Showing posts with label transportation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label transportation. Show all posts

Saturday, May 14, 2016

West Virginia and Kentucky Coal Mining Jobs - What Really Caused Job Loss?

My grandfather was a coal miner.

He started working in the mines in 1902, as soon as he turned 16.

There weren't any other jobs in Palo Pinto County, Texas, even then, for a young man with a third grade education, but that was as far as Texas public education went.

Labor saving devices consisted of mules, who became blind in the perpetual darkness of the mine shafts.

My grandfather lost his job in 1917.

Why? Technology.

In 1917, the mine's only customer, the Texas and Pacific Railroad,began converting its steam locomotives from coal-fired to oil-fired. Over the next year, the coal mines shut down all nineteen shafts at the Thurber mine.

That's not all.

In 1916, the US Navy took delivery of its first oil-fired battleship and never built another coal-fired one.

In one fell swoop, the Navy got rid of its biggest logistical and strategic problem and saved money at the same time. No longer did they have to worry about coaling stations. After entering World War I in 1917, the US Navy quickly addressed underway refueling.

The first operational underway replenishment was achieved by the United States Navy oiler USS Maumee. Following the declaration of war, 6 April 1917, she was assigned duty refueling at sea the destroyers being sent to Britain. Stationed about 300 miles south of Greenland, Maumee was ready for the second group of U.S. ships to be sent as they closed her 28 May. With the fueling of those six destroyers, Maumee pioneered the Navy’s underway refueling operations under the direction of Maumee's Chief Engineer Chester Nimitz, thus establishing a pattern of mobile logistic support which would enable the Navy to keep its fleets at sea for extended periods, with a far greater range independent of the availability of a friendly port.

After WWI most navies pursued the refueling of destroyers and other small vessels by either the alongside or astern method, convinced that larger warships could neither be effectively refueled astern nor safely refueled alongside, until a series of tests conducted by Rear Admiral Nimitz in 1939-40 perfected the rigs and shiphandling which made the refueling of any size vessel practical.

Japan continued to use astern refueling of small ships, which slowed down her surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The US Navy had already perfected the alongside method, which proved crucial to operations in the Pacific. The Soviet Union also continued to use the astern method.

From 1923, about the time my grandfather came out of the mine shafts for the last time, coal mining entered a long period of decline:

1923        704,793
1943        418,703
1953        293,106
1963        141,646
1973        148,121
1983        175,642
1993        101,322
2003         71,023
2010         86,195
2011         88,000 
2013         80,396
2014         74,931 

I'm pretty sure my grandfather didn't know about the effect that changes in battleship design had on the market for coal, but since coal mining was the only job he knew, he went looking for another one. He found a coal mine in Tulsa, Oklahoma, beneath what is now the state fairgrounds. By 1923, he decided  it was too dangerous in the mines and became a chauffeur instead.

In 1917, reductions in coal mining reflected replacement of coal by oil for many heavy energy users.

The current reduction in coal mining may stem from a similar cause. The New York Times recently reported: "The most immediate challenge to the coal industry is the hydraulic fracturing revolution that has produced a glut of natural gas over the last four years, making the fuel cheaper to burn and stimulating a relentless switch by utilities away from coal." Regulation changes may have little to do with it.

Nevertheless, it matters little to miners who have lost jobs.

Maybe we need to think more creatively about what miners do or can do.

For example, can miners operate heavy equipment for other purposes than removing coal from the ground? What can miners build that needs building? What can miners dig that needs digging?

Government planners, scientists and economists should be able to foresee where the world is going and how to use existing skills to go there. We should be able to foresee what skills will be needed in the future and to develop them.

By and large, such planning tasks are beyond the ability of private businesses worried about quarterly profits.

We need a long term vision.

We once had such people.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

NC: Remove All Ferry Tolls

Local resident Greg Piner, who used the Minnesott ferry for decades to commute to work at the Marine Corps Air Station, has a creative and rational idea about ferry tolls.

Piner, who has argued against adding tolls to the previously free ferries used mostly by Pamlico County workers, has figured out that North Carolina would be better off without ferry tolls.  He disclosed his idea here on Town

Local Real Estate Developer Larry Gwaltney has expressed similar ideas on his Facebook page:

"I fear that our economy will be impacted as day trippers who travel and shop at our businesses and eat in our restaurants will be less likely to take the ferry. The ferries have been a drawing card for tourists for many years. Baby boo...mers, looking for a retirement destination, will not be as likely to see the beauty of coastal NC and will elect to choose homes and properties in other destinations.

