NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – CBS2 was given a rare opportunity to see the New York City subway system through the eyes of the man whose job it is to fix it.
Marcia Kramer got to ride the rails with Transit Authority President Andy Byford, getting an exclusive look at his plans to move the much maligned system from state of emergency to state of the art.
“I like to see the product, talk to the staff, talk to the customers, because that’s how you find out what’s going on,” Byford told Kramer.
One thing riders need to know about Byford is that he’s a customer too. He uses mass transit to get to work every day, and when you’re late, he’s late.
Kramer got to tag along.
When you ride the trains with Byford, you get the expected and the totally unexpected, Kramer reported.
The expected? Riders with gripes.
“How have you found the air conditioning?” Byford asked rider Ruth Liebowitz. “We’ve really put effort to make sure the cars are better. Is it the same as last summer? Better? Worse?”
“It seems to me a little worse,” Liebowitz said. “It seems to me more often that you get into a car that’s not cold.”
The unexpected? He picks up litter and carries it until he finds a trash basket so it won’t get on the tracks.
When you ride with Byford, anything can happen, like MTA Chairman Pat Foye – Byford’s boss – got on the very car Kramer and Byford were riding in, surprising everyone, including himself.
“This is totally unprepared and unscripted,” Foye said.
It gave Kramer a rare opportunity to ask about ambitious plans to install new signals. Byford told her he’d like to re-signal five entire lines within five years. The 900,000 riders who now benefit from modern signaling would jump to 3.5 million.
Since the plan hasn’t been made public, Kramer asked Foye if it would really happen.
“It will be a terrific thing for customers. It will be part of the new five year capital plan,” Foye said.
Byford actually hopped off the train to inspect improvements at 23rd Street with station manager Brenda Gyory. They looked at new yellow strips that help the disabled and debated the merits of new flooring, replacing concrete with something that looks like marble. All the while, Byford was talking about engineering he hopes will be the greatest turnaround in history.
“From state of emergency to state of the art in 10 years. That’s in 4,000 days,” he said.
He admits there are many transit experts who say he’s dreaming. He says he’s not, and is going to make it happen.