By Mark Hallum
The MTA pulled talent from Canada in the appointment of Andy Byford as the new president of New York City Transit.
An internationally renowned transportation leader, Byford is recognized for modernizing the Toronto metro, which is the third largest transit system in North America.
“Our transit system is the backbone of the world’s greatest city and having someone of Andy’s caliber to lead it will help immensely, particularly when it comes to implementing the Subway Action Plan that we launched this summer,” MTA Chair Joe Lhota said. “In order to truly stabilize, modernize and improve our transit system, we needed a leader who has done this work at world-class systems and Andy’s successes in Toronto are evidence that he is up to this critically important task.”
Byford will replace acting President Darryl Irick, who was appointed after Tom Prendergast left the agency and will bring 30 years of experience to the table starting in January.
“New York City’s public transit system has driven New York City to become the bustling, successful metropolis that it is, and it’s an honor to be trusted with the huge responsibility to modernize the system and bring it to the high levels of performance and customer service that New Yorkers truly deserve and rightfully expect,” Byford said. “I look forward to working with my new colleagues and all the employees of New York City Transit and the MTA, and, most importantly, our customers.”
Lhota and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been in a stalemate battle against the city over who should pick up the tab on the MTA chairman’s $800 million-plus subway stabilization plan, which includes signal upgrades, modified train cars with higher capacity and campaign against garbage, the No. 1 cause of track fires and delays.
“Having held the position myself, I can say with certainty that it’s an immensely challenging job but also deeply rewarding,” MTA Managing Director Ronnie Hakim said. “Andy is incredibly well-regarded in the transportation world and did outstanding things in Toronto. I’m confident he will do the same here in New York.”
In late June, Cuomo called for a state emergency for the subways to suspend bureaucracy to expedite improvements following system-wide meltdowns, including a derailment in Harlem which injured over 30 straphangers. Since then, the state of emergency has been renewed by the state four times.
Recently released MTA data shows weekday ridership dropped between September 2016 and 2017 for the first time since 2009. Weekday ridership reached its peak last year at around 6 million rides a day but went down by 50,000 in the latest count.
Weekend ridership dropped by about 58,000 passengers per day to total of about 5.7 million MetroCard swipes.
On top of the subway ridership decline, buses travel has dipped down to about 2 million daily passengers compared to the 2.1 million average in 2013.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall