be represented as a factory that can be stopped and started, then concerns over 2020’s prospects are unfounded. However, this ignores the many activities that require multiple years to complete, such as capital programs, public services, or other planning and permitting activities. The challenge will be to see how activities with longer horizons perform during 2020. It may many years to get to the new “normal”.
In talking about automation, emerging technologies, telecommunications, Internet of Things, we are witnessing the evolution of “Smart Transportation”. And in many ways, they are correct, but for something to be smart, the implications that the current system is “dumb”. I don’t think “Smart” describes the complexity of transportation.
Transportation began with a man/woman carrying something from Point A to Point B. Seeing everyone in the tribe carrying their own materials, someone says “We could carry more if we lashed the object to a pole”. Together, they can now effectively carry more. The concept of efficiency, per-unit costs, time, etc., became more manageable as people understood transportation allowed for the construction of structures, the movement of food products, minerals, and ideas.
From a technology perspective, we harnessed the elements: wind drove our boats, fire forged the metals that become bolt, nails, airplanes. Over time, we learned to understand risks creating commercial laws/traditions that supported the movement of goods and people. Eventually, humans learned to use boats, animals, sleds, wheels, air, internal combustion engines, etc., each innovation requiring new technological knowledge to be gained and shared. (The history of the wheel!)
In that perspective, in the year 2525, some critics may talk about how simple “our smart technology” will appear. In their mind, today’s “smart innovations” will be the future’s “dumb” system that needs improvement.
Many have postulated what generates transportation corridor development, especially regarding new service options. Often, these discussions involve many users seeking someone to help them solve “their” problem. For example, the shipper will want service alternatives that are reliable and/or at a lower cost than their current operation. Carriers want more cargo on their network. Public sector groups want to see more economic activity, expressed as freight traffic, through their region. (The same could be applied to intermediaries, such as labor, freight forwarders, brokers, etc.). There seems to be no single word that encompasses the “why” regarding how transportation services start and continue over time.
In organizing my thoughts on this topic, I came up with two alternative lists to distill what maybe needed for a transportation service to begin and remain successful. I really don’t know which list is better, so they are presented here for your consideration.
First, the 7 C’s. (I was thinking of something catchy. I think this works..)
Capital-It takes money to get something started. There are barriers to entry, costs of renting/purchasing equipment, etc., as transportation may require large upfront costs before the first shipment occurs.
Carrier-A carrier (or multiple carriers) must be willing to offer that service, possessing the right equipment, skills, etc. to satisfy a shipper’s needs.
Connectivity-The trade lane must service a network, or be tied to networks, so that the cargo does not stop at a midpoint. For example, there are many ports in the U.S., but not all are served by multiple Class I railroads. This could put these ports at a disadvantage for rail dependent cargos. (There are other connectivity issues related to pipelines, roadways, shipper locations, channel characteristics, etc., so don’t think I am only picking on railroads!).
Cargo-There has to be cargo operating in both ways (to spread out the revenue costs for the carrier) or someone is willing to pay for the empty movement, but cargo must be available and willing to pay for that freight service.
Collaboration-For the carrier, shipper and other engaged parties, the service must be seen as an important relationship, not a “one-off” item, to encourage shippers and carriers to be confident the service will continue into the future. This may also require a champion to ensure that everyone is working toward the same goal. (Yes, Champion is a “C” word, but in this context, it is a visionary pushing for collaboration.)
Costs-There is no free lunch. Costs must be set at a level where carriers benefit while shippers receive their desired service levels, and where possible, there are little significant cost on other users/groups.
Climate-Does the business climate support this service? Can the service handle any disruptions or adopt to changing conditions? Given discussions on resiliency, climate may be a good word when discussing risks outside of operational activity.
My alternative term is OARS (like row your boat?)
Operations – The right equipment, permits, labor agreements, etc., to make a transportation service run,
Assets – This category includes the actual transportation equipment and infrastructure (roadways, vessels, trucks, cranes, docks, etc.), and the labor (truck driver, train, customs, services…),
Reliable– Everyone has to commit to making the service “work”, where service risks are minimized, and revenue streams can be managed so that everyone benefits.
