Paterson offically nominates Walder to head MTA

By · Published in 2009


A few hours ago, New York State Gov. David Paterson made official what we all knew: Barring a disaster in the State Senate, Jay Walder will be the next Chair and executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. When he will be confirmed, though, is up to the whims of a State Senate soon to be on vacation until the fall.

Walder worked at the MTA for 12 years, most recently as the agency’s CFO in 1995. He served — and earned extensive praise for his work — at Transport for London. There, he was instrumental in ushering in the Oyster Card contact-less fare system. Most recently, while a consultant at McKinsey, Walder had recently urged the MTA to eschew the MetroCard in favor of more modern RFID/contact-less technology. By all accounts, Walder is supremely qualified and a transit innovator. Yesterday, I offered up my take on and praise for Walder.

As the announcement became official nearly three hours ago, transit advocates listened into the introductory press conference, and Walder seemingly said the right things. “There’s no question,” he said, “the taxpayer and the riding public need to understand, need to demonstrate, need to see and need to believe that they’re getting value for the money in the way we operate the trains and the buses and the bridges and tunnels, in the way that we undertake the massive capital investments that are underway. And that has to be an immediate focus.”

He went on: “We must restore the public trust and confidence to this organization. We won’t have the credibility to argue for the capital program that this system needs unless we restore the accountability of public trust and public confidence. I believe we can do that. I’m certain we can achieve that.”

With those words, I and other transit watchers can begin to feel confident that Walder knows what he must do to win the media battle. As Ben Fried at Streetsblog noted, one of former CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander’s biggest problems was the PR push. Sander suffered from a lack of media savviness and could not win the print war. Fried writes:

Transit riders will be well-served if Walder can manage to drive the media narrative about the MTA more successfully than his predecessor, Lee Sander. It’s a tall order. Casting aspersions on the MTA is a favored tactic for legislators looking to deflect blame for their own lack of leadership on transit policy, and the press corps often appears to serve as a willing accomplice. The riding public needs someone who not only manages the agency capably, but also shapes the MTA’s public image as deftly as possible.

I couldn’t agree more. How Walder presents the MTA to the public will be just as important, if not more so, than the changes he can affect while at the head of the organization.

At this point, we have to wait for the Senate to confirm him, but he is certainly qualified for the role. Don’t, however, expect the Senate, one week away from vacation, to approve this nominee quite so quickly. Michael Grynbaum of The Times hunted down MTA antagonist Carl Kruger, and the Senator had some brusque words. “This week? That’s ludicrous,” Kruger said when asked if his committee would grill Walder this week. “This is the MTA. It’s not as if we’re confirming somebody to be game warden of the Adirondack Park.”

Those Senators, they’ll never miss a chance to unfairly and uninformedly bash the MTA while stealing the spotlight for themselves. With this nomination seemingly tabled until the fall, current Chair Dale Hemmerdinger and interim CEO and Executive Director Helena Williams will serve until Walder is confirmed.

After the jump, the Straphangers and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign respond to the Walder nomination.

The Straphangers offered up their praise for the nomination in an e-mailed statement from Gene Russianoff:

It’s good news for subway riders that Governor Paterson is appointing Jay Walder as Chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
I had the opportunity to work with Jay during the years that he was a high-ranking staffer for former MTA Chairmen Robert Kiley (1983-1990) and Peter Stangl (1991-1995).  He played leadership roles in getting the agency’s vital five-year capital program passed by the state legislature, as well as advancing the MTA’s popular set of fare discounts, including unlimited-ride MetroCards and free transfers between subways and buses.
He is smart, a transportation professional, accessible and rider-oriented.
The Straphangers Campaign looks forward to working with Jay Walder on improving subway, bus and commuter rail service.

TSTC had a similar response but also took the time in a separate post to urge the new head of the agency to avoid another debt spiral. TSTC said in a statement:

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign congratulates Jay Walder on his appointment as MTA Chairman and is pleased that Governor Paterson chose a qualified and experienced transportation professional to run the agency. Mr. Walder will take over the MTA at a difficult time, and we urge the Legislature to quickly confirm his appointment so he can begin working to meet the challenges ahead.

The most immediate challenge is the need to find sufficient funding for the MTA’s next five-year capital program while keeping the agency financially stable. Greater use of bus rapid transit would allow the agency to quickly grow the region’s transit capacity at relatively low cost. The agency must also put Long Island Bus on sound financial footing and continue to work towards a comprehensive regional bus system.

Mr. Walder should also continue valuable initiatives begun under his predecessors, such as a sustainability effort that includes transit-oriented development, putting high-speed cashless tolls on all MTA crossings, and improving customer service.

Categories : MTA

6 Responses to “Paterson offically nominates Walder to head MTA”

  1. Ariel says:

    When it comes to shaping the MTA’s public image, hopefully Ravtich and some other “elected” officials can help shape a better public opinion too. It is too difficult for the MTA head to go at it alone and is why Sanders failed. The public won’t believe what the MTA head says about his own organization unless there is a third party to confirm that what the MTA head is saying is accurate.

    Also, as transit blog writers and followers, it will be up to us to pressure the media to give more balanced and well-informed coverage of MTA issues. Journalists are typically open for feedback and we must take advantage of it.


  1. […] 9 million residents are America’s most intensive users of public transportation, is getting a new boss at the MTA. His name is Jay Sander and among his other achievements he spearheaded a fancy fare card system in […]

  2. […] week ago, Gov. David Paterson officially named Jay Walder as the next MTA Chair. During the introductory press conference, Walder made clear his knowledge of […]

  3. […] chair Jay Walder “must restore the public trust and confidence” in the agency, as he pledged to do at his introductory news […]

  4. […] then-Gov. David Paterson nominated Walder back in July of 2009, the nominee said all the right things. His top priority — and one he […]

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