For the first time, the MTA has selected a transit executive from outside the U.S. to oversee the city's troubled subway and bus network.
The MTA on Tuesday named Andy Byford to oversee the city's subways and buses, a veteran who brings experience from systems in London, Sydney, and Toronto.
Byford will take over in January as the president of New York City Transit.
For the last five years, he's been the CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission, the third-largest transit system in North America.
Byford is credited with cutting delays on the Toronto subway and rolling out a modern signal system — two major challenges he will immediately face in the city, where delays have been on the rise for years.
In June, Byford participated in the MTA's "Genius Transit Challenge," where he talked about some of the problems he's had to contend with in Toronto.
"Very similar to what has happened here in New York," Byford said at the time. "There were decades of underinvestment, decades of deferred maintenance and decades of lack of political interest, really, in the TTC. And it breaks my heart to see that slow, but inevitable decline because of those factors."
MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said, "Having someone on Andy's caliber to lead (the transit system) will help immediately, particularly when it comes to implementing the Subway Action Plan that we launched this summer. In order to truly stabilize, modernize and improve our transit system, we needed a leader who has done this work at world-class systems."
From the London Underground, to Australia's national rail network, to the Toronto subway, Byford has run some of the world's most important transit systems.
He'll do the same with New York City Transit — at a time when the system is in crisis.
"I would describe it as the toughest job in transit right now. I think New York is a fabulous system," Byford said. "But clearly, it's got its challenges."
He will oversee a system plagued by overcrowding, aging equipment, and delays.
"He inherited a difficult situation in Toronto. He's going to inherit a difficult situation here in New York," Lhota said. "He has all of the requisite talent necessary to be able to take the New York City transit system and make into the system that we all need."
"They'd had a lot of deferred maintenance, they had slipping reliability, very low morale of the workforce, and he really did turn that system around," said David Bragdon, the executive director of the Transit Center.
Byford's challenges won't be limited to operations of the transit system — they'll also extend into New York's political landscape.
He'll have to contend with the long-running struggle between the mayor and the governor over how to finance improvements to a system that dwarfs Toronto's.
"I think it's going to come down to a Tale of the Two Andy's and whether Andy C. — Cuomo — is going to let Andy B. — Byford — do the job that I think Byford really is capable of doing if he's allowed to do it," Bragdon said.
Byford takes over from Ronnie Hakim, who left the post in January to serve as the MTA's interim chief executive. She is now the agency's managing director.