NEW YORK (AP) — The man who earned the unlikely nickname “Train Daddy” as chief of New York City’s beleaguered transit agency announced Thursday that he was taking himself out of service, resigning after two years of trying to improve the Big Apple’s often frustrating subway and bus systems.
In his resignation letter, Andy Byford, a British executive with experience in transit systems all over the world, didn’t delve too deeply into his reasons for quitting, but said a planned structural reorganization at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would diminish his role as President of New York City Transit to focusing only on day-to-day operations.
“I have built an excellent team and there are many capable individuals in Transit and others within the MTA family, who could perform this important, but reduced, service delivery role,” Byford said. He said his last day would be February 21.
There had also been tensions, notably with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who largely controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that includes the subways that Byford oversaw.
Byford, who came to New York after previous transit system jobs in Toronto, Sydney and London, arrived to a system beset by delays and breakdowns. He has been credited with helping push through improvements in timeliness and customer service and was well-liked by New Yorkers — so much so that stickers emblazoned with his face and the slogan, “Train Daddy loves you very much,” began appearing in some parts of the city.
The nickname stuck and the MTA even used it once on its official Twitter account.
Speaking briefly at a board meeting Thursday after his resignation became public, Byford thanked Cuomo for giving him the opportunity and gave him credit for the efforts he and the Legislature made in securing capital funds for system improvements.
He thanked New Yorkers “for bearing with me, putting up with me, giving me this wonderful opportunity to live in this amazing place. This really is the absolute pinnacle of any transit professional’s career. … It’s been my honor and privilege to serve New Yorkers.”
Patrick Foye, chairman and CEO of the MTA, said in a statement that Byford “was instrumental in moving the system forward.”
Cuomo, at his own event Thursday afternoon, called Byford “a good man. … I wish him well. I think he did good work.”
He pushed back against questions over whether he and Byford got along.
“I’ve had a fine relationship with Andy,” he said.
The news of Byford’s resignation caused an outcry from city politicians and others lamenting his departure.
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “This is a real loss for New York City’s subway and bus riders. The MTA needs people like Andy Byford — now more than ever.”
John Raskin, executive director of the public transit advocacy group Riders Alliance, said, “Subway and bus riders are grateful to Andy Byford for his historic service at New York City Transit. In two years, Andy made subways faster and more reliable, he tackled longstanding challenges to improving bus service, and he crafted the first plan in a generation that would truly modernize the transit system.”
Associated Press writer Marina Villaneuve contributed to this report from Albany, New York.