‘He was a man of his word’: Transit union leaders credit Byford for turning subways around

Now former New York City Transit President Andy Byford. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

Just as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported improvements on “every metric” in its final report of the Subway Action Plan, they lost the “train daddy” who helped make those positive changes happen.

Moments after New York City Transit President Andy Byford stunned the city by resigning Thursday after two years on the job, union leaders lamented his departure, giving him credit for helping to turn things around.

TWU Local 100’s John Samuelsen, who sits on the MTA board, had nothing but kind words about Byford who formed an early relationship with the organization.

“He’s a man of his word which unfortunately is a rarity up here, and that’s true,” Samuelsen said. “At the end of the day, he’s not career bureaucrat or a politician, and I think he was earnestly seeking to improve the system and the results bear that out. He worked with the union extensively to prioritize problems with the system. Anyone who comes here thinking they can improve the system without speaking to this union is crazy.”

Samuelsen said he was surprised by the news, although acknowledging the difficulty of re-structuring the “imploding” subway system.

TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano said Byford had one of the “toughest jobs of all” as transit head.

Byford’s last three predecessors did not last more than two years themselves.

In his resignation statement, Byford expressed pride in “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.”

MTA Chair Pat Foye said at Thursdays board meeting that on-time performance and increased ridership was a sure sign that the Subway Action Plan had been successful in stabilizing the subway system and was staging the system for further improvements in the $51 billion Capital Plan.

December 2019 marked the seventh month in a row where the subways saw 80 percent on-time performance, the average throughout the year exceeded 80 percent, according to the MTA. This has not been seen since 2013.

“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,” Foye said in a statement that the MTA released.

The Subway Action Plan came from Foye’s predecessor, Joe Lhota, who introduced the $800 million effort in 2017 when the system was at its lowest in decades.

The MTA has not announced a replacement for Byford.

Politico’s Dana Rubenstein broke the story.

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