Op-ed | Mr. Davey comes to New York; riders welcome him aboard

New York City Transit President Richard Davey
New York City Transit President Richard Davey speaks to the press at MTA headquarters on April 5.
Marc Hermann / MTA

For the past two years, the city’s subways, buses, Staten Island Railway and paratransit have been led by strong and capable – but interim – presidents. Sarah Feinberg and Craig Cipriano did remarkable jobs under extraordinary circumstances, and we thank them.

Next week, we’ll welcome a permanent Transit President, Rich Davey, who is coming to town to take the reins of the nation’s largest transit system.

He has his work cut out for him, with Job One being to get riders back on board. The April 12 subway shooting will further complicate his already difficult job. It exacerbated safety concerns underground which, when combined with hybrid work schedules and ongoing delays, have kept ridership low. In the longer term, budget shortfalls loom as federal COVID relief dollars run out.  

Rich Davey has our support. He’s shown he has the experience – and chutzpa – to tackle tough problems. As we enter this new post-COVID period, Mr. Davey has the opportunity to make his mark on our recovery.  He understands that New Yorkers want and deserve better, safer and cleaner transit and that until riders feel safe underground, they won’t come back. He understands frequency and reliability go hand-in-hand and proposes to be nimble in adapting to changing ridership trends and needs.

We look forward to hearing more about how he’s going to do that in a notoriously cumbersome system. And as we’ve seen growth in weekend and evening ridership, we support adding service at those times, but not at the expense of rush hour service. 

While he hasn’t come out with the first “big thing” he’s going to tackle, Davey knows it’s the “little things” that affect riders every day. Even before starting, he’s been riding the system, doing research and reaching out, getting the lay of the land and the political landscape, and assessing what needs to be done to get riders back on board and the transit system back on track. He has a good history of working with transit advocates and riders, and we’re eager to share our perspectives and ideas.

Given the work ahead of him, we’re glad that Cipriano will stay on as Chief Operating Officer to guide him.

On day one, Davey will face a host of challenges, but also tremendous opportunities. He’s so far shown he’ll be deliberate and thoughtful, but in a New York minute, he’ll need to come out of the slam gate thinking about long-term solutions to the operating funding gap and laying the groundwork for coming up with new sources of money for MTA services, so riders don’t bear the burden.

We’ll look for the same kind of collaborative leadership and out-of-the-box thinking he showed in Massachusetts when the guy from Boston comes to town to run our city’s transit system.

Welcome to New York, Mr. Davey. We look forward to working with you.

Albert is chair of the New York City Transit Riders Council and an MTA board member; Daglian is executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC).