Home MTA Jay Walder to resign as MTA CEO and Chair

Jay Walder to resign as MTA CEO and Chair

by Benjamin Kabak

Jay Walder has tendered his resignation as MTA CEO and Chair, effective October 21, 2011, the MTA announced this afternoon. Walder, who has served as head of the MTA since October 2009 and has led a remarkable effort to trim internal costs and improve the authority’s bureaucracy, will be joining the joining the MTR Corporation — a publicly-traded company based in Hong Kong that operates rail services in Asia and Europe — as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors.

Walder’s controversial Golden Parachute provisions will not be triggered as he is ostensibly departing the MTA on his own. This is, however a big blow to the authority, and one that seems to be a complete surprise to those in both the transit community and the upper echelons of New York government.

“I want to thank Governors Cuomo and former Governor Paterson for the honor of serving the people of New York State,” Walder said“The MTA’s transportation system is the foundation of the metropolitan region and we are fortunate to have thousands of dedicated men and women who work so hard to provide these critically important transportation services to millions of people each and every day. I believe that we have accomplished quite a lot in a short period, with the support of two Governors, the Mayor, a hard-working Board and many others.”

In an internal memo circulated to his colleagues at the MTA, Walder, a 52-year-old New York native, said he made this decision with “mixed emotions” but has faith that the MTA will continue on its slow upward trajectory. “I believe that this path that we have collectively set forth on together as a company, to amke every dollar count, deliver the best possible customer benefit is one that will serve the MTA and the region well today and in the future,” he wrote. Sources tell me that he sent a similar note to the MTA Board.

Walder will leave New York to head up the Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation which operates commuter rail in Hong Kong and intercity rail services from Hong Kong to Beijing, Shanghan and Guangdong in China. It is also building new rail lines in Hong Kong and China and operates rail systems in London, Stockholm and Melbourne. MTR consults in Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe as well and has become a leader in transit-oriented development. The company had total revenues of $3.8 billion and $1.1 billion in underlying profit.

“This is an exciting opportunity for me to lead a publicly-traded, multi-national corporation with a broad set of business activities,” Walder said. “The MTR Corp. is widely recognized for its world-leading rail systems and the innovative property developments that are built around stations.”

MTR’s revenue figures, as The Wall Street Journal posited, may have been a motivating force. According to The Journal, the current CEO of MTR made approximately $1.78 million in 2010, not including stock options. Walder makes $350,000 as head of the MTA with a housing subsidy.

During his two years as CEO and Chairman, Walder has led a successful turnaround in the way the MTA does business. He has cut nearly $1 billion in annual expenses from the MTA’s operating budget and recently unveiled a plan that would cut capital expenses by a total of $4 billion over five years. These savings helped stave off financial doom for the MTA. Meanwhile, Walder pushed through a customer service-focused agenda that included train countdown clocks, real-time bus tracking projects, a commitment to open information and two redesigns of the website. He was also amidst a project that will see the MetroCard phased out within the next few years.

“In challenging times, we brought stability and credibility to the MTA by making every dollar count, by delivering long overdue improvements and by refusing to settle for business as usual,” Walder said.

My Take: For the MTA, Timing Could Not be Worse

As the news sinks in, I’m finding little good in this announcement. The next few months are going to be of paramount importance for the MTA as it must figure out how to close a $10 billion capital funding gap and negotiate a new contract with the Transport Workers Union Local 100. Walder had been a vocal part of both of those efforts, and it appears as though he likely won’t be around to see either through. Gov. Andrew Cuomo will likely appoint an interim CEO at a time when the authority can ill afford to suffer through turmoil at the top.

I also can’t help but feel as though Walder is leaving before the job is done. The MTA is very much in transition as it has tried to cope with an austerity budget, major capital projects and technological innovation. The job isn’t done yet though as funding isn’t in place and projects are in flux. Will the next leader push through countdown clocks and better fare payment technologies? What will happen with the bus tracking projects and the authority’s commitment to providing datasets for developers? What happens with the labor negotiations and the capital budget wrangling?

Walder was the best and most knowledgeable MTA head during the past few decades, and his departure is clearly a blow to the MTA and those fighting for better transit in the New York City area.

Politicians, Advocates Respond: ‘An inopportune time’ for a departure

As the news develops, transit advocacy groups and New York State politicians are readying their statements. “MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder has been an effective, innovative leader. He helped restore the agency’s credibility and changed the way it does business, finding billions of dollars in savings during his tenure,” Kate Slevin, Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director, said.” But his departure comes at an inopportune time. New York’s regional transit system faces a capital funding gap that could be as large as $9 billion, and which needs to be addressed in the coming months. Straphangers are at risk. Governor Cuomo must quickly fill this vacancy with an effective leader who has a deep understanding of the transit system.”

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, echoed those sentiments. “Jay Walder steered the MTA through its toughest challenges since the bad old days of the 70s,” he said. “Facing a daunting fiscal situation brought on by the governor and state legislature’s repeated budget raids, Walder kept our trains and buses serving millions of New Yorkers 24 hours every day. His work to bring Select Bus Service and Real-Time updates to transit riders is bringing New York City’s transit system into the 21st Century and will help keep the city and region competitive with other global leaders vying for business,
talent and capital. Mr. Walder’s commitment to the necessity of transit in the lives of New Yorkers has set a high bar, and his successor must come with equal leadership to steer the MTA and the region through the rough terrain ahead.”

