MTA taps Andy Byford as new NYC Transit president

Andy Byford is expected to begin the new position in January.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Tuesday that Andy Byford would take the helm as president of New York City Transit.

Byford, who is expected to start in January, will be responsible for running the city’s subways, buses, paratransit services and the Staten Island Railway at a time of growing complaints as the agency grapples with a new plan to improve service.

Touting Byford’s more than three decades of experience spanning three continents and extolling his recent five-year stint as CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission, MTA chairman Joe Lhota said the agency was “thrilled” to have him on board.

“Our transit system is the backbone of the world’s greatest city and having someone of Andy’s caliber to lead it will help immensely, particularly when it comes to implementing the Subway Action Plan that we launched this summer,” Lhota said in an emailed statement. “In order to truly stabilize, modernize and improve our transit system, we needed a leader who has done this work at world-class systems and Andy’s successes in Toronto are evidence that he is up to this critically important task.” 

Byford will replace Darryl C. Irick, who was named acting president in February after the departure of chair and CEO Tom Prendergast set off a chain-reaction shakeup at the MTA.

Following the announcement, TTC chairman Josh Colle praised Byford as a great communicator.

“He loved to ride the system and talk with our customers,” Colle said in a statement issued Tuesday. “New York is lucky to have him, and I wish him great success at what is sure to be a monumental challenge.”

During his time in Toronto, home to North America’s third largest transit system, Byford led an initiative to modernize the TTC and improve operational performance, according to the MTA.

“Under his leadership, subway delays have been reduced, customer satisfaction has hit record levels, and a number of major projects progressed, including the phased introduction of a modern signal system and the imminent completion of a major subway line extension,” the MTA said of Byford’s TTC plan, drawing parallels to many of the same goals outlined in Lhota’s Subway Action Plan.

Introduced in July, Lhota’s comprehensive plan to stabilize and fix the beleaguered subway system aims to improve customer experience through increased reliability and capacity, enhanced stations and safety, and clear and accurate communication, as well as to focus on modernization through long-term, systemwide improvements.

Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association, said it appeared Byford may be up to the challenge of fixing the city’s subway system.

“We’re happy to see that Gov. Andrew Cuomo] is assembling a top-notch senior management team to tackle the substantial challenges facing the MTA and especially NYCT,” Wright said. “TTC has made significant progress in recent years modernizing their system and adapting to some of the same growth and capacity issues we’re experiencing, and we look forward to having Andy Byford’s experience here in New York.”

Jaqi Cohen, of the Straphangers Campaign, said Byford needs to tackle the issues of reliability and performance for both the subways and bus networks.

“There is a subway crisis happening but there is a bus crisis happening too,” she said. “That is something that should not be forgotten.”

Funding for the Subway Action Plan is still a contentious topic for the agency. The MTA warned in October it would have to scale back its improvement plan unless the city agrees to pay half of the $836 million budget.

With Lisa Colangelo

Lauren Cook