Train Daddy has a new family.
Andy Byford, the popular former New York City Transit President who resigned in January amidst a bitter dispute with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will be London’s next Transport Commission, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the Board of Transport for London announced today. Byford will oversee an agency that is facing its own pandemic-related economic crisis but also one that has a holistic role in shaping London transportation and a vision for it that far surpasses being implemented in New York City these days. It’s a natural fit for a transit technocrat who won over a New York City public distrustful of the MTA, and New York’s loss is London’s gain.
Byford left the MTA at the end of February and left New York a few days later to renew his visa. He ended up stranded in his native Plymouth, England, as travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders descended upon the world. Now, he’ll stay in England, rejoining the organization where he started his back in 1989.
“I am delighted to be taking up the role of Commissioner and to have been chosen to lead the organisation where I started my transport career over 30 years ago,” Byford said in a statement. “In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, all transport authorities around the world will need to reimagine how their services and projects contribute to the safe and sustainable re-start of the social and economic lives of the cities they serve. It is a huge challenge, but I know that Transport for London has some of the best people anywhere in the world and we will meet these challenges and will together help build an even better city for everyone.”
The new TfL head earned the moniker Train Daddy from his fans in New York City who grew to know a New York City Transit head who took responsibility for the system’s failures and wanted to fix the subways and buses. His Fast Forward plan helped lead to improved subway performance and his Safe Save Seconds campaign led to faster trips. A bus network redesign effort has been in the works for a few years, and Byford was instrumental in putting together the $51 billion capital plan that included aggressive signal modernization work. That work sits in limbo as the COVID-19 crisis has decimated the MTA’s finances, and Byford left or was pushed out by Cuomo after the two butted heads.
That relationship, or the lack of one, was the crux of the matter. By some accounts, Cuomo grew leery of Byford following profiles in The New Yorker and on 60 Minutes and would either circumvent Byford’s authority or impose distractions upon Byford’s team. When speeds and signal calibration, for instance, became a Byford/New York City Transit priority, Cuomo tried to override Byford by putting together his own team to examine the issue but often without the experts tasked by Byford to solve the problems. It was Cuomo’s prerogative as Governor to do so, but sometimes, the best way to lead is to let the qualified and competent leaders run with their agendas. This is all well-covered terrain, and we know what we lost.
New Yorkers had dreams of luring Byford back, either in a city role or even as the head of New Jersey Transit, but London will benefit instead. Byford most recently worked for Transport for London as the General Manager of Customer Service for the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria Lines and had served in service delivery and station ops roles across the system. He served stints in Australia and Toronto before arriving in New York and returns to London with a mandate to oversee the entirety of the city’s transport network – the Tube and buses but also bikes, roads and pedestrian space.
Byford, who beat out 107 other candidates for the role, begins his new job on June 29. He’ll earn a salary of £355,000 (or approximately $435,000) with performance bonuses of up to 50%, a sign that London values the knowledge and skills of the people tasked with leading the gigantic TfL organization.
“I’m delighted to confirm Andy Byford as London’s new Transport Commissioner. Covid-19 has had a profound impact on public transport in London but Andy brings with him a wealth of experience and expertise to lead TfL as it faces this unprecedented challenge,” Mayor Khan said. “I look forward to working with Andy as we build a greener city with clean and environmentally-friendly travel, including walking and cycling, at the heart of its recovery.”
New York’s loss is London’s gain. And it’s a better setup, really. London owns every road and every rail within its 32 boroughs. That’s what TFL does. That’s how a world city should operate. We’re in New York are not a world city. We’re a cash source for Albany. Yes, it helps that Paris, Tokyo and London are capitals of their nation. But New York will never have infrastructure that approaches those cities until we are our own independent, federalized district. The District of Gotham. DG. That’s my vision that will never be.
TFL certainly does not own every road and rail.
It does not own every rail the Overground operates on (most is owned by National Rail) for example.
TFL only controls major roads. The vast majority are controlled by The City of London and the 32 London Boroughs (which are independent legal entities and not subservient to TFL, the London Assembly or the Mayor)
What we do have is political oversight and accountability of TFL but not political interference in operational issues.
And that’s part of the problem you have in the US the lack of separation between oversight of finances and strategy and day to day operations.