The RPA put out its perfunctory statement as well: “Jay Walder has done a superb job at the MTA during the past two years of extreme economic challenge. New York will miss his deep knowledge of and passion for the transportation network that makes the region’s economy possible. That network, of course, is bigger than any one individual. We have every expectation that Governor Cuomo will appoint an outstanding transportation professional to replace Jay and continue his work on modernizing and investing in the future of the subways, buses, commuter railroads, and river crossings.”

While speaking with Albany reporter Liz Benjamin, Senator Martin Golden bemoaned Walder’s departure. Golden called it “a loss to the city and state of New York” but doesn’t believe he was pushed out, sentiments I’m hearing from inside the MTA as well. “I think he was just hitting his stride,” Golden said, “and got an offer he couldn’t refuse. It’s unfortunate for us.”

Governor Cuomo, who will have the chance to appoint a successor, issued his own statement: “For nearly two years, Jay Walder has shown true leadership at the helm of the MTA and been a fiscally responsible manager during these difficult financial times. Riders of the MTA are better off today because of Jay’s expertise and the reforms he initiated will benefit all for years to come. Jay’s departure is a loss for the MTA and for the state, but I thank him for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg added his take: “Jay Walder is a world-class transportation professional and any city in the world would have been lucky to have him. He set a new course for the MTA during an extremely difficult period when the agency was not given the resources required to meet the City’s needs. He expertly shepherded major projects like the 7 line extension and new bus rapid transit lines, and by embracing new technology, he made significant improvements to the customer experience – from gateless tolling on bridges to countdown clocks in subway stations – that the public will appreciate long after his departure. I was proud to work with him on these and many more projects. He is a first-rate leader with big ideas, and I will miss collaborating with him. He is the type of person we can’t afford to lose, and his departure is a real loss for New York City, the metropolitan region, the state and the country.”

James Vacca, the head of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, didn’t mince his words. “This resignation comes at a crucial time. A year after the worst service cuts in the MTA’s history and yet another fare and toll increase, the most serious challenges for straphangers may still lie ahead,” he said. “While Chairman Walder deserves credit for taking on many structural issues that previous MTA leaders had delayed for a tomorrow that never came, the MTA continues to face a $250 million operating gap and a capital budget that runs out January 1. It’s getting harder and harder to do more with less, and the MTA needs someone at the helm not only who understands the role mass transit plays in the lives of everyday New Yorkers but who is prepared to get to work on day one.”

You may also like


pea-jay July 21, 2011 - 3:22 pm

Carl Paladino gets his wish fulfilled?

Benjamin Kabak July 21, 2011 - 4:16 pm

And don’t forget Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. He was no fan of the MTA’s either.

Marc Shepherd July 21, 2011 - 5:06 pm

They won’t be fans under new leadership, either. Their issues go to philosophical differences that no MTA head can bridge.

Dan from Roadify July 22, 2011 - 6:56 pm

We’ll certainly see…

Chris G July 21, 2011 - 3:23 pm

I do not see this as good news.

I like the MTR of course and wish MTA could be more like it, but to lose the leadership pushing in the correct direction will not help.

chris July 21, 2011 - 3:28 pm

Not good for NY. Good for MTR, though. As our infrastructure falls behind other country’s transit systems, Jay’s vision was a breath of fresh air. Good luck!

Bolwerk July 21, 2011 - 3:31 pm

Tenuous for NY. Could this have to do with an icy relationship with Cuomo?

pete July 21, 2011 - 5:47 pm

No, it has to do with the fact the next item on the budget solving list is deferred maintenance and service cuts that WILL affect the average rush hour rider. How about the never implemented shut down lower broadway line at night plan? Abandon the 3 line’s Lenox Ave line 24/7. It only goes a few blocks. Kill the Greenport and Port Jefferson lines 24/7. I’m sure a few subway stations can be closed along the Sea Beach. Have the A to Rockaways run only during rush hour. Otherwise limited bus. More standing room only at 11 PM on subways overall. Its going to look like classical 1970s subways.

Andrew July 21, 2011 - 6:49 pm

The north end of the 3 is a big money-saver – without it, the West Side expresses would all have to go to the Bronx. The lower Broadway shutdown plan didn’t save much if anything – that’s why it was scrapped.

bob July 21, 2011 - 9:53 pm

Also, they need that yard. So you close one or two stations that probably lost most of their station agents already: how much do you save?

Andrew July 21, 2011 - 11:10 pm

Agreed, although I doubt those two stations ever had more than one station agent each.

ajedrez July 22, 2011 - 1:23 pm

Theoretically, you could have the (3) go to Dyre Avenue and eliminate the (5) (replacing it with expanded (4) service).

I’d rather have the current pattern.

Andrew July 26, 2011 - 8:45 pm

And since Lex service can’t be reduced, that leaves twice as much service running up Jerome as it needs. Again, more expensive than running the 3 as it runs now.

Chet July 21, 2011 - 3:33 pm

Not good news at all. He did so much good for London, and was in the process of doing much of the same here as well.

Any ideas as to who is replacement might be?

bob July 21, 2011 - 9:57 pm

How many smart capable people would want that job right now? Walder claimed he didn’t know the financial conditions he was stepping into. The next person can’t make that claim.

meg July 21, 2011 - 3:47 pm

This sucks

chris July 21, 2011 - 3:49 pm

I hope Gov. Cuomo has a rock star up his sleeve that is as innovative and tolerant of dealing with sluggish government.

Phil July 21, 2011 - 3:49 pm

Wow this totally sucks.