Support– Everyone involved understands their role, and works to ensure the cargo, equipment, service, etc., work as expected. In some ways, this final category may be the hardest to maintain over the long term as markets/costs, can change over time.
In reviewing these two lists, there exist many nuanced concepts, but one “C” word seems to be an unspoken, but vital, element: commitment. This requires a commitment to provide the service (carrier), use the service (shipper), and to support the service (public sector/other agents).
In October 2018, I made a presentation on the challenges of funding highways in Mississippi. As the Domino’s Paving for Pizza campaign started earlier that year, I suggested that Mississippians should only eat Domino’s pizza. This would be a win for everyone, Domino’s sells more pizza, people have better roads without having spent money on highway/vehicle related taxes. (I really liked the pizza/pothole meter, although think of what is happening to your car when you hit a pothole!)
Domino’s fixed two potholes in Jackson, but I am sure there are other potholes in Mississippi.
There have been plenty of discussions on the adoption of autonomous vehicles. Often, these topics depend on one assumption: these decisions are made by reasonable, functioning adults, but what about its relationship to travel for our children. There is a need to discuss this emerging topic, but it seems forgotten in the “hysteria” surrounding adopting the technology. And when I did some research on this topic, it remains a large gap, as suggested by Ben Morris.
Wired Magazine published a short six-word story in wired 27.06 on a future parenting dilemma. The story “The Car Has Taken The Kids” got my mind racing. Here is the page, scanned here for comment purposes only, and unfortunately, I could find no way to link back to this image on the Wired Website.)
There have been many questions about the future of autonomous vehicles, mostly focusing on adoption of regulations, permits, etc., but what is the social acceptance of autonomous cars as related to parenting?
So, here are some things that concerned me about the topic:
A. At what age should a child travel alone in an autonomous car:
I assume we would let unaccompanied children ride in a car when they are five years old, as is the case with airline travel. However, that oversight may be waived for short distances to visit family or for childcare purposes. Over time, that boundary may change if convenience wins out over safety.
But that raised a different question, do we still need a driver’s license? Over time, the age of receiving a driver’s license has increased, but everyone is riskiest during their first year of driving.
B. And where would you send your kids in the autonomous car:
There will be a desire to send children to visit family, such as grandparents, or aunts and uncles. Regarding divorced couples, the autonomous car may prevent disagreements over parental visits, as there is a clear time log when the child left one parent for the other.
Do we send the kids in autonomous cars for childcare or after school activities? So, the parents do not necessarily have to do these trips, but there will still be a vehicle in the traffic stream, and there may or may not be carpooling!
School? Would this create more backup around the unloading lines, or would this be faster than parent yelling “I love you”, “Did you forget”, etc.? But would that cut down on bullying if kids are not on a bus?
348 miles: New Orleans, LA to Houston, TX (There are direct flights, so one could simply have the car drive to the airport (14 miles from New Orleans to Kenner.)
(The following map is from Rand McNally)
There so many concerns over what is a safe distance for a child to “roam”. That discussion has spurred some legal actions, such as in Utah. Adding unaccompanied minors in an autonomous car will raise that question again, similar to the comments made about the mother who let her son ride the subway.
D. How will parents know their children will be safe?
Do we put bio engineering safeguards in place, such as voice activation?
Should parents have to report this to police/traffic centers if the child is going over a certain distance?
Can there exist feedback loops and apps for the parents and the expected party to monitor the vehicle (temperature, speed, location, fuel, potty breaks)?
What if the vehicle makes a wrong turn?
Who would be able to respond in time to ensure the child’s safety?
Will this require some group to geocode the entire trip, and if so, who monitors that movement?
What would prevent the kid from “stealing” the car, once they know how the “car” works?
Who bears the liability for that decision if something failed?
E. Will this movement result in more or less traffic, or influence parking/land use?
Will the car be parked while waiting, such as at school or other events?
Will the car return to the parents, and then move back to get the child?
Will these put additional empty miles on the network or will the car become a commodity/resource consumed in the “shared economy”?
