It’s Official: Paterson Taps Jay Walder to Head MTA

David Paterson has nominated Jay Walder to the top post at the MTA, a selection welcomed by transportation advocates who hailed his expertise and accomplishments today. Walder brings to the job several years of executive experience at large transit agencies, including 12 years at the MTA spanning the 80s and 90s, and a recent six-year stint at Transport for London. Walder still needs to be confirmed by the State Senate, which is slated to meet in an extraordinary session tomorrow.

While in London, Walder earned praise for putting the transit system on sound financial footing. (Note that the city’s congestion charge took effect in 2003, while he was finance director at TfL.) To do the same for the MTA, he has his work cut out for him. He assumes the chairmanship at a perilous time for the agency’s finances. The state legislature’s latest transit funding package left a huge hole in the MTA’s capital program, a shortfall of at least $20 billion which Albany will have to address very soon.

"Jay Walder has the experience and credibility that the MTA will require to survive these challenging fiscal times," said RPA President Robert Yaro in a statement. "He’ll need all of his many skills to navigate the roiled political waters in Albany."

Transit riders will be well-served if Walder can manage to drive the media narrative about the MTA more successfully than his predecessor, Lee Sander. It’s a tall order. Casting aspersions on the MTA is a favored tactic for legislators looking to deflect blame for their own lack of leadership on transit policy, and the press corps often appears to serve as a willing accomplice. The riding public needs someone who not only manages the agency capably, but also shapes the MTA’s public image as deftly as possible.

  • JK

    A surprisingly great decision by a governor who hasn’t made many. It seemed very possible that Patterson would select a business or political crony who knew next to nothing about transit. Instead he got one of the best people out there. Walder’s got some very tough decisions to make about the capital program and the weight it is putting on the fare. Riders are carrying a huge share of the capital plan and the debt burden is only growing. Is 2nd Avenue affordable when bus service is under pressure and expanded SBS/BRT badly needed? Something has to give, because Walder is going to get no money from Albany or City Hall.

  • Second Ave. *can’t* be stopped again. At this point, it’s a statement as to the ability of a government to provide necessary services when it’s been promised, committed to, and sworn by. For that reason alone (and the sheer necessity), funding has got to be guaranteed, iron-clad.

    And it’s time for governments, organizations, media and businesses to stop looking at the engine of this city’s economy – transit – as anything less than the most critical system for the continued viability of New York. It’s not where you go to raid cash to cover today’s shortfalls.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Second Ave. *can’t* be stopped again. At this point, it’s a statement as to the ability of a government to provide necessary services when it’s been promised, committed to, and sworn by.”

    And borrowed for three times.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It should noted that the debt service for the mega-projects, if one assumes that they are the last transit improvments that will ever be built here, is not the problem.

    The debt service for ongoing normal replacement is the problem. It is many times the size, and will continue to rise indefinately until it consumes 100% of the income of every person living in the NY area. Or until ongoing normal replacement stops.

  • vnm

    Jay Walder will have a little time before he has to roll up his sleeves and get to work. Fare Hike Four member Carl Kruger says the confirmation process could take months.

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