Dana July 21, 2011 - 4:06 pm

This sucks. I wish him the best of luck at MTR but this is definitely a huge loss for MTA and New York

Jay July 21, 2011 - 4:07 pm

Sad loss.

Ian July 21, 2011 - 4:12 pm

Such potential to have a strong, lasting impact on the infrastructure and economy of NYC now goes by the wayside. At least the trains are running very well on this hot, humid day. If they were failing, he’d be deep in the pressure cooker of the NYC media machine. Cuomo needs to find a sufficient appointee, and fast. Do any potential candidates come to mind?

Murugan July 21, 2011 - 4:19 pm

Terrible loss indeed for a city that can use someone like him in public sector leadership. He came across as a very forward thinking & innovative leader. It will be interesting to watch if the lure of big growth in Asia start impacting the public sector as well…

Al D July 21, 2011 - 4:24 pm

I think that this shows, that is, I’m sure 1 of the reasons for his departure, other than what sounds like a phenomenal opportunity, is how ridiculously impossible it is to be Chairman and CEO of MTA. There are just too many meddlers, auditors, bureaucrats, naysayers, many of whom are the first to pull funding from the agency.

This creates an opportunity to fundamentally overhaul the organizational structure of the MTA, break it up, re-align it, whatever, all of which can be part of subsequent discussion.

Good luck to you, sir, Mr. Walder. And by the way, where and how can I send you my CV?

bob July 21, 2011 - 10:03 pm


In the left column you’ll see the link to “Careers at MTR”

I visited HK a few years ago – it was really cheap post-SARs. Interesting place, I recommend it. After riding their subway NY never felt crowded again.

MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder Resigns | Mobilizing the Region July 21, 2011 - 4:37 pm

[…] more, see Second Avenue Sagas, Streetsblog, the NY Daily News‘ Daily Politics, and NY Times‘ City Room, which are all […]

Scott E July 21, 2011 - 4:48 pm

It’s a thankless job, one where you spend 99% of your time defending yourself from attacks. I honestly believe that if it weren’t for people like Carl Palladino, Ed Mangano, Greg Mocker, and others (the list goes on and on) who make it a mission to attack and berate the MTA, that he’d still be doing the job that he began with so much enthusiasm back at the start of his tenure. I’m not a chief-executive of anything (not even close!), but I know what it’s like to lie in bed awake every night with a pit in your stomach because of the stresses of your job. It’s not healthy, not fun, and no way to live.

Under the current culture, the role of MTA chief will always be a revolving door, no matter how much it pays.

bob July 21, 2011 - 10:07 pm

Complaining about the subways is part of NYC culture. Like food in the Army, no matter how good it is, they will complain.

But you have a point. Lots of employees (myself included) are very cautious about telling people where we work. That really doesn’t encourage high morale.

vinny July 22, 2011 - 2:36 am

Oh give me a frigging break.The MTA is the most TOP heavy,Mismanaged agency it isnt even funny.Greg Mocker got on his ass because they had the worst service cuts in transit history under his regime and he wanted to see what justified it.He called them out on all there bullshit.I applaud him.You want to talk about a thankless job? Drive a bus in this city for a year, then come talk to me.Where were you when my fellow Co-worker Edwin Thomas was killed? How about the other Bus Operators who are assaulted,spit on,cursed at while these morons are driving desks and getting police escorts home if they feel their safety is being compromised? None of the people that are on that board have ANY experience working in transportation.And every stupid decision these idiots do,the ones who are in the trenches,the transit workers,feel the repercussions

Eric July 21, 2011 - 5:04 pm

Well, crap.

matt July 21, 2011 - 5:17 pm

I agree with Martin Golden when he says that Walder was “just hitting his stride.”

I don’t blame Walder, though: he took an underpaid, thankless job and made important improvements in a lot of ways.

vinny July 22, 2011 - 2:11 am

what kind of shit are you smoking?First of all he was one of the highest paid.He made huge service cuts,He berated employees by calling us the “Shame of the system” and laid off workers.Cut bus routes short or eliminated them entirely.He’s a rat bailing out on a sinking ship

VLM July 22, 2011 - 2:14 am

It’s always good to know that union brainwashing is alive and well at the TWU. Never change.

vinny July 22, 2011 - 2:50 am

Do you work for Transit? I bet you dont.Ive got 13 years driving a bus in this city and I see the stupidity every time I have to pick an assignment.Why dont you put your money where your mouth is jackass and i bet u wouldnt pass probation..Come on I DARE YOU TO TAKE THE NEXT BUS OPERATOR EXAM!!!!!! THEN COME LOOK FOR ME AND LEMMIE SEE WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY

VLM July 22, 2011 - 2:54 am

People who fall asleep at their jobs, skip work to screw around with girlfriends and try to bill overtime and continually bash their bosses. No wonder if he called you the ‘shame of the system.’ Do you yell at passengers like that too?

If you want some respect, show it and earn it, just like the rest of us have to do at our day jobs.

vinny July 22, 2011 - 3:11 am

First of all I take pride I what I do and no I dont yell at my passengers like that.But dont sit here and call me brainwashed by the Union if you have NO CLUE what it is like to work for Transit.WE sacrifice our time with our families,we risk getting hurt or killed performing our jobs.Do you have these issues at your day job? No I bet you dont.I cordially invite you to come to that Transit world and stop reading the BS they post in the newspaper and take it as the work of god

Al D July 22, 2011 - 9:40 am

I actually thought about being a bus operator if I were to lose my ‘day job’ as you put it. That’s how it works out here by the way, employment at will, no protections at all. But I can only imagine the actual amount of non-sense you must have to put up with from low level, big ego transit managers and crazy union shop stewards on you all the time. This is 1 of the many reasons as to why the entire organizational structure must be fundamentally overhauled from the top down, bottum up and both.

