Op-ed | A farewell from NYC Transit President Richard Davey

MTA New York City Transit President Richard Davey talking with subway commuters
MTA New York City Transit President Richard Davey, Senior Vice President of Subways Demetrius Crichlow, and local officials announce increased weekend subway service on the G, J, and M lines at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts station on Thursday, Jun 29, 2023. A second consist of R211 subway cars also went into service. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA)

Serving the six million customers and 47,000 employees of New York City Transit for the past two years has been a professional and personal joy. 

When I started in the spring of 2022, our recovery from the pandemic was by no means assured. To bring back riders, we focused on what became our North Star: customer satisfaction. To that end, we moved full speed ahead with the Faster, Cleaner, Safer plan to improve transit service in response to what customers wanted.

Together, the team has achieved some remarkable things. 2023 saw the highest subway on-time performance in agency history. We also delivered increased frequencies on eight subway lines during off-peak hours, slashing wait times for customers by two minutes on average, with more to come in July.

We’ve doubled down on cleanliness through the Station Re-NEW-Vations initiative, taking advantage of planned weekend service outages to deliver tangible improvements at more than 100 subway stations by the end of this year. 

I’m also proud that our subway station agents have stepped out of the booth into new, enhanced roles. In the year since this change, we’ve seen a sixfold increase in commendations awarded to agents from customers and across the board improvements to customer satisfaction.

On buses, we completed a successful redesign of the Bronx Local Bus Network to speed trips and improve customer satisfaction. Earlier this month, we debuted new battery-electric buses in Queens — a milestone in our ambitious zero-emission bus transformation. And later this month, routes across the city will get a boost when we expand automated camera enforcement of bus lanes, bus stops, and double-parked cars.

Meanwhile, our paratransit operation is doing better than ever. Fueled by record customer satisfaction and improved on-time performance, ridership is 20% higher than last year with nearly 40,000 daily customers. That’s more people that we have ever carried before – including before the pandemic. We’ve improved the phone and app-based booking processes, making it faster and easier for customers to plan trips. And we’re scaling up an innovative on-demand e-hail program to bring more spontaneity to paratransit customers who need it.

But we know riders are most concerned about safety. On that front, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with the NYPD and MTA leaders like Chair Janno Lieber to successfully reduce subway crime to near-historic lows over the past several months. The joint SCOUT program with the City is providing critical mental health services to people in need, and cameras are in the process of being installed in every single subway car. 

I have had the privilege of working in the transit space for many years and in several cities, and I know that while presidents come and go, the work continues. To that end, I am thrilled that Demetrius Crichlow, who currently leads Transit’s Subways team, will be stepping up as Interim President. I have worked closely with Demetrius these past two years, and his leadership has been critical in delivering many accomplishments. New Yorkers are in good hands.

I want to sign off by thanking you, our customers, and our dedicated employees, who every day perform the daily miracle of carrying six million riders across the subway, bus, and paratransit systems. New York City is impossible to imagine without transit, and I am proud to have led the team that literally moves our city. 

Richard Davey is moving on to serve as head of the Massachusetts Port Authority. Demetrius Crichlow will serve as acting MTA New York City Transit president.