Congrats on getting hired to run the subway!
As you probably know, New Yorkers are pretty vocal and protective of their mass transit system. We’re also very demanding. Strangers are welcome, but they have to make it worth our while. That said, we think there’s reason to be hopeful given your solid background.
Fourteen years with the London Underground. A stint in Sydney. And half a decade as the top guy in Toronto, the third largest subway system on the continent.
It’s great, too, that you used to ride the vehicles you were in charge of, “just to see what the service is like,” you once said. Our governor prefers muscle cars. Our mayor likes a brisk morning on the FDR Drive.
But you ride buses at 4 a.m. You pulled off a subway extension and led the transition to a tap-card payment system north of the border. Toronto even got signal upgrades while you were leading the transit system there.
“For us to achieve success, customers must notice the difference in the quality and consistency of our service,” you said. “Only then will our reputation be transformed.”
Words to live by in NYC. But here are a few more.
It’s a mess down here
The full reason for the increased train delays and slowest-in-the-nation buses will probably be more than you can fix on your own. It’s bigger even than your boss, Joe Lhota, capo dei capi of the MTA.
Problems start with the pre-war signaling infrastructure, so ancient it’s sometimes wrapped in cloth. As a transit veteran, you know that has to be Project One. But in combating it you’ll have to face off against a grumbling bureaucracy, blame-passing politicians, and look-the-other-way administrators who may often be obstacles to your job.
It looks like you could have the spine for it, as when you chewed out Canadian streetcar producers for slow deliveries. You said they “know that I’m not a happy bunny.” It’s a good start, now take a page out of Lhota’s book and try an F-bomb or two.
You need to help the MTA step it up
You’ve gotta be tough if you want a seat in this town, which you’ll learn when you take over in January. We manspread, we keep our eyes on our phones even when old passengers want seats. We push just a little farther when there’s no more room on that uptown A. We don’t believe that BS about another train being directly behind.
There are rats and they eat pizza just like any straphanger stuck with longer and longer commutes. It’s easy to miss a meal waiting for or on the train these days. Also acceptable subway food: candy bars, apples and bananas, takeout of all culinary stripes, not to mention Gatorade, coffee, soda, and paper-bag-covered beer. Spoiler alert on where the bottles and Styrofoam containers end up, another challenge for you along with the water that sometimes floods tracks, too.
We’re not afraid of banging into each other underground, asking for a few dollars or if you could just get your armpit away from my nose. It’s always showtime and, no, this music volume doesn’t go lower. There’s no time to wait while you take off your coat.
The only thing we can agree on is that the train’s not coming fast enough.
Actually there’s one other thing riders will agree on. It’s that things will be your problem whether they’re actually your fault or not. You seem to have had a taste of this already, as when you said with a little self-pity: “Sometimes I feel like the general manager of the Leafs — everyone thinks he could do a better job than you.” That’s the spirit. You’ll be all right. You sound like you know some Rangers fans already.