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Byford leaving transit job as head of New York City's subways and buses

New York City Transit president Andy Byford is

New York City Transit president Andy Byford is leaving the MTA after leading the subway and bus system to improve on-time performance. Credit: Craig Ruttle

New York City Transit president Andy Byford, largely credited for leading a major transformation of the city's bus and subway systems over the last two years, is leaving the MTA, officials said Thursday.

The decision was announced shortly after Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Patrick Foye had convened a closed-door executive session at the MTA's monthly board meeting in Manhattan. The agency issued a statement confirming the departure of the British-born Byford, who joined the MTA in January 2018.

“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 in a statement. "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.”

The plan that Byford put in place aimed to reverse growing infrastructure failures and delays on the subways through intensified maintenance. That initiative birthed the Fast Forward plan, which modernized subway signal systems and redesigned bus routes.

Subway on-time performance improved and ridership increased during his tenure.

Byford had shown signs of frustration, as the agency was managed more closely by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in recent years. He had submitted a resignation letter in October, but quickly rescinded it.

A reorganization of the MTA, directed by Cuomo and approved in July, reduced Byford's purview at the agency. In his resignation letter, Byford noted that others could carry out the "important, but reduced" functions of his office.

In brief remarks, Byford thanked Cuomo, the State Legislature, and MTA officials for allowing him "the honor and privilege to serve New Yorkers." He also thanked bus and subway riders and transit workers, whom he called "diamonds."

"They're just wonderful, decent, hardworking human beings. I'll always be proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with them," Byford said. "This really is the absolute pinnacle of any transit professional's career. It doesn't get much bigger than New York City Transit."

Byford's last day on the job will be Feb. 21. Foye said the agency is working on a succession plan for the position.

Foye disputed the notion that Byford quit in frustration over Cuomo's influence, and said Byford was leaving for "personal reasons."

Cuomo, talking to reporters on Thursday, said there is "no truth to the rumors that [Byford] couldn't get along with me."

News of Byford's exit disheartened transportation leaders, including Jaqi Cohen, director of the nonprofit Straphangers Campaign, who called it "a devastating loss for New York City's 8 million transit riders."

John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union representing subway employees, praised Byford for his honesty and closeness to the labor force. He told Byford at the meeting: "You brought a level of compassion to this job that will be difficult to replace."

Correction: A story about New York City Transit President Andy Byford’s resignation incorrectly stated one of the responsibilities that he had ceded under a recent reorganization of the MTA. Byford had continued to oversee a subway signal modernization program. 

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