Start the countdown clock.
MTA Chairman Jay Walder abruptly resigned Thursday to take the reins of a private Hong-Kong based transit company that operates in Asia and Europe. His last day will be October 21.
“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 in a statement of his two-year tenure. “We have accomplished quite a lot in a short period.”
Walder, 52,was lauded by some for streamlining work, trimming spending and installing subway countdown clocks, a real-time bus tracking pilot and select bus service routes.
His critics, however, noted that subway station agents were laid off and booths shuttered, financial woes plagued the MTA and the agency made its largest service cuts, while hiking fares 7.5 percent.
“He leaves New York City transit in worse shape than when he arrived,” said John Samuelsen, President of Transport Workers Union, slamming the staff and service cuts. “Transit workers won’t miss Jay Walder.”
Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, however, said Walder “was a very effective MTA chairman, particularly in bolstering the credibility of the MTA’s reputation of trying to find efficiency.”
Some straphangers said service has improved, but many were fuming over the fare hike. "For the money we pay, we expect service to get better," said Ashley Morales, 23, of the Bronx.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has not selected a successor for Walder, who earned $350,000 a year.
Possible replacements that have been floated include Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams, who served as the MTA’s interim CEO before Walder was tapped, and former assemblyman Richard Brodsky.
Whoever Cuomo picks must have “a real proven transportation background — not a stopgap political appointment,” Russianoff said. “It’s a critical moment in the agency.”
The cash-strapped MTA’s capital projects run out of money at the end of the year and the contract with the union is also set to expire.
MTA officials seemed shocked by the announcement that the Queens-born Walder will become CEO of the MTR Corporation on January 1 and not complete his six-year term.
“I thought Jay was going to finish out his term,” said MTA Board Member Mitchell Pally. “Things happen. I’m sure he got a great offer”