There will be a point when people will accept young children in autonomous vehicles, but it will be slow process, one of the points raised by Dr. Tremoulet. This raised another question concerning activity to Virtual Reality, “do children even need to go anywhere?”. In Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt”, where the children play in a virtual reality world, which results in the death of the parents.
No one will say that chauffeuring kids around is a task that could not be automated, but there may also be something that is lost, TIME. My kids may not have appreciated their parents driving them around, and we all have complained about operating a “taxi service”, but that driving reinforced our family bonds. A bond that was strengthened mile by mile on road trips, to\from swim meets, or running errands. We all have road trip stories, although they may not be as dramatic as driving the car off the road, as in Family Vacation!
There is a saying that if you see one port, you have seen them all. Others will say, if you see one port, you have only seen one port. I would add when you see one port, you see one port for that day, as traffic patterns can change quite a bit. That was the issue here, as several presenters discussed the lower traffic in the port was the result decline after a surge of cargo moved to Britain prior to the last Brexit deadline.
After a great introductory presentation, we drove around the port, which handles a lot of autos! We first toured the facilities in the morning, while it rained, only to see it clear up later that day.
The question of Brexit remained a constant topic. The Port of Zeebrugge is a major gateway between Europe and the United Kingdom. Traffic through Zeebrugge remains integrated into supply chains for British retailers, even to the point of handling larger trucks, which are allowed in the UK, but not in the EU.
It was a great visit, hearing the presenters talk about importing fresh fruit, how interdependent the UK was for EU firms stocking their shelves, and how the port itself developed. (There is a lot of rail in Zeebrugee. They can build European block trains at the port.)
It was a great visit, but at the end of a long day, sometimes you are just ready to take the bus back!
Summer is coming upon us. As a nation, we hit the open road for vacations or road trips. Traveling brings some unexpected pleasures (such as the Grand Tetons during sunrise, or driving in the Ozarks during a summer lightening storm) but also the agonizing delays (one of which was a distributor cap that fell off a rental truck in central Texas at 3 am). For much of us, a summer trip shared with family and friends remains a beloved memory.
In 2015, I drive my daughter’s stuff cross-country. I flew out to Oregon, rented a straight truck, and once we were loaded, drove from Oregon to Louisiana. I made a few stops along the way, such as visiting Winslow Arizona for a photo at a corner and Albuquerque, where I ate a burrito at Twisters, the restaurant that served as “Los Pollos Hermanos” in the “Breaking Bad” franchise. (And yes, some woman ran in, took a lot of pictures, and left.. Tourist!) The irony is that for most of the ride, my daughter’s dog sat as I slogged through conference calls, audio books and podcasts.
That was the last cross-country trip I made from the West Coast.
If I redid this five day trip in 2050, it would probably be a different trip.
For example, if I rented a truck from UHaul, Penske or Ryder, would the truck be partially or fully autonomous? Would we have loaded the truck, only to watch the truck take off without any passengers to a destination? Would I be able to ride with the stuff, although I will just another item on the manifest?
Could I tell the vehicle I want to make a side trip, stopping along the way to catch vistas, tourist traps, or whatever catches my fancy? (My daughter still laughs about one trap where we ate breakfast at 20 years ago!)
Would I even remember how to drive, especially if all I did for the next thirty years would be to drive an autonomous small car, a la Mr. Incredible?
Would my daughter have even owned as much stuff, or even wanted it moved cross-country? For example, in a shared economy, what would people own outright? Would some of what we loaded and moved would have instead been 3d printed while we were going cross-country, or new rentals waiting for us at our destination?
In 2050, I think I will probably be sitting like Zoe, staring out the window, unconnected to the road or the journey (much like this girl in the video). In many ways, one could argue that a last frontier, the open road, may be transformed into something different from the experience that captivated Walt Whitman. He closed his poem, “Song of the Open Road”, with the following challenge.
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
I agree with Walt Whitman. A journey shared is always better, even with a dog!