But to your points on sacrificing time with you family and Walder getting paid highly. I too am sacrificing time with my family at my ‘day job’. As for Walder, he made a lot of money in absolute terms, but clearly he will be making lots more of it at his new gig. So will the TWU be sending postcards with his face from Hong Kong complaining how much $ he makes now?

Roundup: Jay Walder Makes an Exit as Somebody Starts Drafting Brodsky | PolitickerNY July 21, 2011 - 5:39 pm

[…] Walder: “a complete surprise to those in both the transit community and the upper echelons of New York government.” [Benjamin Kabak / Second Avenue Sagas] […]

herenthere July 21, 2011 - 5:43 pm

NOOOOOOOOO I loved the guy! He did so much in such tough times and amidst harsh public openion. His leadership and love of transit will be missed. Hopefully this is a mid-summer April Fool’s joke.

AlexB July 21, 2011 - 5:43 pm

Total bummer. Looks like he left a good paying and very difficult job for a very high paying job at an agency that has fewer problems to solve and fewer critics. Can’t blame him I guess.

pea-jay July 21, 2011 - 5:49 pm

China doesn’t strike me as the place that has critics, at least inside the country. And with the government still pumping gobs of money into infrastructure, it would be like a dream assignment for someone who likes to see major construction projects take a few years rather than a few decades

BBnet3000 July 21, 2011 - 6:06 pm

Youre thinking of mainland government run transit. This is a private company based in Hong Kong, which is economically (policy-wise) seperate from mainland China.

pea-jay July 22, 2011 - 12:51 am

yeah but I don’t see even this private corporation (which exists because the Chinese government approves of it) having much difficulty securing permits, conducting environmental review (really?), holding hearings (also unlikely), hiring cheap construction workers to build it and employees to operate it.

I have no doubt that even a private corporation could build a project as complex as the Second Avenue line in less time and money if it operated under Chinese rules.

Alon Levy July 22, 2011 - 1:42 am

It exists because the Hong Kong government privatized MTR operations a few years ago. Hong Kong is not China; let go of the fantasy that everywhere in the developed world that doesn’t have New York’s dysfunctions has to be totalitarian.

Anon July 21, 2011 - 5:51 pm

who is next to go?

Donald July 21, 2011 - 5:55 pm

Stupid question, but what exactly has Walder doene during his tenure? Other than a few countdown clocks, what is his legacy from the perspective of riders? Is the subway much different today than it was when he became head of the MTA? Do we have a swipeless fare card? Has service improved? The answer is a clear no.

Benjamin Kabak July 21, 2011 - 5:59 pm

First, we’ll have a swipeless card because of his work. We’ll have full-system bus tracking. We have countdown clocks coming online.

Additionally, without his work, we’d have much higher fares and much steeper service cuts. We wouldn’t be in a place to see the capital projects funded, and we wouldn’t be on target to open these megaprojects somewhat closer to on time than they were two years ago.

You seem to dislike Walder a lot. Why? Because of his stance toward labor or is it something else?

Donald July 21, 2011 - 6:04 pm

I’m not anti Walder. I’m just pointing ot the facts: Fares are higher today and service is less frequent today than it was when he first started. That is a pure fact. I’m against anyone who cuts service regardless of who it is.

Benjamin Kabak July 21, 2011 - 6:06 pm

Fair enough, but that’s sort of backing Walder into a corner, no? What can you do when the options are “cut service and raise fares a lot” or “cut service and raise fares some while engaging in serious belt tightening” because Albany failed? He really had no other choice.

Donald July 21, 2011 - 10:02 pm

I would have saved money by not installing countdown clocks or bus tracking systems. Yes, these technologies are nice to have, but they don’t make your train or bus come one second faster.

Joe Steindam July 21, 2011 - 10:18 pm

Weren’t the countdown clocks and bus tracking paid out of the CC budget? So not doing those projects wouldn’t have made those funds available for operations, right?

I know the countdown clocks had a series of delays that predate Walder. He deserves to be commended for delivering on the project. I know the whole cost might be a lot as well, but the cost has been spread out over the years, and probably wouldn’t have been a large enough amount to spare service cuts if spread out annually.

Benjamin Kabak July 22, 2011 - 2:15 am

As I’ve said before, the countdown clocks were a creature of a communications upgrade that the MTA had to undertake. You’re missing the forrest for the trees on that one.

Andrew D. Smith July 21, 2011 - 6:07 pm

So you’re pro-magic, then?

bob July 21, 2011 - 7:45 pm

The countdown clocks contract predates Walder by several years. Earlier versions were in development back in the early 90s, but didn’t really work (unless you had people making announcements, which is expensive) since they didn’t have a modern centralized signal system. (That’s why it’s only on the ATS and CBTC lines.)

Walder showed up a few months before the rollout, threatened people to make it happen a month or two faster, and then takes all the credit.

Metrocard replacement was due, the technology is getting old. It may well predate him also; it would be underway no matter who was running things.

Meanwhile the Business Services Center is creating loads of extra work for employees and raising costs by millions, if not tens of millions. (I deal with it, so I have to remain anonymous.) Walder’s underlings know, whether they told him is open to question. But it’s too late to turn back.

