Thursday, July 21, 2011

MTA Chairman Jay Walder resigns [UPDATE]

Jay H. Walder today informed Governor Cuomo of his intention to resign his position as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority effective as of the close of business on October 21st, 2011. Walder will be joining the MTR Corporation in Hong Kong as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors. The MTR is a publicly-traded company that operates rail services in Asia and Europe, and is involved in a wide range of business activities, including consulting and property development.
“I want to thank Governors Cuomo and former Governor Paterson for the honor of serving the people of New York State,” Walder said.  “The MTA’s transportation system is the foundation of the metropolitan region and we are fortunate to have thousands of dedicated men and women who work so hard to provide these critically important transportation services to millions of people each and every day.  I believe that we have accomplished quite a lot in a short period, with the support of two Governors, the Mayor, a hard-working Board and many others.”

Here's the reaction from City Councilman James Vacca, the chairman of the transportation committee:
“This resignation comes at a crucial time. A year after the worst service cuts in the MTA’s history and yet another fare and toll increase, the most serious challenges for straphangers may still lie ahead. While Chairman Walder deserves credit for taking on many structural issues that previous MTA leaders had delayed for a tomorrow that never came, the MTA continues to face a $250 million operating gap and a capital budget that runs out January 1. It’s getting harder and harder to do more with less, and the MTA needs someone at the helm not only who understands the role mass transit plays in the lives of everyday New Yorkers but who is prepared to get to work on day one.”

And a statement from Kate Slevin, Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director:
"MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder has been an effective, innovative leader. He helped restore the agency's credibility and changed the way it does business, finding billions of dollars in savings during his tenure. But his departure comes at an inopportune time. New York's regional transit system faces a capital funding gap that could be as large as $9 billion, and which needs to be addressed in the coming months. Straphangers are at risk. Governor Cuomo must quickly fill this vacancy with an effective leader who has a deep understanding of the transit system."
We'll post more reactions as they come in. [UPDATE] Check below for posts from Gov. Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg and more.
Gov. Cuomo:
"For nearly two years, Jay Walder has shown true leadership at the helm of the MTA and been a fiscally responsible manager during these difficult financial times. Riders of the MTA are better off today because of Jay's expertise and the reforms he initiated will benefit all for years to come. Jay's departure is a loss for the MTA and for the state, but I thank him for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavors."

Mayor Bloomberg:
“Jay Walder is a world-class transportation professional and any city in the world would have been lucky to have him. He set a new course for the MTA during an extremely difficult period when the agency was not given the resources required to meet the City’s needs. He expertly shepherded major projects like the 7 line extension and new bus rapid transit lines, and by embracing new technology, he made significant improvements to the customer experience – from gateless tolling on bridges to countdown clocks in subway stations – that the public will appreciate long after his departure. I was proud to work with him on these and many more projects. He is a first-rate leader with big ideas, and I will miss collaborating with him. He is the type of person we can’t afford to lose, and his departure is a real loss for New York City, the metropolitan region, the state and the country.”

Paul Steely White, Transportation Alternatives:
“Jay Walder steered the MTA through its toughest challenges since the bad old days of the 70s. Facing a daunting fiscal situation brought on by the governor and state legislature’s repeated budget raids, Walder kept our trains and buses serving millions of New Yorkers 24 hours every day. His work to bring Select Bus Service and Real-Time updates to transit riders is bringing New York City’s transit system into the 21st Century and will help keep the city and region competitive with other global leaders vying for business, talent and capital. Mr. Walder’s commitment to the necessity of transit in the lives of New Yorkers has set a high bar, and his successor must come with equal leadership to steer the MTA and the region through the rough terrain ahead.”

Denise Richardson, General Contractors Association of New York: 
"This is not only a loss for transit in New York but for all transit systems in the United States. His resignation says more about our collective unwillingness to properly fund our transportation network than it does about new opportunities for his career. It is ironic that he is leaving New York for Hong Kong, a global competitor set to overtake New York in economic prominence. We wish him well in his new position. As we approach the 30th anniversary of the first MTA capital program, we hope the next MTA chairman will bring to the table the same spirit that our appointed and elected officials had when they rescued the system during a similarly challenging fiscal crises. Mr.Walder’s  decision says more about the difficulty of gaining public support for transit in New York than it does for new opportunities in Hong Kong.”

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