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Tue Jul 10, 2018, 09:28 AM

Can Andy Byford Save the Subways?

David Fahrenthold Retweeted:

When the NYC subway vending machines go down, there's apparently only one guy who knows how to fix them.

His name is Miguel, he lives in Port Jarvis (3 hrs from NYC), & apparently he likes to turn his cell phone off on the way home.

Via William Finnegan https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/07/09/can-andy-byford-save-the-subways

Our Local Correspondents July 9 & 16, 2018 Issue

Can Andy Byford Save the Subways?

The new president of the New York City Transit Authority wants to make the trains (and buses) run on time. It won’t be easy.

By William Finnegan

On a cold Tuesday morning in March, Andy Byford, the president of the New York City Transit Authority, was working the subway turnstiles—the gates, as he calls them—at the Chambers Street station, in Tribeca. Byford was seven weeks into the job, which had come with a seemingly impossible mission: to rebuild the city’s beleaguered public-transit system, after years of chaotic decline and stark dysfunction. He had vowed to visit every one of New York’s subway stations—there are four hundred and seventy-two—and to ride every bus route, in an effort that was part good-will tour, part reconnaissance mission.

Byford was new to the city—new to the country—and was still perturbed by things that most locals accepted as inevitable. “That brown tiling,” he said, pointing at a rust-streaked wall. He took a photograph with his phone. Down on the platform, Byford regarded the track bed. It looked, as nature intended, like hell: filthy water, strewn garbage. “My customers shouldn’t have to look at that,” he said. “We’ve ordered three vacuum cars. They’ll suck up all of this.”

Byford, who is fifty-two, got his start in mass transit as a station foreman on the London Underground. The work ran in his family. His grandfather drove a bus for London Transport for forty years; his father worked there for twelve. Byford earned degrees in German and French, but after college he went to work for the Underground, learning car maintenance, operations, customer service, safety. He later worked on Britain’s main-line railways, and then ran mass transit in Sydney, Australia. His last stop before New York was Toronto, where, by nearly all accounts, he turned around a troubled transit system with spectacular results.

Toronto’s troubles, however, seem quaint compared with New York’s. With eight million passengers a day, the city has the largest public-transit system in North America, and, by every important metric—financial, operational, mechanical—it is in crisis. Some days, on a crosstown bus or a stalled train or a jam-packed platform, with your nose pressed into a stranger’s sweat-beaded neck and the appointed hour of your business lunch, your second date, your big job interview long past, it can feel like the system is in a death spiral. Train delays now occur roughly seventy thousand times a month, up from twenty-eight thousand in 2012. The system’s on-time rate, already among the nation’s worst, fell to fifty-eight per cent in January, down from ninety a decade ago. Bus ridership is in steep decline, caught in a negative-feedback loop with increasing car and truck traffic, slower buses, and less reliable service.

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