He’s been openly whining about how he didn’t know what the real fiscal situation was before his arrival (this website for one could have clued him in); I think it’s only getting worse and he decided to scram before it was obvious to everyone. Much like Sandy Weill quit Citibank a year before the financial crisis.

The only thing you can truly give Walder credit for is all those posters telling the public what a good job he’s doing. But they certainly worked on Ben and a variety of politicians. (OK,I’ll concede the website redesign is pretty good too.)

Benjamin Kabak July 21, 2011 - 8:01 pm

The posters were a clear ploy. Come on!

I think your undervaluing the way Walder was able to lead an effort to save money at the MTA and the fact that he had a transit- and service-oriented vision for the authority and the city. Even if many of the things he oversaw were the product of past work, he got them done, and there’s a lot to be said for that at a time when things aren’t done. Plus, he managed to cut internally on both the operations and capital sides, and no one has been willing to do that lately.

That said, he clearly wasn’t perfect. You’re not the only person to say it, but people I know and trust at the MTA have always spoke glowingly of his work. I’d love to hear more about Conway. I know you mentioned him earlier, but I’m not as up on my history of his term as I am on recent heads. It was my impression that his appointment was a political one from Pataki and he didn’t really know transit ops.

bob July 21, 2011 - 9:18 pm

As someone who’s been in the operating and capital sides (not MTAHQ) for nearly two decades I’ve seen a lot fewer changes than you seem to think happened in the past two years. Big projects take a lot of time, coming in for the last few months and claiming credit isn’t “getting them done”. I’ve worked on these types of projects Ben; at best the execs get a 1 hour presentation every six months and nod their heads. They don’t get told about the problems (and the countdown clocks had plenty of problems in development) and they don’t ask questions to find out.

And I wonder if he saw that nothing more was coming in the near future: real train arrival clocks (not the “one station away annunciators”) on the BMT can’t happen until ATS-B which is years away, the IND awaits the eventual rollout of CBTC. (In the early planning it was supposed to be done by now, but the agency, to it’s credit, delayed the later rounds until the first one was actually working.)

Cutting, yes he had no choice. But they are at the point long past any fat. You saw that in the Signals scandal: tell employees to do more inspections than is physically possible and they have no choice but to lie. The agency cultures punish bad news; until that changes it will impede progress. A lot of the capital cutting is pushing work off to consultants: they earn more than civil servants, but somehow it’s considered cheaper. (And there will be no institutional memory to fix things later.) And they have less incentive to bargain hard with contractors; you’ve written about how the costs keep going up. That’s a contributing factor.

You make like the posters, but I find all the self congratulations distasteful. Different sensibilities. But why are there posters on the subway bragging about tolls on the Henry Hudson Bridge? Are subway riders really the target audience for that?

I’ll give you another example: much was made about this idea of doing smaller station fixes instead of full rehabs. This idea has its merits, to be sure. But I have no doubt in a few years you’ll be seeing articles about how the idiots at the TA came in and fixed something, and a year later ripped it out to fix something else behind it. (In the late 80s there was a lot of this about the schools, and it lead to the creation of the School Construction Authority.)

Conway was a political appointment with no transit experience. He had run the Seamens Bank for Savings…which went under. Not an auspicious background. But, surprisingly, he had a very good run at MTA, finding efficiencies in various spots like office supplies (not a small item with that many employees!) A lot of it was low hanging fruit but the guys before had not bothered. I’m very skeptical when people keep saying they can find lots of efficiencies; Conway already did the valuable ones. A lot of the inefficiency remaining are rules put in place to prevent cheating, or a lack of investment in modern technology…which is expensive to implement. It wasn’t that many years ago that all the timesheets were still processed by hand. Outside of ATS and CBTC train records are still done on pencil and paper, although there is an interesting internal system that was developed in-house, low cost, that might change that.

During the Conway era is when all the megaprojects started – would you be doing this site without them? – but I think that emphasis came directly from Pataki. On the negative side they did that financial restructuring that traded short term benefits for the long term pain we are seeing now. Seems like all politicians try to do that now.

I believe (I’m a broken record on this) that this idea of one person who can make everything in all the agencies perfect is foolish. It’s too large, the services provided are too diverse, there are different contracts, different types of work, different applicable laws, etc. Everyone wants these agencies to operate better (and yes the employees do too, even more than the public, they spend more time on the systems) but I think it has to come from the agency heads and the departments below them. In the private sector good management is often defined as pushing responsibility down the chain. All this emphasis on the MTA chair is going the opposite way. Let him concentrate on the finance & political aspects, not operations. Ravitch and Kiley are the models here.

(I do give Prendergast pretty good marks, for reversing the mistakes, well intentioned but still mistakes, of Howard Roberts.)

I’m rather negative on Walder because of the BSC. He pushed it hard, but from what I’ve seen it’s a real problem. I don’t have the whole picture, maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t know anyone in the operating agencies who finds it an improvement. Thus far it creates a lot more work to do the same task. I think the execs fell in love with the general concept but didn’t take the time, and spend the money, to really plan it out in detail. (I’ve seen that on other projects.) Peoplesoft is a general commercial financial tracking program – the MTA doesn’t fit well at all. Customization is expensive. Instead they adopted the idea “if the peg doesn’t fit in the hole, get a bigger hammer” meaning just tell the employees to make it work, and blame them if it doesn’t. (I’ve seen that alot over the years too.) The expectations I’ve heard is that it probably hits the fan in the winter when they try to run the annual financial reports. Time will tell.