May 19-21, 2019 • New Orleans, LA • Royal Sonesta Hotel
The Mississippi River is normally considered to be a fixed entity. Old Man River just keeps Rollin’ and Rollin’, but really the river is a dynamic entity, creating and responding to the environment through which it flows. There have been many discussions regarding the Mississippi River and especially the Lower Mississippi River, as a international corridor. The supply chains that depend upon the River are many, but so too is the socio-economic relationship of the river to the region. I hope to do more with this work, as there is much to explore concerning supply chain risks and understanding the associated response to large asymmetrical events. (I gave a similar presentation to the New Orleans Regional Planning Council Freight Roundtable a few years ago.) I would love to hear any comments you have on this topic, as I plan to do more research along this line.
Conceptualizing the Economic Impacts of a Mississippi River Avulsion (Draft Agenda)
Tuesday, May 21, 2019 1:30 am to 3 pm
Moderator: Lynn Kennedy, Louisiana State University
Discussion Panel James Barnet, Mississippi Department of Archives and History (retired) Patrice Lazard, Louisiana State University Bruce Lambert, Metro Analytics Chris Mclindon, New Orleans Geological Society Michael Miner, Water institute of the Gulf TBA
Attached is an image from the New Orleans Board of Trade, which I hope you find is an interesting graphic.
The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis held their annual meeting in Washington, DC last week. There were some great presentations, (although I missed quite a few because of overlapping panels), but I did find James Scouras‘ presentation titled “Analytical Challenges Surrounding Analyses of Nuclear War”, very engaging.
I made a presentation on my PhD work Thursday afternoon, Session 3G, “Transportation on Waterways: Keeping Afloat using BCA”. Our Discussant, Joe Devlin, said the session should have been called “Big boats are fickle, fragile, and frustrated”.
My other panelists presented some very interesting work. Tim Skeel discussed how he proposed changing bridge closures in Seattle based on the value of time and normalized shipping activity. (The study examined how to change operations on a bridge built in 1910 for today’s traffic conditions.) He did a very through job on showing how these changes would benefit Seattle commuters, but the Coast Guard was not interested in changing their bridge hours. Tim was followed by Douglas Scheffler, U.S. Coast Guard, on estimating the safety benefits of deploying the Physical Oceanic Real Time System, PORTS. Doug’s presentation showed how to evaluate physical deployment of monitoring systems to assist the maritime community. Oftentimes, safety becomes “assumed away”, as how does one count for what may or may not happen.
My presentation and PhD largely centers around the question of managing investment risk in ports for large infrastructure projects. The topic has interested me for years, as evident by many of my presentations over the years. The discussion could be summed up by the slide, where the horizontal is the public sector space and the vertical is the private sector.
The outline: Ports need different types of infrastructure investment There are public and private sector actors involved in port projects Port Capacity dictates a ports competitive advantage, so growth remains the perpetual goal Sensitively in the forecast provides some risks to the infrastructure owner The Port Prioritization Program in Louisiana My Research Methodology (factor analysis and Monte Carlo Simulations)
After the presentations were finished, Joe Devlin and Henrik Andersson, chair, led a very engaged back and forth between the panelists and the audience. So, thanks to those people who attended the session and engaged in a great dialogue!
There was quite a lot of discussion on this chart from the European Union regarding Cost Benefit Analysis.
I am looking forward to submitting an update on this work next year (although presenting at the Society for Benefit Cost Analysis European Conference sounds interesting…)
So, over the next few months I will begin getting more into the data/analysis as I work on my PhD!
A few weeks ago, I made a presentation for a class at the University of New Orleans. As with a lot of my general freight speeches, I start with the following question.
For the few paying attention, most talk about water, tea, soft drinks and coffee. Eventually someone brings up beer or wine, which always gets a laugh, but the irony is most people do not think about their ability to access something safe to drink. As we have expectations regarding its cost, taste, and general characteristics, we have some general idea regarding our willingness to purchase a coke at a vending machine or a soft drink at a fast food restaurant. Oftentimes, we do not think about what it took to get that product, to that place, at that time, for you to make the purchase decision. Someone designed the bottle, made the beverage and filled the bottle, only for it to be carried to that location. It was logistics that took the beverage from the plant to where you are now.
So, as you enjoy your purchase, just stop and think that there was more to this purchase, namely that the distribution/transportation system works so well we do not marvel about drinking something that literally came from around the world, or in some magical place, as in this Coca Cola Ad.