Most of all, our infrastructure that provides the working people a reasonable route to work, will be impacted. The expense of a pass will again burden the family trying to make ends meet in an already troubled economy. Perhaps, we need to take a closer look
to see how Virginia and Texas continue to operate their state maintained ferry systems with no tolls."
 Maybe reason will out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

DOT Ferry Toll Hearing Footnote

Tonight's DOT public hearing on ferry tolls is the second such public hearing in Pamlico County.

We almost didn't have any.

Until Town Dock intervened.

Melinda Penkava, who can be very insistent, called DOT to get an explanation as to why DOT was holding no public hearing in the county most directly affected.

"There's no place in Pamlico County large enough for a crowd of 200," she was told. "Oh, yes, there is," she replied.

So DOT, whose planners developed Pamlico County's Comprehensive Transportation Plan, including addressing public transportation requirements associated with Pamlico County Community College, apparently knew nothing about the college's Delamar Center.

What else don't they know about Pamlico County?

Thank Goodness for Melinda Penkava.

Monday, March 19, 2012

DOT Ferry Hearing March 19, 2012

Do you know what a "Senior Public Involvement Officer" is? I tried to find out this evening on the NC DOT web site, to no avail.

Why do I want to know? Mr. Jamille A. Robbins, who chaired tonight's DOT public hearing on "NCDOT Proposed Temporary Rules Changes for Ferry Tolling" is one.

I was unsuccessful in finding a job description or explanation of Mr. Robbins' title.

But he must be powerfully influential. When the last questioner of the evening asked Mr. Robbins what DOT had done to carry out the governor's direction to seek economies within the DOT budget to equal the legislature's directed $5 million in revenue and then directed the question to the four DOT "suits" in the front row, Mr. Robbins explained they (the "suits") were present only as "observers" and couldn't speak. The four remained silent as Mr. Robbins attempted to explain the difficulties in figuring such things out while disgruntled attendees headed for the exits.

It reminded me of a mobile that a colonel of my acquaintance hung over his desk. The mobile consisted of a collection of fingers pointing in various directions, shifting with the wind. It looked something like this:

What was the hearing for? "To solicit comments regarding the request to amend, adopt or repeal portions of the NC Administrative Code per the temporary rules process."

What next? "Following the hearing and comment period, the NCDOT must adopt the proposed temporary rule change." In other words, nothing said tonight will have any effect whatsoever on the rule.

After the temporary rules are adopted, then the Rules Review Commission (RRC) will review the proposed changes. The RRC can either approve or object (not reject). If the RRC objects, NCDOT can either rewrite or not rewrite. If they do not rewrite and resubmit the rule, it will not become effective.

More importantly, if the RRC approves the rule, people opposing the rule may file an action for declaratory judgment in Wake County Superior Court.

I hope someone has started drafting such an action. Several of tonight's public comments included observations pertinent to a request for declaratory judgment, including an interesting account by Jim Barton of the legislative history of NC 306.

Representatives of other affected counties, including Beaufort, Craven and Hyde counties, provided very powerful inputs to the hearing.

A number of speakers pointed out that this ferry tax was enacted by Republican state legislators. The consensus seemed strong that Republican legislators had thrown Eastern North Carolina under the bus. The entire region east of I-95 knows what has happened and from what was said, they intend to remember that in November.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Throwing Eastern North Carolina Under The Bus?

Today's article in the News and Observer about possible tolls on I-95 should be a wake-up call. Tolls for Pamlico County commuters may be just the beginning.

Is there anyone out there who thinks tolls on I-95 won't shift traffic across North Carolina further inland? Say, through Raleigh and Charlotte?

Will that be good for business in Eastern North Carolina? Not likely.

I know that I-95 is projected to become congested along its entire link by 2030. But toll booths are likely to increase, rather than alleviate, congestion.

Contributing to the problem is that both the US Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Department of transportation are really just the same old highway departments of old. They love pouring concrete and building bridges. They don't yet (and may never) address transportation as a system. The function of the system is to move goods and people from where they are to where they need to be.

Roads and highways aren't the only way to move people and goods around. Rail, for example, is much more energy efficient than trucking. Most energy efficient of all is water transport. We have lots of water here in Eastern North Carolina. Here's a plan to use it to alleviate congestion on I-95.