Sorry to go on so much, once I get started I really let it pour out. While I disagree with you on this, please don’t get me wrong – I have tremendous respect for the work you do on this site, and the time involved. I wish I could give you more specifics about things I’ve experienced, but I’ve got well over a decade until that pension!!

Andrew July 21, 2011 - 9:53 pm

Very interesting post. Thank you. Looking forward to your followup in a decade.

I don’t give Walder credit for countdown clocks or smartcards or anything like that. Where I think he deserved credit was in his willingness to upset people in order to make progress dealing with the fiscal crisis.

BrooklynBus July 23, 2011 - 10:19 am

Let me tell you more about Conway. This is what I remember about him. In the early 90s I had to attend the Board meetings every month. When they were trying to discontinue the Franklin Avenue Shuttle and replace it with a bus, an elementary school teacher decided to bring her class to the Board hearing to protest. She probably thought that not only might it do some good, but it would be a valuable lesson on how goverment works. One by one about ten students approached the podium each with their own personal story how discontinuing the Shuttle woul cause them hardship. They were very eloquent and all spoke from their hearts and politely asked that the shuttle remain.

However, Conway was thoroughly unmoved. He responded with something like–So you’re complaining about not wanting to walk a half-mile to school. It will do you some good. In my day I walked a mile to school and didn’t complain.

I bet those students will always remember that day at the MTA. Yes and they did receive a valuable lesson in how government works. It doesn’t give a damn about you. Conway’s response was mean and cold-hearted. How could anyone talk to innocent kids in that manner and how dare he compare how what was acceptable 60 years earlier to what we find acceptable today?

He had no concern for the riding public whatsoever and that should be your most important priority as MTA Chairman.

Anon July 21, 2011 - 6:11 pm

actually, the countdown clocks were from previous administration.

Andrew July 21, 2011 - 6:47 pm

Unlike his predecessors, he was willing to accept bad news and to try to deal with it, even when it didn’t make everybody happy.

Alon Levy July 21, 2011 - 6:33 pm

It’s so sudden. Doesn’t he have to give the MTA enough notice to let it find a good replacement? In general, do the insiders here have any idea who the next head will be, or, rather, how the MTA is going to find one (internal promotion, hiring away from a foreign agency, etc.)?

Andrew July 21, 2011 - 6:41 pm

Gubernatorial appointment. It’s not up to the MTA.

Ian July 21, 2011 - 7:28 pm

3 months is a lifetime for a corporate management change. Many turnovers happen much quicker.

Alon Levy July 21, 2011 - 7:36 pm

Okay, same question about the gubernatorial appointment process.

bob July 21, 2011 - 7:54 pm

It’s not uncommon to pick one of the agency heads as “acting” while they do the search. Or even one of the board members. Used to be Daniel Scannell (who was on the board for decades I think) seemed to always get the gig. They named the Penn Station Control after him (and Claytor) as a thank you.

But it really comes to the gov for the long term decision. Maybe if they got off this idea of one person can fix everything things might go better. The most effective person in the last two decades was actually Virgil Conway. Nobody claimed he was the messiah (unlike Walder, Lee Sander, Peter Stengl); he just did things that made the place more efficient.

John Paul N. July 21, 2011 - 6:50 pm

“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”

One thing that’s a near certainty: the next MTA head will not have the same agenda as Jay Walder’s. I only hope that person’s goals and innovations will be as broad and positive as his were. Mr. Walder, you will be missed.

The biggest accomplishment I credit to him is the release of a lot of data for customers’ consumption (albeit trickled down to app developers and the like). There is still a long way to go (e.g. monthly reports of statistics relating to service planning for every route), but the amount of public data I have seen from the MTA exceeds that of other transit systems (within the U.S. that I’ve seen at least).

bob July 21, 2011 - 7:57 pm

Actually you can find monthly data in the MTA Committee Agenda books on the MTA website. It’s not really useful for apps but it’s past history anyway. It’s been there for years, long before Jay Walder.

Some of the app stuff is nice, but is that really due to Walder or is that just the way the world is going? I think the later, given all the other cities that are doing the same thing.

John Paul N. July 21, 2011 - 8:51 pm

I hate the massive size of those books (megabytes), but I’ll take a look again. But as I recall, the available data consists of load factors and not much else, and are not broken down by route, passenger miles, revenue, cost, total passengers/time period, etc. Only when service is adjusted is more insightful data released. (I would not be using this data in an app, BTW.) Compare to the gold standard, for lack of a better one that I’m aware of, reports by SEPTA, especially the annual service plans. That kind of transparency through those kinds of reports will make the MTA more accountable and accessible.

The available MTA data sets can be found here. GTFS (schedule and route data) and service status API are as, what you say, “where the world is going.” But a lot of the rest appear to be quite unique to the MTA, such as raw turnstile usage data. I’m definitely not saying we would be better off without that data, but the opposite, the release of that data flourished under Walder. His successor will not likely release as much new forms of data, and it remains to be seen if he or she will be as open to all of it at all. However, it doesn’t hurt that OpenPlans, the advocate for open transit data, is based in NYC, and a lot of credit goes to that org as well.

bob July 21, 2011 - 9:42 pm

I was thinking of different stuff (OTP) than what you list. What you’re looking for mostly isn’t there, certainly not on a line basis. There is systemwide ridership & financial data, not as nicely presented as Septa. An lot of stuff is not accounted for by line: shops serve multiple lines, maintenance crews do too.

