From the President

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In July 2017, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo placed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority under a state of emergency.

This drastic but necessary act starkly highlighted the plight of a once great transit system. A series of high profile incidents through early 2017 exposed an accelerating decline in the punctuality and reliability of New York’s subway system, along with a plummeting reputation and increasing customer, media and stakeholder dissatisfaction. New Yorkers wondered how things could have possibly come to this.

But New York is renowned for the way it stares down a crisis and its legendary ability to triumph over adversity. This is the city that came back from the despair of the 1970s financial crisis, and that kept its resolve after 9/11. 

Transit has been in crisis before. In the 1970s, system ridership was in steep decline. New Yorkers turned their backs in droves on a dirty, graffiti-scarred, dangerous subway where service breakdowns had become the norm. 

The subway rose from those challenges, and it can do so again. While the 1980s action plan successfully turned the system around — and while the current Subway Action Plan will stabilize it — the task and the opportunity this time are far greater.

Our bus network faces its own challenges. Ridership has steadily declined over the past 10 years. Service is reduced to accommodate lower ridership, but this makes affected routes even less attractive, causing the cycle to repeat and the decline to become chronic.

Meanwhile, the third arm of New York City Transit’s (NYCT) service, Access-A-Ride, faces ever-mounting financial and logistical challenges, exacerbated by an aging population and continued but slow progress in making the subway more accessible.

New Yorkers are fed up. The Board and elected officials demand action. And the brunt is borne by NYCT employees, who try to deliver quality service against all odds.

It is with these factors at the fore that this Plan is written. When I took on this role, I did so knowing it would be the toughest transit job in the world. Decades of under-investment cannot be corrected overnight. 

As I said when my appointment was announced, what is needed isn’t mere tinkering, a few tweaks here and there. What must happen is sustained investment on a massive scale if we are to deliver New Yorkers the service they deserve and the transit system this city and state need.

While our immediate priorities are to stabilize the subway via execution of the Subway Action Plan, to arrest the decline in bus ridership and to make existing facilities work better for those with accessibility challenges, we need to go further. Now is the time to think big and transform our network so it works for all New Yorkers. 

NYCT must be completely modernized from top to bottom and not just in the area of infrastructure.

The prevailing culture at NYCT must become one where good people can flourish, trust in Transit is restored, and every interaction with our agency is consistently excellent. Time-honored, bureaucratic, restrictive practices and processes must be swept away and replaced with data-driven systems that deliver customer-led outcomes. 

Other cities’ transit systems have shown what can be done. In the late 1980s, the London Underground faced similar challenges, including chronic unreliability and squalid surroundings. Thirty years later, the “Tube” is transformed: its stations, signals and rolling stock substantially renewed, its reputation restored. The London Underground’s turnaround came neither quickly, easily nor cheaply. It was the result of sustained, adequate, predictable funding and a comprehensive plan to tackle the challenge in a methodical manner.

New York now needs similar focus and investment, and an equally bold plan.

Fast Forward: The Plan to Modernize New York City Transit is a compelling vision of what is possible in the near term with strong stakeholder support. Much can be done immediately via short term deliverables and internal efficiencies, as described in the following pages.

Our transit renaissance will be delivered by a culture of continuous improvement and a new organizational structure that puts the customer at the heart of every decision. It is as much a change in mindset as a new way of working.

This Plan requires buy-in and support from all stakeholders. Changes that impact how things are done internally have to be made in consultation with employees and unions.  Customer-facing changes — especially those requiring tough choices while improvements are made — need high-level stakeholder, advocacy group and public support to give us a clear, time-bound mandate to which we expect to be held accountable.

I believe that New Yorkers want more than just a return to the reliability of yesteryear.  The world’s greatest city needs world-class transit and this Plan will deliver exactly that.

 Andy Byford President, New York City Transit, May 2018

Andy Byford
President, New York City Transit, May 2018