When the new chief of New York City's subway system opened the floor to commuters for a live question-and-answer session on Twitter Thursday morning, New Yorkers did not hold back.
The hashtag #AskNYCT quickly became a trending topic in New York, as masses of frustrated commuters barraged NYC Transit President Andy Byford with concerns and questions about deteriorating trains, constant delays and weekend work.
In response to complaints about track work and maintenance, Byford says the operations planning team works with the rail control center to schedule and manage maintenance work: "We're catching up with decades of underinvestment, which makes this challenging."
"A huge amount of work is being undertaken at quieter periods, but we try to balance this to still provide service," he said.
New MTA Boss Begins Job By Riding Subway
As for the unreliability of MetroCards, Byford acknowledged they are "now old technology," and that's why they're migrating to contactless payment by phone or credit card. He agreed that "it is outrageous that customers should have to wait for a refund," but "in the meantime, we're looking at ways to speed up refunds or card replacements" when cards become defective.
Other issues he addressed:
- How to get a refund on a MetroCard swipe when the trains are stopped ("Please speak to station agent and request a 'block ticket' to gain access to another station")
- The "dark, damp, stinky and incovenient to exit" 149th Street Grand Concourse station ("Agree this station needs work... This will take time and money, but we are writing a plan to secure just that."
- The delays at DeKalb interlocking during rush hours ("Fundamentally, we need to upgrade signals, switches, and other equipment. In parallel, I need my team to be on the ball with timely, decisive dispatch of trains.")
- The planned L train shutdown ("There is still time to refine the plan, and we are working closely with the city and the NYPD to provide smooth service throughout the closure.")
The Brit and former CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission also answered some personal questions -- he said The Smiths are his favorite band and he'll be rooting for the Yankees this weekend when they play the Blue Jays ("Nice try, Brad. You don't trap me that easily. I'm a New Yorker now. Go Yankees.")
Byford says he wanted to host the chat because he is "laser-focused" on increasing reliability to improve customer experience. He plans to hold Twitter chats regularly.
"This is the job," he wrote in response to someone who accused him of "wasting time with empty PR gestures like this."
"I believe that being accessible and responsive to customers is a key part of making the system better. In my ten weeks here, I have focused my time on tangible actions to improve things."