Ridership by line is tough with all the transfers and such. The stuff in the service adjustment proposals comes from special surveys, so it isn’t consistently done. After all, if a line is running at max capacity, and it has standees, there isn’t much else you can do. What good would a survey do?

I can’t say for sure how much is produced internally; it’s been a while since I saw stuff like that. You could file a Freedom of Information Act Request, but you’ll get some funny looks. There is a lot of car mileage data; it used to be a whole crew of people to type it in. It’s been somewhat automated in the last decade.

Andrew D. Smith July 21, 2011 - 7:31 pm

If only he could have kept the news to himself until he negotiated the new contract. With this job in hand, he could have gone to the wall to get a contract that seriously lessened the royal screwing that transit workers give everyone else.

The only longtime safety for the MTA is to make operations pay for themselves. But that’s not going to happen when the MTA is run by anyone with any plans for a future in the public sector. I don’t know what Walder would have accomplished but I’d be way more than the successor who will just be settling in when the negotiations begin.

bob July 21, 2011 - 8:01 pm

Do you really think the TWU cares who it is? They want to get what they can, or not give up anything when times are tough. Members aren’t going to accept a less generous contract because it’s Jay Walder or anyone else. And the Governor and the Mayor pull a lot of strings, when they choose to.

nycpat July 21, 2011 - 9:48 pm

“operations should pay for themselves”- So the Real Estate Industry gets a free ride? What is the value of NYC real estate w/out an efficient transit system?
Interesting that he is going to MTR, a company, funded largely by real estate, and started by one of Her Majesty’s Civil Servants. The governments in HK and Singapore own 90% of the land and put it out for longterm lease, that’s how the Brits funded the costs of these colonies.

bob July 21, 2011 - 8:05 pm

Speaking of efficiencies: What about Regional Bus? MTA had an agreement from TWU to work on that over a decade ago but nothing was ever done. Even with LI Bus going off on it’s own that still leaves three agencies all driving buses: the TA, MABSTOA (somewhat integrated with the TA, but there are restrictions on who can work where) and LI Bus. If Walder is such an efficiency expert why didn’t he pick up on that?

pete July 21, 2011 - 9:28 pm

Supposedly management was layed off when “Regional Bus” was created.

bob July 21, 2011 - 9:48 pm

Regional Bus was never created – that’s my point. It’s the one thing I can think of where there could be some real efficiencies to be gained. But no one seems to have any interest. (Not just the current regime, but the ones prior also.)

I’m not saying it will be easy – the unions will certainly want to take advantage. But why not try?

TWU: We ‘won’t miss Jay Walder,’ ‘glad to see him go’ :: Second Ave. Sagas July 21, 2011 - 8:46 pm

[…] the news of Jay Walder’s sudden resignature stunned transit advocates this afternoon and left politicians praising him for his two years of […]

TWU ‘won’t miss Jay Walder,’ ‘glad to see him go’ :: Second Ave. Sagas July 21, 2011 - 8:58 pm

[…] the news of Jay Walder’s sudden resignature stunned transit advocates this afternoon and left politicians praising him for his two years of […]

Ed July 21, 2011 - 11:34 pm

” Cuomo needs to find a sufficient appointee, and fast. Do any potential candidates come to mind?”

His father?

nycpat July 22, 2011 - 12:16 am

Never happen. He’d have to give up exploiting immigrants at Medallion Financial.

Frank B. July 22, 2011 - 12:27 am

I am honestly, quite shocked and saddened at this, and I say that truly, and honestly, from the heart.

I love this city; It’s always been home to me and my family, and I guess it will always be. I love the buildings, the parks, the people, but most of all, I love our subway. It has not seen significant expansion in many a year, it has not seen significant improvements in conditions or service, and it lags behind many others in technology; but, by God, how I love the subway.

This crazy, modernizing, master-negotiator from the Rockaways dared to dream of a better subway system. He cut costs; made plans, negotiated for less-expensive contracts. Every instance that I read Jay Walder’s name, I was proud to have this man in charge of our large, expansive system.

This man had seen results; this man had made strides; and now this man, whatever his motivations, is now leaving for better work. Who could blame him, when you have ignoramuses in their cars screaming about their lost lanes; when you have neanderthals on the Upper East Side complaining about construction; when you have subway riders, and bus riders, and railroad riders, complaining that the platforms aren’t cool enough; that the schedules aren’t frequent enough; that the trains aren’t clean enough?

It was, and is, unfortunately, a thankless, degrading, line of work. We’ve scared away a great talent who could’ve actually done something good for this city; who actually did do something good for this city.

I very much doubt that we will ever see a man as good as Jay Walder heading the MTA for a long, long time.

So long Mr. Walder.

Dan from Roadify July 22, 2011 - 6:50 pm

Here here. Couldn’t agree more.

vinny July 27, 2011 - 12:20 pm

Sorry Frank but I strongly disagree.You want to talk about a Thankless job,Try operating the system on a daily basis.When service is cut,who takes the brunt of it? The ones that are most visible…the Bus Operator,The Booth clerk,The Conductor of a train.Nobody EVER threatend him or spit on him,nobody cursed him out,and he was the one calling the shots.Oh poor thing has to listen to complaints,cry me a river.The construction for this 2nd Ave subway that those “Neanderthals” are complaining about,is a money pit.Everybody seems to want to bet the farm that its going to be successful.But what if its discovered after its completed and after a few years of operating, that its under-utilized,,then what? The MTA would have spent Millions of dollars for nothing.They cut trains on established train routes for lack of ridership.What makes this new train route so special? Its not even gonna travel anywhere in the outer boroughs.And people are creatures of habit,so if they are used to taking the 4,5,6,trains they are gonna continue to do so.

