New MTA chief to tap British expertise in transforming transit technology
The British are coming … to the rescue?
New MTA chief Jay Walder is dead set on bringing the city’s transit system into the 21st century, and he's looking to experts from across the pond to push forward long-stalled upgrades to subways and buses.
In one of his first proposals since assuming the MTA mantle three weeks ago, Walder expects to bring experts from the Transport for London, where he was a managing director, to help get countdown clocks running on city buses and trains as soon as possible.
“(The MTA) has had an incredibly difficult time with technology projects,” Walder said during an interview with amNewYork Thursday. “We are taking off the technological shackles.”
Since leaving the Transport of London for the MTA, the Rockaway native has met with officials across the city and MTA, and spent hours underground. One of his greatest delights is the subway art that has gone up since he worked for the MTA a decade ago.
“I jump off trains because I see artwork,” he said. “I just get a smile to my face.”
Walder hopes to get the ball rolling on the following in his first year at the MTA:
Digital signs telling riders when the next train’s coming first graced London’s subways in the 1980s. Shelters serving all 8,000 of London’s buses now list arrival times. In contrast, the MTA has just one subway and one bus line with arrival information.
“The reality is … this organization has had an incredibly difficult time with technology projects,” Walder said.
If the MTA board approves the agreement, British experts will begin offering their expertise almost immediately and at about half the cost for traditional consultants, Walder said. Spending on salaries and travel won’t exceed $500,000 during the two-year agreement, according to MTA documents.
Walder is also pushing for automated fare devices like the Oyster Card in London that allow riders to pass their card over a scanner, and envisions it will eventually allow commuters to pay for services across NYC Transit and regional rail lines. He’s also open to discount fares during the evenings and weekends if it would increase ridership.
Big on buses, Walder’s pushing for more dedicated bus lanes and ticketing of offenders. All British buses have cameras that transmit tickets to owners of cars stopped in bus lane.
Albany has resisted the cameras, but Walder thinks the increasing need for tax revenue will inspire lawmakers to think twice. He has generated interest in them with commissioners for the NYPD and Department of Transportation, he said.
Walder wants to shake up how the MTA publicizes its financial and customer information.
The agency’s Web site is getting a major makeover and will be focused more on travel information and service alerts, he said. The MTA will also be more cooperative with developers making mobile applications with its information, he added.
“If people want to do applications on the iPhone, great, all power to them,” Walder said.
Jay Walder at a glance
Family: Married, three children
One of his favorite neighborhoods: Prospect-Lefferts Gardens
Favorite train: A train to the Rockaway
Favorite sports teams: Mets, Jets, Knicks, Rangers
Hobbies: Loves baseball and the theater
Favorite bagel: Sesame