When I started the day, I figured it would be light on the transit news front. At most, I might post an entry or two but the main task of the day being updating the service diversions for the upcoming weekend. I never thought that plan would get blown out of the water by the shocking resignation of MTA Chairman & CEO Jay H. Walder. From everything I have been able to gather via conversations with a number of people, he was not forced out but it is still shocking nonetheless.
I can not stress enough how much of a huge loss this is for not only the MTA but the millions who use it daily. The fact of the natter is that the last 2 Chairman’s we had have unexpectedly left what truly is one of the most thankless jobs one could have.
Jay’s predecessor Elliot Sander resigned in the spring of 2008 after then Gov. Patterson announced “we are going to clean up and clean out” the MTA. At the time, I mentioned how Elliot had a good vision for the MTA’s future & was just getting started to implement it amid all the uncertainties facing the agency.
When Jay took over, I wondered if his success in London would translate to NYC & continue the job that Elliot started. Needless to say, he did a great job considering what he had to work with.
During his tenure, we saw the agency take necessary steps to improve & implement technologies long overdue for drivers & riders. Some of his successes include the introduction of bus rapid transit, gateless tolling on bridges, & subway countdown clocks.
In the future, we will have a swipeless fare card, full system bus tracking, bus driver safety partitions, & more. On the financial side of things, the agency cut nearly $1 billion annually from expenses & just announced plans to save another $2 billion. He also managed to starve off extreme service cuts while not raising the fare by an astronomical amount.
However his impact was beyond that as regardless of how much of a thankless job it is, he maintained a clear-cut vision to help make the MTA a transit agency that would be highly efficient & effective for its users while not breaking the bank. Did I agree on all of his visions or how they would be achieved? No, I did not but I did respect the fact he had them which could not always be said for past heads of the agency.
The sad part is that I have browsed around the internet & Twitter for responses. As one would expect, we have some vocal individuals failing to understand what a huge loss this is. They as usual focus on the here & now & feel nothing has improved. The truth is while Jay would admit he is nowhere near satisfied with the results, it can’t be denied that positive changes have occurred.
Let me be frank here & say this resignation could not come at a worse time for the much maligned transit agency. They are in a fight to close a nearly $10 billion gap in funding for its current Capital Program. Also let us not forget that the agency still has to negotiate with the Transport Workers Union Local 100 on a new contract.
What does the next few months hold for the MTA? Will Gov. Cuomo name an interim Chairman & CEO to start operations now or will they let Jay ride out the wave until October? While on paper, it is not that long until then, every day counts when so much is on the line for the agency.
Jay made impressive strides from what Elliot started but even with that, the truth is that the agency is still only at the beginning stages of what is a long overdue overhaul of its operations. Will his successor have the necessary background & wherewithal to continue the vision set out? Will they have their own twist that can be added into the mix to help better things for the agency & its drivers & riders?
These are all extremely important questions that need to be answered & hopefully they will be soon. The last thing we all need is for the agency to take a step backwards & ruin a lot of the progress that has been made over the past few years. The agency has no time for someone who is not ready to hit the ground running from day one. Anything less & what is now a job left undone will become a job that is no more. Let us hope for the best…..
xoxo Transit Blogger