On Thursday a contractor for the MTA made a boo boo and drilled into a subway tunnel at the 21st Street Station in Long Island City. Its giant drill bit scraped an occupied F-line subway car. The contractor, Griffin Dewatering New England, apparently did not follow instructions. Two years ago an MTA contractor blew life-threatening debris into East 72nd Street in Manhattan. In both incidents, people were scared witless, but no one was physically injured. However, over the past year passengers on another MTA operation, Metro-North Railroad, have died. The National Transportation Safety Board delivered a scathing condemnation of Metro-North and its regulator this Tuesday. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called the Federal Railroad Administration “essentially a lawless agency, a rogue agency.” * This came after the NTSB investigated five accidents resulting in six fatalities, more than 100 injuries, and $28 million in damages in the past eleven months. The report found that Metro-North had sacrificed scheduled maintenance and safety to keep the trains running on time. Bad management and oversight of both Metro-North and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority at the highest levels is indicated and it adds to the irony of another story that appeared next to the NTSB story in print editions of the N.Y. Times: Jay Walder, chairman of the MTA from 2009 to October, 2011 is the new head of Alta Bicycle Share that operates the Citi Bike program. In July, 2011 the board of the MTA allowed Walder to break his six-year contract, which should have run until the end of 2015. Thus he was able to seize the opportunity to run the MTR Corporation that operates rail services in China. When Walder ran out on the MTA, instead of publicly chiding Walder for breaking his contract with the public, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former mayor Michael Bloomberg offered nothing but praise. The MTA board sent him off with a party. Only Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, said that Walder’s unexpected departure would harm the MTA. “There’s always a learning curve for new management, and this learning curve will occur during the period when they’re funding their incredibly important rebuilding program,” he said. “I don’t think it’s so hot.” As it turns out, Walder’s scarper wasn’t a good career move. This year in Hong Kong, MTR announced it would not renew his contract in a decision that was “mutual.” So if the MTA and government officials had required Walder to live up to his commitments he would still be working for the people of the region. Whether Metro-North and the MTA would have performed better and spared lives and revenue with him at the helm can never be known. All that’s known is that that the man who once oversaw subway, busses and trains in the New York metropolitan region is now running a 1000-bike program he hopes to expand to all five boroughs. He will relocate Alta from Portland, Oregon to New York and will bring 6,000 more bikes to New York City. Cyclists have the kind of clout that riders of public transit riders. This time Walder needs to succeed big. Do you think he run Citi Bike longer than the few years he gave the MTA? Longer than the few he was with MTR? Will the de Blasio administration demand more from him than the MTA did? Do you expect him to do a good job? Are his skills transferable? Please comment below.
- CORRECTION The original post 10/31/14 erroneously reported that Sen. Blumenthal’s quote referred to Metro-North. He was actually referring to the Federal Railroad Administration. Attribution is correct in the linked N.Y. Times story.