Home New York City Transit Andy Byford to depart NYC Transit, for good this time

Andy Byford to depart NYC Transit, for good this time

by Benjamin Kabak

Andy Byford has announced his resignation from New York City Transit.

After rescinding a resignation letter in October and nearly walking away from New York City Transit over a tense relationship with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Andy Byford has officially resigned as the President of New York City Transit after a little over two years on the job, the MTA announced today. In comments following Thursday’s MTA Board meetings, agency Chair and CEO Pat Foye cited “personal reasons” as driving Byford’s departure. But Byford had felt sidelined by the recent MTA Transformation process, especially as his roles changed, and he clashed frequently with the governor. Byford, in his resignation letter, cited transformation as a concern and said his last day will be February 21. The MTA has not yet named an interim president to replace the popular Byford.

Byford’s resignation letter hit the Internet this afternoon, and he clearly pointed to the MTA’s ongoing reorganization as a driving factor. “The Alix Partners MTA Transformation plan called for the centralization of projects and an expanded HQ, leaving Agency Presidents to focus solely on the day-to-day of running service. I have built an excellent team and there are many capable individuals in Transit and others within the MTA family, who could perform this important, but reduced, service delivery role,” Byford wrote to new MTA COO Mario Peloquin.

According to senior MTA officials, Byford felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under him as he was brought to New York City to lead the supposed renaissance of the subways and buses but was instead being siphoned into a service delivery role for which he was overqualified. It will be interesting to see how this impacts potential recruiting for Byford’s replacement as the NYC Transit President role doesn’t carry nearly the same cachet as it used to. I’ve embedded the resignation letter below.

Andy Byford’s letter of resignation.

The news first broke in the middle of the monthly board meeting when Dana Rubinstein published her bombshell report at Politico New York, and the MTA quickly sent out a brief press release acknowledging the news with the following statements from Foye and Byford.

“Andy Byford will be departing New York City Transit after a successful two years of service and we thank him for his work,” Foye said. “Andy was instrumental in moving the system forward, enacting the successful Subway Action Plan and securing record capital funding with the Governor and the Legislature, and we wish him well in his next chapter.”

“I’m very proud of what we have achieved as a team over the past two years and I believe New York City Transit is well-placed to continue its forward progress now that the MTA has a record breaking $51.5 billion Capital Program in place,” Byford said. “I’m very grateful to Governor Cuomo, Chairman Foye and members of the Board for giving me the opportunity to serve New York and to head up North America’s largest transit system.”

Reactions have flown in fast and furious with local city officials bemoaning the loss of Byford, and the impact it’ll have on the city, its transit network and potential for the future. “DEVASTATED,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said via Twitter (though he later stopped short of blaming the governor). I’ll round up more of these comments and reactions from transit advocates later.

While local politicials did not specifically blame the tense relationship between Cuomo and Byford as the main driver of his departure, recent reporting from Emma Fitzsimmons at The Times did just that. She writes:

Mr. Byford had considered quitting since last spring and struggled to get along with Mr. Cuomo, who controls the subway and the flow of money to the system.

Mr. Cuomo was angry after Mr. Byford tried to resign in October, according to officials familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The governor signaled to state officials that the tense relationship had reached its end point and that he expected Mr. Byford to be gone by the first quarter of 2020, the officials said.

By December, Mr. Byford made up his mind that he would leave after completing his second year, those officials said. Another likely departure, officials say, is Pete Tomlin, who was brought in by Mr. Byford to run a multibillion dollar overhaul of the signal system.

When asked at a separate appearance on Thursday touting a legislative compromise on legalizing e-bikes if Cuomo was happy with Byford’s departure, the governor said, “No, I thought he was a good man.” The governor had previously praised Byford during the same appearance. “He’s a good man and I wish him well and I think he did great work,” Cuomo said, before launching into a critique of Byford’s plan to re-signal the subways, a cornerstone of Fast Forward and the five-year capital plan, on the grounds that it would have taken too long. (MTA insiders believe Pete Tomlin, the signals guru Byford brought in to oversee CBTC installation will depart at some point in the near future as well.)

Byford too stressed that his departure was his own decision. “This was 100 percent my decision. There was no external pressure for me to go. This is something I’ve given careful thought to,” he said to Fitzsimmons.

Still, by all accounts, that Byford and Cuomo clashed behind the scenes and personality-wise did not help smooth over any problems with their relationship, despite their public comments. And for now, yet again, New York City Transit is looking for yet another head, leaving New Yorkers to ponder what comes next for the subways and their improvements after the so-called Train Daddy departs.

Check back for updates as I’ll have more on this breaking story.

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Peter L January 23, 2020 - 12:49 pm

Finally had enough of Cuomo-the-Dumber’s garbage, eh? Hope he stays on this side of the pond. I’d suggest he might want to go back to the TTC but if he had had enough of the not-so-dearly departed #RoFo, he’d probably not be interested in dealing with his brother #DoFo.

Larry Littlefield January 23, 2020 - 1:34 pm

Best case scenario: he didn’t want to oversee deep service cuts.

Worst case scenario: he didn’t want to cooperate with another unannounced return to deferred maintenance.

That can be hard to spot, but needs to be watched like a hawk, unlike last time. And the time before that, when no one knew a decision had been made until the MTA announced it would no longer defer maintenance.

eo January 23, 2020 - 2:13 pm

Larry, what service cuts are you talking about? While the ridership is off its peak, it is nowhere at a level at which they could make any meaningful cuts unless they bring cutting off night service on the table.
Deferred maintenance is much more likely as is the constant micro-managing and meddling by the governor.

