Apparently, “we” will not
On Thursday morning it was all he can stand and he can’t stands no more. Andy Byford, President of MTA transit services, up and quit his job in barely 2 years at the helm.
But we all saw this coming, in fact he actually tried to resign in October but he decided to hug it out with commuters for few more months. Andy really loves trains, and he really really wanted to conquer the perpetual FUBAR disorganization and dysfunction of the running and budgeting of our maligned transit services. He came to NYC and embrace the subway and buses like their were newborn twins. He really earned the title of #Traindaddy.
But the gargoyle overlord and head muckety muck of the MTA Governor Cuomo was not and never enamored with Andy’s passion for mass transit and as we will see a bit later, honesty and transparency. And after Byford’s spotlight interview on 60 minutes and a big spread in the New Yorker magazine, Mario’s son went the passive aggressive route to undermine his position and even responsibility to improve service and bring much needed renovations and remediations of the transit system. Cuomo basically took a page from former mayor and 9/11 exploiter Rudy Giuliani with his own undermining of his first police commissioner William Bratton when he got glowing attention from a national magazine cover story.
But no matter how hard Transit Poppa Byford tried, he just didn’t have the stamina to take total control (and he actually really did try, no one has this visible ever from the MTA and surely never will again). And it wasn’t is fault, because Mario’s son had to make sure all of his efforts were made to be insignificant so he can hog all the glory for any positive outcomes from them.
As this digital publication pointed out last time trying to get the traindaddy’s attention, he was doomed to from the start despite his fast forward plan as trains continued to break down, signals and switches still malfunctioned, infrastructure continued to fray and he also had to deal with that moron tyrant Cuomo constantly riding his ass, especially when Mario’s insecure son devalued his role and position as president and reduced Byford to basically a public relations flack for the subway.
It’s hard to get inside the mind of an intelligent dutiful public servant like Sir Byford, but I know how people can snap when they are being undermined, giving unreasonable demands and belittling reassignments on the job as well as seeing and experiencing things that just make your head explode and I think these were the things that broke his brain:
Starting with the L train revival. President Byford broke the news that the Canarsie Tunnel was so damaged from Hurricane Sandy six years earlier (on top of the certain internal dilapidation after not repairing for that amount of time) that it needed an entire overhaul that required the L to be shut down for a year and four months. Then when January 2019 came around, Generalissimo Cuomo got his official casual jacket on and went into the tunnel with some college professor eggheads and decided to keep the L train running and use another yet cheaper plan to repair the tunnel and reorganize the power supply while letting the L continue to run on limited schedules, thereby throwing Byford’s more feasible and responsible plan that took his entire first year assembling it and threw it in the garbage. The only thing that this really helped was to keep the ossified, overvalued real estate rental market solvent by the L’s train stations along Williamsburg and Bushwick. This heinous overvalued market speculation/fabrication has now spread further south to East New York. And now the MTA decided to add fucking Wifi to the tunnel also.
As if that insult wasn’t demeaning enough, Mario’s megalomaniac son then put Andy through his own summer of hell by diminishing his leadership role as NYCT president, transferring the control of all subway renovation and construction projects to advisory firm Alix Partners while splitting up the transit dept. causing Byford to lose control over the buses. With this unheralded demotion, Byford went from a proactive hands on manager to a glorified public relations flack to promote subway improvements and fixes for Sith Lord Andrew to glom credit for them. With one stroke, Cuomo reduced Andy Byford from traindaddy to Mr. Pitiful.
The tragic irony of Andrew’s decision to overhaul the offices and Byford’s responsibilities instead of the subway manifested itself in more terrible and predictable mishaps on the trains below and above ground. Most notably one afternoon at Grand Central Station, when the ceiling on the mezzanine broke and vomited gallons and gallons of water onto the floor, as MTA workers left a lone bucket there to catch it. Byford actually showed up and grabbed a big broom and was pushing the fetid water itself in a vain display of accountability. Unfortunately he wasn’t around in Long Island City at the Court Square station when a bearing wall from a tower development collapsed, forming a wave on the platform that nearly got a commuter killed by an arriving train.
Months after Andy was playing janitor, the recently appointed NYC Transit figurehead went into his new role as pitchman and led an embarrassing press conference for the implementation and unsubtle praise of the OMNY tap pay fare system as another day of transit chaos was happening simultaneously.
Andy also had to hit the streets to address all the rusty metal chunks and broken pieces of wood that were flying off the elevated tracks in Queens, landing on cars and nearly killing drivers and pedestrians. At least his hands on action resulted in getting netting for them.
These things, plus Cuomo’s micromanaging his MTA flunkie board to keep things hush hush about the spending and planning for projects and fixes for the subway and other projects like extending Penn Station from the general public and Andy and his transit team surely led him to consider and following up on quitting back in October but apparently the governor still needed him to stick around as the $51,500,000,000 MTA capital plan was about to be implemented and the optics would have been immensely bad for Cuomo if one of the main authors of it would leave town.
