The revolving door atop the MTA’s power structure continues to spin as New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco announced his plans to retire this summer. Bianco, 63, took over the role in April of 2013 when Tom Prendergast was elevated to MTA Chair, and he had previously spent over three years as the Senior Vice President of Subways. He was the seventh New York City Transit President and, outside of Howard Robers, the shortest-tenured one.
As with any agency head, Bianco’s time as president has seen its ups and downs — though the downs were brought about by forces of nature largely outside of anyone’s control. As VP and later President, he led an agency working to overcome the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy and developed the early years of Transit’s $4 billion Fix & Fortify spending plan. Meanwhile, on the positive side, the subways now serve up to 6 million riders per day, and overall daily NYC Transit ridership has topped 8.2 million. The team Bianco put into place is working to increase subway capacity too, though changes (cough cough open gangways cough cough) can’t come soon enough.
MTA officials, meanwhile, praised Bianco and pledged to conduct a wide search for his replacement. “Carmen Bianco is a one-of-a-kind leader as well as a trusted friend, and while I understand why he is ready to retire now, we will all miss his detailed experience, his thoughtful perspective and his constant drive to make transit better for both our customers and our employees,” Prendergast said in a statement. “Through initiatives like establishing the FASTRACK program for subway maintenance and aggressively bringing new technology into the system, Carmen made the organizational culture of New York City Transit reflect the priorities that our customers expect. He will be missed.”
First order of business: find a replacement who’s willing to confront the TA’s own system safety dept and take them to task for all the onerous new track flagging rules & regulations, which keep getting worse and more restrictive and which are, at present, one of the major causes of the abysmal state of subway service – especially late nights and all weekend long. The trains have been slowed to an infuriating crawl for thousands of feet at a stretch and service has been thinned out by fully a third to accommodate these procedures – which simply did not exist until about 5 years ago.
I’m not close to this at all, but I am gonna go out on a limb here and posit a theory. If my memory serves me well, of the last several trackworker fatalities, a number of them involved workers straying out of the work zone or violating procedure in some other matter, causing their own deaths. Of course these were tragic deaths that did not need to occur, but they should have been addressed with better training and enforcement of existing rules, which have been based on decades of operating experience. Instead, these incidents became flashpoints for union anger. The relationship between the union and management have been so contentious in recent years, when these incidents happen there is an outcry from the union about poor work procedures, so system safety and management overreacts by slowing things down even more, so as not to provoke further anger from the workforce. Instead of collaboratively sitting down and working out something that is mutually beneficial, they run to their respective corners, and unfortunately the riding public suffers in the meantime.
Ditto: find a guy who actually rides and the trains and buses on a regular basis, including on weekends, and is not chauffeur driven around in a huge black SUV, as was the case with several of his predecessors.