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.

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