The “train daddy” is leaving us.
New York City Transit President Andy Byford, who oversees the city’s subways and buses, is stepping down for good. Both Byford and MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye confirmed the news, which Politico reported Thursday morning, in a statement the MTA released just before noon on Jan. 23.
“Andy Byford will be departing New York City Transit after a successful two years of service and we thank him for his work,” Foye said. “Andy was instrumental in moving the system forward, enacting the successful Subway Action Plan and securing record capital funding with the Governor and the Legislature, and we wish him well in his next chapter.”
The MTA released a resignation letter that Byford submitted Thursday morning to MTA Chief Operating Officer Mario Peloquin, in which Byford noted that his “last day of service” is Friday, Feb. 21.
Byford seemed to indicate in the letter that a recommended reorganization plan had something to do with his decision.
“The Alix Partners MTA Transformation plan called for the centralization of projects and an expanded HQ, leaving agency presidents to focus solely on the day-to-day running of service,” Byford wrote. “I have built an excellent team and there are many capable individuals in Transit and others within the MTA family who could perform this important, but reduced, service delivery role.”
Byford had initially mulled resigning last October, but reconsidered and opted to stay on after Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a plan to reorganize the MTA.
“I’m very proud of what we have achieved as a team over the past two years and I believe New York City Transit is well-placed to continue its forward progress now that the MTA has a record breaking $51.5 billion Capital Program in place,” Byford said in a statement released earlier Thursday. “I’m very grateful to Governor Cuomo, Chairman Foye and members of the Board for giving me the opportunity to serve New York and to head up North America’s largest transit system.”
After a stint as the transit boss in Toronto, Byford joined the MTA in 2017 and helped oversee improvements in a New York City subway system beset with infrastructure problems and delays.
In his resignation letter, Byford expressed pride in the MTA’s Fast Forward plan — “the blueprint that my team created for implementing the changes required to bring NYCT back into the top echelon of public transit systems.”
“Now, with funding for the plan secured and with the new Chiefs of Innovation, Technology, Transformation, etc., on board to implement it, I am confident that you have the tools to succeed,” Byford added.
In a tweet, Mayor Bill de Blasio described Byford’s resignation as “a real loss” for the city’s commuters.
“This is a real loss for New York City’s subway and bus riders. The MTA needs people like Andy Byford — now more than ever,” he wrote.
The director of the Straphangers Campaign, Jaqi Cohen, said Byford’s resignation “marks a devastating loss for New York City’s 8 million transit riders,” and called upon the MTA to conduct a worldwide search for an equitable replacement.
“Byford came to the MTA as a world-renowned expert on transit systems, and his bold plan to transform the agency came at the height of New York City’s transit crisis,” Cohen said. “Byford’s vision of excellent transit service was one that New Yorkers believed in and stood behind.”
The head of transit advocacy group Riders Alliance applauded Byford for his service in a statement.
“Subway and bus riders are grateful to Andy Byford for his historic service at New York City Transit,” said Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin. “In two years, Andy made subways faster and more reliable, he tackled longstanding challenges to improving bus service, and he crafted the first plan in a generation that would truly modernize the transit system.”
Gratitude aside, Raskin also reminded that Cuomo “is in charge of the MTA, and riders will be holding the governor accountable for the quality of our transit service.”
“With whatever management team he puts in place, the governor is on the hook for making subways faster and more reliable, rescuing buses from years of decline, and delivering on a $51 billion capital program to fix public transit for the long term,” he added.
At a press conference at his Midtown Manhattan offices, Governor Cuomo dismissed any speculation that a falling out between him and Byford had anything to do with the train daddy’s resignation.
“I don’t think there’s any truth that Byford couldn’t get along with me, most of my dealings were with [MTA chair] Pat Foye,” Cuomo said at an related press conference at his Manhattan office. “I felt fine [about Byford’s earlier resignation attempt] But I’ve dealt with all sorts of situations in my life, they don’t get a rise out of me anymore.”
Mark Hallum contributed to this story.