Byford resigns as MTA New York City Transit chief

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Andy Byford resigned Thursday as president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's New York City Transit division, ending a two-year run marked by innovation and controversy.

"I’m very proud of what we have achieved as a team over the past two years and I believe New York City Transit is well-placed to continue its forward progress now that the MTA has a record breaking $51.5 billion capital program in place," Byford said in a statement released at the MTA's monthly board meeting in Lower Manhattan.

While Byford in his statement expressed gratitude to Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who hired him —- and others including MTA Chairman Patrick Foye, Byford found himself frequently at odds with Cuomo, finding the governor's management style intrusive.

"I don’t think it’s very good, because it is a signal that he didn’t get the control that he desired over the subway-signal modernization project," said Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

"We’ve spent two years spending an enormous amount of money getting the MTA to a semi-acceptable state of repair, where it was a decade ago, but we haven’t made real progress on improving it, and he was key to that," Gelinas added. "I’m not saying he is irreplaceable, but is someone as competent and fearless likely to replace him in this political environment?"

Lisa Daglian, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, called it "a terrible day for riders." She added: "We're shaken and deeply saddened — but not terribly surprised — by Andy Byford's resignation."

The British-born Byford built a reputation as an innovator while running transit systems in London, Sydney and Toronto. He has been widely popular among New York transit advocates and his ebullient style resonated with media.

Under MTA's transformation plan, still in flux, Byford lost control of the capital construction operations of New York City Transit, which operates the city's subway and bus system. The MTA is one of the largest municipal bond issuers with roughly $43 billion in core-credit debt.

Byford, who set out to modernize one of the nation's oldest mass transit systems through his so-called Fast Forward initiative, nearly resigned last October and had in fact submitted a resignation letter, but was talked into staying. Published reports at the time said Byford was reluctant to run point on service cuts or layoffs, or organize Cuomo's technology-themed conferences.

Trigger points have also included the governor's intrusion in the Canarsie Tunnel L-train reconstruction and a reorganization plan that removed Byford from oversight of capital construction projects and also stands to crowd the MTA's C-suite with new positions including a chief transformation officer.

"Andy Byford will be departing New York City Transit after a successful two years of service and we thank him for his work. Andy was instrumental in moving the system forward, enacting the successful Subway Action Plan and securing record capital funding with the governor and the legislature," Foye said in a statement. "We wish him well in his next chapter."

Byford's initiatives included making more subway stations accessible for people with disabilities. Only one-fourth of the system's 478 stations are now accessible.

"Andy Byford stabilized the subways during a moment of crisis and laid out a farsighted agenda to improve bus service, make transit more accessible, and modernize subways," the civic organization TransitCenter said in a statement. "It's a bad sign for New York that the MTA couldn't hang on to him longer. Needless to say, losing Byford should prompt some serious soul-searching by Gov. Cuomo about how he's going to attract and retain talent at the MTA."

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Infrastructure State budgets Transportation industry Andy Byford Andrew Cuomo Patrick Foye Metropolitan Transportation Authority New York