Let's have no tolls on any North Carolina highways.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I've been on the road the last few days. Quick trip to Mississippi and back.

I always learn something on a road trip. This time, I learned that trucks (eighteen wheelers) leave shredded tires all along our interstates. Frequently the tire debris is surrounded by skid marks. Near accidents and possible real accidents.

I have also driven a lot in Europe on Autobahns, Autoroutes and Autostradas. Don't remember seeing shredded truck tires there. Maybe they don't allow retreads in Europe. Maybe we shouldn't do so here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Town Dock II

Oriental's town manager submitted a grant proposal last Friday seeking Boating Infrastructure Grant funds to use in addition to town funds for a new town dock at the foot of South Avenue.

This proposal will make best use of the end of the town's right of way leading to the harbor. It represents the culmination of the effort to reestablish public access to public trust waters and protect public use of this area.

There is no guarantee that the grant will be awarded, but initial reaction seems positive.

An ancillary benefit of the town's request for a CAMA permit for the pier, is that the permit will also be issued to cover a bridge over the upper reaches of Whittaker Creek to be used for a bicycle/golf cart path connecting White Farm Road with the village of Oriental. Such a connection was included two years ago in the Comprehensive Transportation Plan for Pamlico County.

The Town of Oriental needs to have its own Comprehensive Transportation Plan in order to seek DOT funds for bicycle and pedestrian paths.

By the way, the town's new Gator will make it possible for public works personnel to access the proposed path for maintenance.

Keep up the good work!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Traveling North

Just a word to the wise: when traveling north on I-95, if you can avoid Delaware, do so. Big delays from construction.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Freedom Riders

Fifty years ago, May 4, 1961, seven blacks and six whites left Washington, DC in two commercial buses enroute to the deep south. Their aim: to challenge segregation of facilities used in interstate transportation.

Monday night, May 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm, Public Television will broadcast a documentary about the event.

These young people showed remarkable courage and their peaceful, non-violent challenge transformed America.

We should all be grateful.

I strongly recommend everyone view the film.

Monday, April 18, 2011

US Pays Low Taxes

The idea constantly hammered into our heads by Republicans is that we pay high taxes, which must be reduced. Not so.

In fact, of all the advanced western-style market economies and democracies (what we used to call the free world), only Australia has lower taxes than the United States.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has published this helpful series of charts showing how we compare.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Time Has Come

Early this morning, those of us who remembered to set our clocks forward for daylight savings time woke up an hour earlier than the day before.

The theory is reminiscent of the fellow whose feet stuck out from his blanket. To remedy the situation, he cut a foot off the top of the blanket and sewed it to the bottom.

There should be a better way.

Why, for example, can't we just have daylight savings time year round?

Some say it's because the cows get confused about their milking time. I never saw a cow that could read a clock.

Then there are those who say it confuses the roosters.

Maybe we should recall how we got time zones in the first place. It wasn't for the cows or the roosters. It was for the railroads.

Before the railroads, every large European or American town had its own time. Time was told by the sun dial. Noon was when the sun crossed the meridian. (That's why morning time is denominated "ante meridian" and afternoon is "post meridian.")

Even sailing ships told time by the sun. Navigators used their best estimate of the ship's longitude, compared that to the Greenwich (or other) hour angle of the sun and calculated when the sun would be overhead. With the sextant, the navigator observed the sun's elevation. When it ceased increasing, he would declare that local apparent noon had arrived and (with the captain's permission) strike eight bells. The hour glass was turned and that became the beginning point for the next twenty four hours. So each ship carried a little bubble of time with it across the ocean.

So it was with every town. Each town had its own little time zone, based on its longitude. Church bells called the faithful to morning and evening prayers, sent the peasants into the fields and the workers to their tasks. It didn't matter if the next town was on a slightly different time.

Then came the railroad. It began to matter a great deal that one town's clock was five or ten or fifteen minutes different from the next town's clock. Printed train schedules became confusing.

To fix this problem, national railroads developed railroad time. When railroads began spanning continents as in America and Russia, railroad time became divided into zones.

In this day of computers, I see no reason we couldn't return to the prior arrangement of truly local time. Computers would have no trouble keeping track.

We already have a way that keeps track of time for events spanning many time zones. It is called Greenwich Mean Time. Since the dawn of radio communications, the US Navy has used GMT to keep track of messages, assigning a "date time group" to each message, based on the originator and the dtg of the message. It avoids confusion.

