What Attributes Are the Most Important When Starting A New Transportation Service

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..)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!).
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. 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?)

  1. Operations – The right equipment, permits, labor agreements, etc., to make a transportation service run,
  2. Assets – This category includes the actual transportation equipment and infrastructure (roadways, vessels, trucks, cranes, docks, etc.), and the labor (truck driver, train, customs, services…),
  3. 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.  
  4. 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). 

 

Damaged Pizza and Potholes

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.

The Car Has Taken the Kids – Parenting in the Future

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.)

Page from Wired Magazine – used for comment purposes

 

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?

 C.  And how far could you send your children?

  • 0.01 mile: to the bus stop, to get the mail?
  • 1.0 mile: Elroy and Judy had short drops off at school. (Click here for the singalong!)
  • 6 miles: New Orleans, LA to Jefferson, LA
  • 79 miles: New Orleans, LA to Baton Rouge, LA
  • 135 miles: New Orleans, LA to Lafayette, LA
  • 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!

 

Visiting the Port of Zeebrugge

While attending a course on Maritime Supply Chains at the University of Antwerp, we visited the Port of Zeebrugge.

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.

One auto storage facility, we saw in the afternoon! No rain!
Yes, typical bus tour in the rain! Notice the cranes, COSCO shipping will move to Zeebruggee, but there was little international containers when compared to the containers moving to/from Britain.
We even watched a ship pass the sealock outside the port administration building.

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.)

Intermodal trains at the Port of Zeebrugee

It was a great visit, but at the end of a long day, sometimes you are just ready to take the bus back!

Thoughts on Sharing a Cross-Country Drive in 2050!

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!

Joining a Panel on “Conceptualizing the Economic Impacts of a Mississippi River Avulsion”

I hope you can join me at  Challenges of Natural Resource Economics and Policy
6th National Forum on Socioeconomic Research in Coastal Systems


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. 

Here is the draft session agenda, but you can access the full agenda here. http://www.cnrep.lsu.edu/2019/index.htm

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.

My Presentation at the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis

For those who do not know, I am a PhD Candidate in Applied Economics at the University of Antwerp, so trying to understand the state of the art regarding Benefit-Cost Analysis is important to my research work. (I joined the Society for Benefit Cost Analysis last year.)

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!

What Will You Drink Today…

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.

Talking Freight-Dec 19- Notes Posted online

https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/freight_planning/talking_freight/december_2018/

Several months ago, I approached Chip Millard about the question of freight data and geography, and so we worked together to put together this session.  I hope you can register and join in! 

Registration is now available for the December 19 Talking Freight Seminar.


Date/Time: December 19, 2018  1:00 – 2:30 pm ET

Topic: Using Freight Data in the Proper Geographic Contexts: Challenges and Opportunities

Registration: https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/fpd/talking_freight/index.htm

Description and Presentations: While freight activity utilizes a mix of different networks, from the global to the local, each movement depends on the same transportation system.  In many cases, a study area’s geography may be small when compared the users on the system (a local connector study) or so broad that geography may not matter (national traffic patterns).  Not all freight transportation data can be used at every geographic level; some data can only be used for macro-level geographic analyses, while other data are only appropriate to use at small-scale or micro-level geographies.  For transportation agencies and companies that are interested in conducting freight transportation analyses for larger geographies, such as for an entire state or along an entire multijurisdictional corridor, or for smaller geographies, such as for a metropolitan area or county, conducting those analyses can be challenging because data may not be useful for the required level of analysis without additional, analytical rigor.  There are also different of uses for freight data, ranging from simply education to project prioritization, which are not necessarily the traditional mode, commodity, and origin/destination freight data approach.

There are various transportation data sources in the public and private sector. Some of these sources are freight transportation-specific, like the Freight Analysis Framework, while others contain more general measures (demographic, economic, etc.) or geographic data (roadway networks, traffic counties, etc.) that can be adopted into a freight study.  Many challenges exist when transforming data to the proper geographic scope, where the planner’s needs are aligned with the required planning needs.

This webinar will discuss how different transportation entities are examining freight transportation using geography as the research goal, and are trying to make freight data “fit into” the study area.   The presenters will focus on the challenges they have faced in conducting freight analyses at both large and small-scale geographies, and provide insights concerning where data gaps exist and/or future research needs regarding program management, operations, performance metrics, or general planning needs.

Using Freight Transportation Data to Understand the Differences between Metropolitan Areas within a State

A series of presenters will provide an overview of a state DOT’s efforts to understand freight flows within their state through research programs to address freight data gaps. 

SPEAKERS:

  • Joel Worrell, Florida Department of Transportation
  • Thomas Hill, Florida Department of Transportation
  • Holly Cohen, Florida Department of Transportation

Utilizing Freight Transportation Data to Help Prioritize Projects along Key Freight Corridors (SmartScale) and Address Truck Parking Needs

This presentation will discuss how Virginia DOT has identified large and small-scale project needs along key freight corridors within the state.

SPEAKER:

  • Erik Johnson, Virginia Department of Transportation

Using Freight Transportation Data to Examine Last Mile Freight Transportation Needs

This presentation will examine how freight traffic volume information can be integrated into regional and local land use planning.

SPEAKERS:

  • Michael Brown, Metro Analytics
  • Chandler Duncan, Metro Analytics

 If you have not yet participated in Talking Freight, I encourage you to do so. These monthly seminars, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, are held via web conference, which means that you view the PowerPoint presentations over the Internet while listening to the presenters over your computer or the telephone. There is no cost involved and you do not have to leave your desk to participate. More information about Talking Freight is available at http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/fpd/talking_freight/index.htm  Links to past presentations and recordings are available on http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/freightplanning/talking.htm


Defining Mississippi’s Transportation System

On Tuesday, October 30, I had the privilege of attending/presenting at the 2018 Mississippi Transportation Institute Conference.  There were many great speakers, including a thoughtful Tim Flick, who spoke on leadership, and the energetic Janie Waters, who discussed change while leading everyone in the Hokie Pokie.  With so many quality presentations, I was honored to have been invited to speak, much less during lunch.  After being introduced by Northern District Commissioner Mike Taggert (in my opinion, a great asset for the State of Mississippi), I presented the following presentation.  ( my presentation: lambert-MTI 2018)

Defined transportation as a benefit:

  • to passengers and users,
  • to support the economy through freight movements,
  • to other sectors in the Mississippi economy.

Often, these benefits are not linked to the role that the transportation system serves an integral part of the state’s commitment to its citizens. The average citizen benefits from a robust highway system, as transportation makes our modern life accessible, but the system does have a direct cost, such as through taxes, or indirect costs, such as closed bridges, vehicle damage, etc., to the citizens of Mississippi.

Here are some of the references I used in preparing my remarks:

Southern Legislative Conference Comparative Data Reports on Transportation 2018 Report
Mississippi Department of Transportation Statewide Transportation Plan Mississippi Department of Transportation Fiscal Year 2017 materials
Mississippi Department of Transportation Freight Plan

1987 was the last concerted effort in Mississippi for a comprehensive statewide highway network program, which was the same year I graduated from Louisiana State University.  Since that was also the last year the State raised the gas tax, I am paying the State of Mississippi the same per gallon of gas from when I drove across the state after my graduation in 1987 as I did this week when I purchased gas to drive to the conference.

The problem is not one of identifying projects, but in securing funding for these projects,  While the state has recently taken steps to address this need, it took shutting down bridges to get some attention on this issue.  Maybe the citizens of Mississippi just need to eat more Domino’s Pizzas to fix the state’s potholes!