He pissed off his Labor force as well.Everybody LOVES to demonize the TWU.But lets face it,without the Transit workers,they system doesnt run because WE are the only ones qualified to do so.During the 2005 strike how many Managers or supervisors took it upon themselves to operate the trains or buses? NONE OF THEM!!! Why? Because they are not qualified to do it.Managers dont know how to operate a bus or train.SLD’s still have CDL licenses and could have been ordered by Management to operate buses,but they didnt.Management has ABSOLUTELY NO RESPECT for its workers at all.If they had so much respect for us,then dont go out blasting them in the press of all places.We work hard and take pride in what we do.We make sacrifices.We sacrifice our bodies,our lives and our time so we can provide for ourselves and our families.What else more do you want? Work with us, not against us.But thats never gonna happen,because we are nothing but Uneducated oafs in their eyes,and they are SOOOOO much smarter than us.And how convenient your Golden Boy is bailing out while contract negotiations are about to start.He burned that bridge behind him so I say GOOD RIDDANCE!!!!!

VLM July 28, 2011 - 10:03 am

They didn’t cut established subway lines because of ridership. They cut subway lines because they didn’t have any money because you got a raise for three years in a row while the rest of the country’s economy tanked.

If I were you, I’d stick with arguing about respect for workers because you clearly know nothing about the Second Ave. subway and how popular it’s going to be.

Alon Levy July 22, 2011 - 1:22 am

By the way, let me cruel and add that Hong Kong is a perfect fit for Walder, because unlike in New York, in Hong Kong Octopus works fine as it is and therefore Walder’s fascination with subsidizing MasterCards won’t cause too much damage.

Urban Omnibus » The Urban Omnibus Roundup — Midtown in Motion, High Line Roller Rink, Walder Resigns and Reinvent NYC.gov July 22, 2011 - 1:54 pm

[…] to take over Hong-Kong based transportation company MTR Corporation. Transportation Alternatives’ Paul Steely White commented on Walder’s contribution to the city: “Facing a daunting fiscal situation brought on by the […]

BrooklynBus July 22, 2011 - 4:32 pm

My comments about Walder’s resignation can be found here: http://www.sheepsheadbites.com.....-resigned/

Benjamin Kabak July 22, 2011 - 4:37 pm

I agree with just about everything but I think you’re overstating his pension intentions. People who are going off to make $1M+ in salary (plus bonuses and stock options) at age 52 don’t really care that much about their pensions. I think when you say the following, you’re 100 percent correct:

To accept a job on private industry at three times his salary as MTA Chairman. Is he leaving just for the money or because he believes the MTA’s problems are just insurmountable and he doesn’t want to be around when the system starts slipping downhill again (Some think it already has)? I think the answer is a combination of both, or maybe he never intended to stay in the first place

BrooklynBus July 22, 2011 - 5:17 pm

However when he decided to come back he probably was thinking about the pension because he didn’t have the $1M job yet. Jobs like that dont materialize overnight. i wouldn’t be surprised if he started looking just as soon as he got started as MTA Chairman, and if that is true, then he wasn’t sincere when he took the job in the first place.

Dan from Roadify July 22, 2011 - 6:49 pm

Interesting take. I gotta think because he grew up in NY, it was a bit of a homecoming for him. Maybe it was just restlessness after his time in London. Either way, shocking and ill-timed that’s for sure.

Dan from Roadify July 22, 2011 - 6:46 pm

I was shocked to read it that’s for sure. Generally speaking though, Walder did a fine job steering the Titanic of a ship that is the MTA. I agree, he left at a tough time, but it’d be tough for anyone to pass up 3 times your salary! wow!

BrooklynBus July 23, 2011 - 9:55 am

I guess what bothers me the most is that he had to have starting planning his exit soon after he started. Million dollar jobs don’t materialize overnight. He had to have been looking for at least a year. You shouldn’t sign a five year contract when you don’t plan to stay.

Frank July 24, 2011 - 9:49 am

In 2010 at the same time that station agents, track workers, car inspectors were being laid off, do-nothing administrators who sit in their office and surf the net and go on 3 hour lunches and shopping expeditions were given hefty raises. Promotions are given not based on merit, but on your relationship with the boss. In the last year how many stories have been in the news about patronage, corruption, bribery? And what percentage of the corruption actually makes the news? Kudos to Walder?

Andrew July 26, 2011 - 9:07 pm

Plenty of administrators were also laid off. (I happen to know one of them.)


And administrators haven’t had raises in years.

Nice try, though.

akiva July 26, 2011 - 3:51 pm

jay walder leaving was indeed a day of mourning for all of us

MBTA General Manager Search Process Now Underway « Transit on the Line November 2, 2011 - 10:06 am

[…] York, where there has been enough political conflict to lead their last and most qualified CEO to resign, Governor Patrick strongly supports both MassDOT and the MBTA and we rarely see him bash either of […]

The Real Reasons Jay Walder Resigned | Sheepshead Bay News Blog November 22, 2011 - 4:50 pm

[…] accomplishments during his short tenure, you have come to the wrong place. You can read about the money he saved, the new projects he initiated, and the reactions to his departure elsewhere. Ben Kabak at […]


Leave a Comment