Presiding at his first MTA board meeting as the transit agency's leader, Rockaways native Jay Walder Wednesday led the way to fulfill his promise to make the agency more transparent to the public, and to gain approval for an unprecedented cooperation agreement with London's transportation agency.
In his opening statement, Walder, who took office earlier this month as the MTA's chief executive and chairman, announced that beginning with next month's MTA board meeting all of the board's materials will be published on the Internet for public viewing.
While monitoring an MTA board meeting last month from his home in London, Walder said he was "shocked" to find out that the board's agenda was not available to download from the MTA's Internet site.
"It is essential that we make the board's materials accessible to the public," said Walder, who has said that making the transit agency more accountable and open to its customers is one of his top priorities in his new position.
MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said the agency will aim to publish the board's materials 48 hours before meetings. It also will print fewer copies of the board's monthly agenda - a document that usually is several hundred pages and more than an inch thick.
The MTA already streams its meetings live on its Web site.
"I think it's a down payment to more transparency in the system," said Gene Russianoff, spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, which for years has urged the agency to make its board agendas more easily available to the public in advance of meetings. He blamed the MTA's past resistance on its insistence on "information control."
Walder also led the board Wednesday in approving a cooperation agreement with his former employer, Transport for London.
The deal between the two transit giants would allow the agencies to borrow employees from each other, share ideas and team up on projects. The two-year contract would not exceed $500,000, which MTA officials said would be only to reimburse the wages and expenses of borrowed employees.
"I think it's wonderful. I think it's in the best interest of both cities," said Walder, who worked for six years as director of finance for Transport for London.
MTA officials have said they anticipate Transport for London could offer guidance on implementing a "smart card" fare payment system, similar to London's Oyster card, which bills customers' accounts for rides and can also be used to pay for other services.
Dan Maskell, spokesman for Transport for London, said his agency "will ensure that this arrangement financially benefits London, as well as providing New York City with the benefit of London's experience in Oyster technology and the provision of customer information."