New MTA Chief Hopes to Get System Back on Track

Jay Walder begins as head of MTA today

By Emily Feldman
|  Monday, Oct 5, 2009  |  Updated 3:24 PM EDT
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New MTA Chief Hopes to Get System Back on Track

AP

Jay Walder officially took over as chairman and chief executive officer of the MTA today.

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New Yorkers sick of slow buses and the endless mystery of when the next train will arrive, may be happy to know that there's a new boss at the MTA who's talking about big-time improvements.

Jay Walder, a world renowned transportation expert, started his job as chief executive officer and chairman of the MTA this morning, to the satisfaction, so far, of the city's main rider-advocacy group.

"I think he has a lot of credibility," said Gene Russianoff, a lawyer at the Straphangers Campaign. "I know him from when he was here in the late 80s and early 90s and he had a lot of success."

Walder, who had a hand in introducing New Yorkers to unlimited ride MetroCards during an MTA stint from '83 to '95, has identified a list of new goals for his tenure. Among his priorities are reforms to the bus system, though he hasn't set any deadlines for the goals just yet.

"Bus passengers should expect to see electronic countdown information rolled out across the city," Walder said during a WNYC interview. "But i think even more so, they should expect to see, and I hope they will, see a big emphasis on bus priority, on enforcing bus lanes and  on allowing the buses to operate in a really efficient manner."

To increase bus and subway efficiency, Walder has talked about introducing an EZ-Pass-like MetroCard that is tapped against  a card reader. The days of  mis-swiping MetroCards would be over. That is, if Walder could pull this off under the MTA's poor financial circumstances.

"It will be a challenge," said Russianoff. "So whether the smart card or countdown clocks will happen will depend on his skill working with Albany."

Before being named head of the MTA, Walder taught at Harvard University and most recently  was a top executive for London's transit system.

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