London’s gain is NYC loss. While serving as MTA NYC Transit President, Andy Byford never promised what could not be delivered. As they say in Brooklyn, his word was his bond. This gave him excellent credibility with major funding agencies such as the Federal Transit Administration. The MTA is heavily dependent upon federal assistance for over $8 billion in formula and $3.5 billion in discretionary competitive funding to help pay for the MTA’s $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Program. This doesn’t include billions more in emergency COVID-19 funding. He made an excellent advocate for federal funding. Subway and bus riders, transit advocates and elected officials will continue to miss Our Former Englishman in New York.
(Larry Penner — transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit bus and subway, Staten Island Rail Road, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, New Jersey Transit along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ)”..
Given his background, it’s hard to imagine there’s a more qualified person on the planet to hold the position he now holds. It was a mistake to let him go.
GOOD LUCK ANDY!
The first time I became aware of Andy Byford was a TTC video on YouTube in witch he discussed the new streetcars being delivered & the elements that made them unique. Oddly enough, one of them was an invisible coding on all surfaces designed to inhibit the spread of viruses & other illnesses.
After watching, I could see that Andy was well spoken & knew what he was talking about. Best of luck, you’ll be missed.
Gov. Cuomo pushed him out because his ego is too big to allow anyone else to get any credit.
so if the New York City subway system falls to disrepair blame it on Gov. Cuomos ego.
It was stupid of Cuomo to let him go, but who ever said New York City politics made sense.
Our loss is London’s gain.
Andy Byford was admired for many reasons in NYC. He was a driving force in
promoting subway accessibility as a “moral imperative.” He included accessibility as 25% of his Fast Forward
Plan, supporting and affirming the needs of people with disabilities, seniors, parents with strollers, ambulatory difficulties, for full and safe transportation access and full lives. Elevators for Everyone
Apropos of that, I just checked through the current legal filings, and found that there are *33* stations where the corrupt pre-Byford NYCT & MTA illegally altered stations without adding stair-free access.
Regardless of MTA’s fiscal position, they are now required to renovate those 33 stations to add elevators — whatever the cost. That’s what comes of a history of criminality by the MTA management.
They NEEDED Byford.
So evidently, Cuomo is like Trump. Cuomo was jealous of Byford’s esteemed reputation, while Trump is jealous of Bezos (Jeff has more money) and Obama (Barack garners more respect).
Standard Operating Procedure for Cuomo since he took over as governor is to be the guy who announces any good news about the MTA, while leaving any bad news announcements to the people actually in charge of the subways or any of the MTA’s other divisions. That doomed Byford from the outset, because any New York City Transit President competent enough to get things done was going to attract praise from the media, and Cuomo only wants his hired help to simply be flunkies who take the blame, while stepping aside to give him the credit.
If his dad had the same attitude about sharing credit, Bob Kiley and David Gunn wouldn’t have lasted 18 months in their MTA positions back in the 1980s, and the system would have stayed at the miserable level it was at the start of that decade (and the “Here for the roses, gone for the thorns” part of Andrew’s governing style isn’t simply limited to the MTA, as you can see right now with his non-dealing with some of the rougher patches of the COVID-19 outbreak).
Thanks for this, Ben. I’d been thinking a lot about Byford in recent weeks, and about the remarkably lucky (for him) timing of his departure. Such a damn shame for NYC. Wondering, though, if you could weigh in on the fawning NY Mag piece on Sarah Feinberg and where we go from here re: MTA leadership.
People whine and whinge about CEO salaries, and some are grossly overpaid. Some are screaming bargains, and don’t seek or get much press.
Byford is worth every dime of what London is paying him. Let’s say he saves Londoners ten minutes per week by, say, making some connection work smoothly, or having fewer breakdowns, or whatever. That’s 8 hours per year x millions of Londoners. If you value that time at even $10/hr, it adds up to, errr, some hundreds of millions. $4-500K is cheap for that result.
London’s gain is New York’s loss. While Gov. Cuomo has provided good leadership during the pandemic, he’s still very wrong on chasing away Train Daddy.
Ross Barkan has been doing some good work on Cuomo’s avoidance of blame for the pandemic’s impacts in NYC: https://rossbarkan.substack.com/p/why-does-the-media-take-the-onus
Frankly, the only reason Andy Cuomo has anything resembling a good reputation is that Trump, every Republican governor, and half of the other Democratic governors have been worse.
The US is pathetic.