Larry Littlefield January 23, 2020 - 5:15 pm

Deferred maintenance would be far worse — but worse later rather than sooner. That’s why anything else would be better. Service cut. Fare increases. Anything.

Remember, we are facing crisis in a boom. And not just us.

Nathanael January 29, 2020 - 8:24 pm

We already have the leak: Cuomo wanted to prevent Byford from resignalling the subways.

The subways have needed resignalling for DECADES, and Byford had a VERY FAST plan for doing it, but the ignorant Andy Cuomo complained about it. Apparently Byford’s signals chief will probably leave too.

James Scantlebury January 23, 2020 - 2:02 pm

The Commissioner job at Transport for London is available from May if he’s interested… https://www.cityam.com/tfl-boss-mike-brown-to-resign-in-may/

ChrisC January 24, 2020 - 5:22 am

I was thinking last night that there was a senior role open at TFL but thought it was head of the undergroud not the commissioners role.

Sadiq Khan should snap him up,

Samuel Deutsch January 23, 2020 - 2:30 pm

What portion of the blame can be attributed to Alix Partners and their re-structuring plan?

And is there any chance we can get him back? I already miss him so damn much.

Garbop O. January 23, 2020 - 2:40 pm

Not unless we get municipal control of NYCT or Cuomo leaves and whoever comes after Cuomo gives him a wider range of freedom in making decisions.

Larry Penner January 23, 2020 - 4:06 pm

The departure of NYC Transit President Andy Byford should come as no surprise. Out of town MTA executive managers come and go. They usually end up with a golden parachute which includes a very generous severance package. Byford will land on his feet with a well paid position at another transit agency or consulting firm. Credit must also be given to Governor Cuomo who enjoys micro managing the MTA, NYC Transit, LIRR & Metro North. Just how much could anyone put up with Cuomo’s interference? Cuomo continues to portray himself as the second coming of President Franklin Roosevelt and Master Builder Robert Moses. He is not an engineer, business person, transportation expert or daily commuter. He has never built a business from scratch or created a significant number of new good paying jobs on his own. If Cuomo believes he could have done a better job than Byford, there is a simple solution. In his last act, appoint himself NYC Transit President and resign as Governor.

It will continue to be disappointing for MTA employees, along with riders, advocates, taxpayers and other funding agency partners if the MTA continues this pattern of bringing in out of town talent. There are many experienced internal MTA candidates who are qualified to fill the vacancy of NYC Transit President.

Any successful organization, grooms, trains and promotes from within their own company

(Larry Penner — transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA .

Benjamin Kabak January 23, 2020 - 4:26 pm

Do you have any basis at all for insinuating a golden parachute for Byford (or previously departing agency heads)?

Jonathan B January 24, 2020 - 7:26 am

Golden Parachute for quitting after two years? Yeah that’s not how it works. But hey I hope you’re right – the scandal could take down AC.

Nathanael January 29, 2020 - 8:26 pm

Andy Cuomo doesn’t even have any record of competence at running a government agency — his record at every agency he headed, starting with HUD, has been dismal. As far as I can tell, he has only won elections because older voters with dementia think they’re voting for Mario Cuomo.

NFA January 23, 2020 - 6:23 pm

Clearly the bed bug meltdown was the final straw.

ChrisC January 24, 2020 - 5:27 am

Someone posted on your facebook page that they should appoint a transit person to the post not a political hack.

Well Andy Byford IS a transport person and the politicians basically forced him out.

Let’s see if a hack appointment can get resignalling done quicker than 5 years because it’s going to be nigh on impossible unless you shut large sections of lines down to do it. And that’s before you find a contractor willing to put themselves under the MTAs restrictive contract provisions.

Al D January 24, 2020 - 12:31 pm

Until the subway (and bus) can wrestle itself away from all the elected egos, political intrusion, and being part of the MTA (Transit is 90% of the MTA, by the way), it will be a mediocre, functioning system, but it will never be the jewel it could be.

All this non-sense about NYC being a tough town? So what if great talent is chased off…

Tom January 25, 2020 - 1:41 pm

Unreal. First, the entire Alix Partners reorganization report was a joke and it’s almost a crime that the state paid them $14MM for it. The state didn’t have to pay a cent to know that it didn’t make sense for the LIRR and Metro-North to have separate legal departments. On the other hand, you don’t have to be a “genius” to know the subways and commuter railroads are fundamentally very different, and therefore, not every role should be consolidated. Then theres Cuomo’s pipe dream technology for resignaling the system. Mr. Byford only had the best intentions and obviously was never opposed to applying new technologies–when feasible. Cuomo knows ultra-wideband CBTC cannot be applied to commercial service anytime in the near future, yet continues to hold dumb news conferences with dreamy professors and the great Elon Musk. Why? It’s simple — he doesn’t want to invest his time and money in the subway in the first place.

I wish Mr. Byford all the best wherever his career takes them next. Our great loss is going to be another city’s great gain. A true class act in a world where there a far too few.

John January 28, 2020 - 7:17 pm

Wait does this mean the re-signaling project is dead? I though that was literally the best possible use of the MTAs money.

Nathanael January 29, 2020 - 8:28 pm

Yes, The Governor With Lead Poisoning Induced Childhood Brain Damage was unwilling to support Byford’s *extremely fast* 5-year resignalling project.

We have to get rid of Cuomo. Not as urgent as getting rid of Trump, since Trump is actually a threat to the existence of the US, but Cuomo is nothing but trouble.


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