Ship and aircraft tracks use GMT. You can do the same with your GPS.

So why not a system based on GMT (using the 24-hour clock) coupled with real local sun time? To avoid confusing travelers, telephone cell systems could broadcast both GMT and LST. The change might even create a new market for time pieces designed to display GMT and LST.

And it wouldn't confuse cows or roosters.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

North Carolina's ICW: Neglected Economic Engine

What would you think of an infrastructure project that reduces petroleum imports, reduces congestion on I-95 and 17 without expensive and disruptive construction, and brings sustainable jobs to thirteen counties in Eastern North Carolina? How could that be done? Improve and expand the North Carolina portion of the Atlantic Section of the Intracoastal Waterway as an integral part of the North Carolina and national transportation system.

  • Water transport of cargo is the most fuel efficient and lowest cost method. A gallon of fuel moves a ton of cargo eight times as far on water as on land;
  • Water transport is by far the least costly and safest of all transportation modes and has the lowest environmental impact;
  • A single barge carries as much cargo as 58 trucks; typical tows are from four to fifteen barges – a single tug and fifteen barge tow replaces 870 trucks;
  • USDOT projects truck traffic on I-95 will double by 2030 increasing an average of 10,000 trucks per day, equivalent to a dozen fifteen barge tows;
  • Increased ICW traffic would offer the opportunity for steel barge and tug construction and maintenance, barge cleaning and storage operations and related economic development opportunities in Eastern North Carolina.

  • Decades of neglect of the ICW, lack of funding for maintenance dredging, postponed modernization projects, lack of official advocacy by the State of North Carolina;
  • Failure to view the ICW as part of an integrated transportation system: the State agency that interfaces with US Corps of Engineers is Fish and Wildlife, not DOT;
  • Failure to involve counties and regional councils of government (COGs): the only NC commission with ICW responsibility is the Morehead City Navigation and Pilotage Commission, with responsibility as far as Aurora, but whose membership is required to be from Carteret County (ICW transits 13 counties);
  • Shortage of intermodal transshipment facilities at railheads and ocean ports;
  • Failure to adapt highway asset management strategies to waterway infrastructure analysis

  • Create a North Carolina ICW Commission with membership from each of the 13 bordering counties, regional COGs and rural transportation planning organizations (RPOs) to develop a comprehensive, coordinated plan for water transport, integrated with land transportation planning and economic development planning;
  • Investigate opportunities for intermodal transshipment facilities at Washington, New Bern, Morehead City, Jacksonville, Wilmington, Southport and other locations along the ICW with rail and truck facilities;
  • Charge NCDOT with task of ICW transportation planning;
  • Assign a cabinet level official to interface with US Army Corps of Engineers

For more information, consult the following:

Waterways Council, Inc., (WCI), the national public policy organization that advocates for a properly funded and well-maintained system of inland waterways and ports.
Bluewater Charts & Books Newsletter -Following the Intracoastal Folly: What is happening to keep the waterway running
NC State Ports Authority - 21stCentury Transportation Intermodal Committee - February 21, 2008 Report

North Carolina Coastal Federation
US Army Corps of Engineers: Inland Navigation - Value to the Nation
North Carolina Beach, Inlet & Waterway Association

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pamlico County Comprehensive Transportation Plan

At the October Town Board meeting, the board approved a resolution adopting the Pamlico County Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) for Oriental. This plan, which was prepared by NCDOT with cooperation of the Down East Rural Transportation Organization (DERPO), establishes transportation requirements looking ahead thirty years.

The plan is on line at:{4B6C2CFF-3843-41DE-829A-DB9FF719B4DF}&DE={18C9014F-9283-4C2D-9EFF-02AF4E6FBB8B}

For the past two years, I represented Oriental on the Pamlico County Steering Committee for the CTP. The plan includes a requirement for a bicycle path from Dolphin Point to Oriental Village, a requirement for sidewalks along highway 55 beyond town limits, and a requirement for a public transportation routes. We had asked for all of these.

We successfully opposed inclusion of four lanes from Bayboro to Oriental and a proposed bridge from Cherry Point to Minnesott.

Next step: approval by county commissioners at their November meeting.

After county commissioners adopt the CTP, Oriental needs to develop its own CTP, building on the 1988 thoroughfare plan and work done to date on the Duck Pond Plan and the Whittaker Creek Greenway Project for a bicycle and pedestrian path connecting Dolphin Point with Oriental Village.