But come 2020, it was getting clearer that Andy wasn’t going to be around much longer and all signs were there that he mostly wasn’t. For when the Capital Plan was ratified by the MTA board, Byford was not there for it. And a few days after it was passed on the first Monday of this year as millions of people were going back to work and school, the entire transit system broke down after signal malfunctions on the 7 and a switch malfunction on the B lines, throwing all train lines into chaos. Even though it dominated the news on online websites and social media, Andy Byford oddly did not appear at all to assuage commuters.
Then there was the MTA’s decision to overhaul the entire bus map in Queens. While supplying their narrative by describing the new routes as remixes, cutting some essential bus stops as enhancements and supplying the routes with articulated buses, the MTA tried to enhance their plans by being sneaky as they opened their first workshop that with commuters that they barely publicized by holding it in a basement of a building surrounded by scaffolding in Jackson Heights. Thanks to social media and the blog Queens Crap (of which I am an admin) that published the meetings and the horrible new bus route remix, thousands of citizens showed up.
And what do you know, among the people in that crowded rumpus room was none other than the traindaddy himself Mr. Byford, even though his responsibility of running the buses were yanked away from him. Byford did what he did best and without fear and took questions, ideas and very loud constructive criticism from all and reassured them that the routes were subjected to change (or to be remixed again).
But the last straw that could have led Byford to quit so soon came last Thursday at the 71st Ave/Continental Ave. station. When workers in a control tower was overwhelmed so much by the sight of a bedbug (that’s right a single bedbug) that they evacuated their work space and caused four transit lines to be delayed for hours for it to get fumigated. Sure Andy quit because of his reduced role caused by an advisory firm hired by Cuomo that specializes in downsizing working staffs, but it’s not hard to imagine the Byford’s head getting beet red and blowing steam out of his ears to hear how those tower workers reacted. (Sorry to digress but why is it even called a tower when it’s actually a bunker since it’s underground).
And that is that. Andy Byford, the most hands on, accessible and accountable MTA official this city and state has ever had is gone. And he walks away after actually improving transit schedules thanks to Save Safe Seconds program that made the trains go faster and making the trains more handicapped accessible, even though the new train speeds may be responsible for all that heavy debris falling from the elevated trains and a judge’s decision favoring a class action lawsuit for the transit system provide such access respectably. The only mistake Byford did (and it was a big one) was approving a contract for Bombadier to supply new trains on the A, C, J, lines that kept malfunctioning, notably one incident where a door remained widely ajar as it was still moving (he actually had a similar problem with that train manufacturer when he ran Toronto’s transit. But at least he won’t have to put up with Cuomo’s moronic totalitarian bullshit and arrogance and de Blasio’s indifference and shirking of his own responsibility for the subway and buses that run in the city he governs (in fact it’s doubtful if the corrupt mayor was ever in the same room with Byford at all during his tenure).
Although he may be bailing out at the right time. In a few months, the Canarsie Tunnel is scheduled to be complete. It may have saved the commutes of millions of citizens and kept morons from moving from their 3,000 a month tenement and tower apartments but the ramifications from it may turn out to be dire being that Cuomo’s decision to use cinnabun glaze polymer to fortify the decayed walls might not endure and keeping the L running during construction as silica dust was floating in the ether on the platforms of 1st Avenue and Bedford Ave. will surely have an effect on commuters waiting for their rides in years to come akin to all those who cleaned up the twin towers remains at ground zero after the 9/11 attacks.
But at least we’ll all enjoy the convenience of using our phones to pay the fare dealing with this shit with OMNY. You won’t even have to take it out your pocket either for the scanners can usurp your data by walking past by or through the turnstile.
These things including a rise in crime on the subways, graffiti coming back, the homeless population preferring to use the trains and stations as safer alternatives for habitation and continuing persistent problems with the antiquated switches and signals and even new signals (especially now that the top expert vetted and picked by Byford quit a few days after), and most essentially the persistence of the moron tyrant governor and his MTA board’s continued secrecy and obligatory but opaque releases of the budgeting to fix and modernize mass transit, it’s plain to see that even the beloved Traindaddy couldn’t save Cuomo’s MTA, the worst fucking transit system in the universe.
And we the commuters have to choke on that.
I just thought of something else. Mario’s son’s hiring of Andy Byford came right after the summer of hell he declared for mass transit back in 2018 and at time Cuomo promised a new era of transparency and accountability just like when he promised he would bring the same to end the embedded and ingrained corruption in the halls of the state assembly and senate with starting the Moreland Commission. And like Byford when the transit system proved to overwhelming to fix, Cuomo terminated Moreland too when investigators found so much graft and corruption with the governor’s office and the leaders Silver and Skelos of the assembly and senate, leading to the arrest and conviction of those two scumbags.