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NYC's new subway chief says closing lines to make repairs may happen

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Some of his opinions might ruffle feathers, but according to Andrew Byford, it’s time for tough decision making

Via William Perugini/Shutterstock

In just a month, Andrew Byford will take over as the president of New York City Transit, and try his hardest to bring the city’s subway and buses in favor with New Yorkers again. He recently sat down with the New York Times, and offered some insight into some of the changes he would bring to the city’s ailing transit infrastructure.

On top of that agenda is the possibility of completely shutting down train lines to speed up repairs, like the imminent L train shutdown. In its Fourth Regional Plan, the Regional Plan Association recommended the discontinuation of 24/7 service; the MTA immediately dismissed that idea as “draconian.”

A plan to shut down lines will likely be met with similar hostility, but Byford stressed to the Times that tough decisions will have to be made in order to ensure that the New York City subway is modernized in a span of years as opposed to decades.

Byford is also in favor of congestion pricing, an opinion that is in sync with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s outlook, but not so much with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s, who feels congestion pricing will unfairly impact low-income New Yorkers.

Byford will also consider how the NYCT spends its money, and consider changing senior management at the transit authority, if need be. He does have considerable experience in the field; he’s worked for the public transit systems in both London and Sydney, but the reason that most likely secured him his job was his overhaul of the subway system in Toronto.

In his tenure there, he implemented a subway line extension, and a new signal system on one of four lines. Overall, train delays reduced significantly, and the American Public Transportation Association named the Toronto transit system the best in 2017, according to the Times.

Still, New York City will be a whole new arena with its own set of unique challenges. NYCT has 5.7 million daily riders, compared with Toronto’s 800,000. Byford is up for the challenge, telling the Times that among the transit systems in the world, landing the top transit job in New York is his Holy Grail.