2020年1月24日 星期五

N.Y. Today: Why the M.T.A. Chief Quit

What you need to know for Friday and the weekend.

Why Andy Byford Left the M.T.A.

By Rebecca Liebson


It’s Friday.

Weather: Partly sunny, with a high near 50. Rain and some sleet are possible this weekend.

Alternate-side parking: Suspended today and tomorrow for Lunar New Year.


Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

When Andy Byford was brought in to overhaul the city’s subway system, many New Yorkers saw his ambitious plans and can-do attitude as a signal of hope.

Soon, on-time rates improved, and fewer trains broke down. Some people even began calling him by an affectionate nickname: “Train Daddy.”


But yesterday, just over two years into his tenure, Mr. Byford stepped down as the leader of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In his resignation letter, he said that he decided to leave after learning that his job duties would be scaled back.

I spoke to my colleague Christina Goldbaum, who covers transportation, to get her perspective on what his departure means for the M.T.A.

Why was Mr. Byford chosen to lead the M.T.A. and what did people want him to accomplish?

Mr. Byford had long been considered a rising star in the transportation world, credited with fixing public transit systems in London and Toronto. In that world, Mr. Byford is pretty distinctive: He is both a nerd who knows the ins and outs of transit technology, and a leader known for inspiring executives and transit workers alike.


For riders in New York City, who saw him join the M.T.A. at a time of crisis, he took on a larger-than-life persona (the “Train Daddy”) as the face of the effort to fix the subway.

Many hoped he could push upgrades to finally modernize the system’s antiquated infrastructure and bring subway performance up from all-time lows that prompted Governor Cuomo to declare a state of emergency in 2017.

What have been the highs and lows of his tenure? Did he achieve what he set out to do?

Mr. Byford has been widely credited for pushing the on-time performance for trains from 58 percent, when he took over in 2018, to over 80 percent through operational changes that focused on the basics, like upgrading subway signals.

He also put renewed attention on accessibility and tried to push the agency to be more accountable to its riders, both of which have had mixed success so far.

A lot of the ideas he has for further improving the transit system are outlined in the M.T.A.’s new $54 billion capital plan, so it will now be largely up to his successor to implement that vision.

It has been reported that there were tensions between Mr. Byford and Mr. Cuomo. How did their visions for the subway differ?

The M.T.A. is a highly politicized environment, and one of the trickiest parts of the subway chief job is that it is influenced by the whims of elected officials, like Mr. Cuomo, who controls the authority.

Colleagues of both men said that they each wanted credit for the subway’s successes, and that they clashed over management of the system. They disagreed over the plan to repair the L train, for example.

According to colleagues, Mr. Byford did not believe that Mr. Cuomo gave him enough support to fix the floundering system, while Mr. Cuomo felt that Mr. Byford was reluctant to embrace new technology and did not understand the governor’s role as the elected official most responsible for the subway.

What’s next for the M.T.A.?

It’s possible that Sally Librera, Mr. Byford’s right hand who joined the agency in 2004, could be his successor.

People have raised concerns that if the governor looks outside the M.T.A., it may be hard to attract someone as qualified as Mr. Byford. Whoever takes over will face the mammoth task of implementing the vision Mr. Byford laid out — a massive project that requires effective, efficient leadership.

From The Times

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

What we’re reading

Some New York City Council members want to give New Yorkers who are legal permanent residents, or have authorization to work, the right to vote in municipal elections. [amNewYork]

Grand Army Plaza’s arch was again vandalized with bird-related graffiti. [New York Post]

What we’re watching: Representative Carolyn Maloney discusses the impeachment trial and hate crimes in New York on “The New York Times Close Up With Sam Roberts.” The show airs tonight at 8, tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. [CUNY TV]

Coming up this weekend


The New York Times Travel Show, which runs through Sunday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, will help you experience the best locations, food and more on your next adventure. Seminars will include “52 Places to Travel”; “The Best Travel Gear and Gadgets of 2020”; and a conversation with Elaine Glusac, The Times’s Frugal Traveler contributor. [Times and prices vary. Receive $5 off with the code 5offTRAVEL.]


A cooking demonstration at Wave Hill in the Bronx explains how to use fresh and dried members of the ginger plant family. 1 p.m. [Free with admission]

Enjoy “Poncili Creación’s Bending Endinning,” an evening of puppetry, at Coney Island in Brooklyn. 8 p.m. [$15]


Merienda: A Fil-am Family Day Party has D.J. sets, mah-jongg, food and more, at Rise Radio in Brooklyn. 2 p.m.-8 p.m.[$5 with R.S.V.P.]

— Melissa Guerrero

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times’s culture pages.

And finally: Her AirPods fell through a grate

The Times’s Sandra E. Garcia writes:

You’re walking to the train, listening to a podcast, when you feel one of your AirPods start to slip. Suddenly, one of the pristine white earbuds you spent $159 on plunges into the abyss of a subway grate.

Thousands of New Yorkers have experienced a version of this, myself included.

From September to December, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it recovered 1,220 earbuds or AirPods dropped through subway grates.

So, what do you do in this situation? You call 511, the state’s travel information line.

If your earbud falls through one of the grates owned by the M.T.A. (some grates are privately owned), you’re in luck. A 511 dispatcher can send an M.T.A. employee to search for it.

From that point on, patience is the key.

I was told it would take 45 minutes for an M.T.A. worker to arrive, but when no one showed after nearly an hour and a half, I left. Just as I had lost all hope, the worker called and asked me to meet him at the grate.

I sprinted back and was greeted by a man named King, who opened the grate and climbed down a ladder inside. When he emerged, he had retrieved my AirPod and, in part, restored my faith in the M.T.A.

It’s Friday — don’t give up.

Metropolitan Diary: Southbound

Dear Diary:

It was a beautiful, warm day. My wife (77) and I (82) decided to walk from our apartment at 67th Street to Zabar’s at 80th.

After securing an ample supply of lox and herring, we felt we could complete the entire round-trip on foot. After a few blocks, though, we needed to rest.

We sat down at an empty bus stop. A bus appeared. We remained seated. As the driver slowed down, I waved him on.

Nonetheless, he stopped right in front of us. He opened the front door and leaned toward us.

“Are you folks waiting for the bus to Miami?” he said.

— Mitchell Jacobs

New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

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