Jay Walder greeting passengers in Hong Kong (photo courtesy of MTR)
Jay Walder, who abruptly resigned from New York's MTA last year to run Hong Kong's well-funded rail system, told reporters on his first day at his new job that New York's transit system was cash-strapped and crumbling when he took over in 2009.
"New York, when I arrived there, was in a financial crisis," he said on Tuesday. "The system simply did not have enough money to continue to operate. The assets were not being renewed. And the infrastructure was in terrible condition."
He went on to say: "What I did was to be able to right that financial basis and to be able to put the system back on firm financial footing."
Walder presided over some of the most severe cuts to the city's transit system in a generation, ending dozens of bus lines, shutting down two train lines, ending weekend bus service in some areas, and making trains noticeably less frequent. He also eliminated 3,500 jobs.
But the system now is also facing some -- how to put this gently -- financial complexities. There's a $10 billion budget shortfall in the agency's long-term capital construction plan. Governor Cuomo just signed an MTA payroll tax reduction into law -- with no concrete plan in place on how to replace those lost funds. And the MTA and its main union have cancelled a bargaining session only ten days before their labor contract is to expire.
But Mayor Bloomberg praised Walder's management Thursday, and said the MTA has started to make some improvements. He also said the agency is in good hands with Joseph Lhota, Jay Walder's successor.
Lhota's confirmation hearing is coming up Monday in Albany.
To hear Jay Walder's comments to the Hong Kong media, go here.