According to NYCTA President Andy Byford, the fundamental problem hindering the development of metro infrastructure is the wrong approach to identifying the critical points of the system’s effective operation. The cosmetic changes give the false impression of a renewal of the entire metro system, but the quality of service remains the same. Byford believes it is not practical to develop safety by improving lighting, highlighting different metro areas, and introducing modern, serviceable MetroCards because these changes do not solve the NYC metropolitan’s fundamental security and operational issues. Based on the fact that Byford, during an interview with The Wall Street Journal, drew attention to the agency’s personnel, processes, and infrastructure, it follows that these departments’ systematic mismanagement is also a problem area. Given his experience in the development of Toronto’s transportation system, the New York City Transit Authority executive wants to focus on drawing up a smart plan for the future development of the city’s subway system with local officials’ involvement. Although it is estimated that upgrading the metro signaling system could take about 40 years, Byford is convinced that only with the right planning, qualitative changes are possible. In addition, the focus on new technologies about which Byford has yet to make a clear decision is indicative of the use of legacy systems in the underground.
Several decision-making barriers before Byford’s arrival were prevalent due to reasons connected with local authorities. First, politicians were influential in making the right decisions in the urban infrastructure system. For example, in 2008, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was forced to spend $ 1.4 billion to install glass mirrors and domes in the home district of New York’s then Assembly speaker (Nelles et al., 2018). An injunction was issued to the metro management, so their budget would be vetoed if the instructions were not followed. Therefore, instead of using the funding to repair some metro sectors fundamentally, the money was used to make cosmetic changes that reduced the city’s metro system’s efficiency. Second, irrational use of the budget under the influence of notorious politicians became an obstacle to proper development. In 2013, the MTA was forced to commit $5 million to rebuild state-owned ski resorts under the Olympic Regional Development Authority’s direction. Instead of wisely investing in its structure and increasing the number of funds for metro development, MTA management was forced to cut the budget. An illiterate approach to decision-making and the abandonment of long-term planning to solve current problems led to a general decline of the entire New York subway system.
In studying the metro system, Andy Byford implements his observation of the metro’s work from the consumer’s point of view. The NYCTA President examines the efficiency of individual processes by using the metro itself for movement – thus, he has a better understanding of what difficulties passengers may face. In Toronto, he used this principle to understand better the challenges people with disabilities face when using the subway. By collecting information directly from employees and passengers, Byford understands what aspects are needed to improve the system. This approach is more balanced and reasonable, as often the top leaders of government departments make decisions based on statistics, appearance, and prospects for short-term benefit. Through his actions, Andy Byford can not only better understand the problems associated with the subway but he can also increase citizens’ confidence in governing bodies, as people can see those management decisions are based directly on passengers’ needs.
Nelles, J., Gross, J. S., & Kennedy, L. (2018). The role of governance networks in building metropolitan scale. Territory, Politics, Governance, 6(2), 159-181.