Jay Walder Resigns as MTA Chief, Effective October 21 [Updated]

After a two-year tenure during which he earned the praise of transit advocates as a skilled and innovative leader, MTA Chair Jay Walder has announced that he will step down effective October 21. Walder, who was appointed by governor David Paterson in July 2009 and took the CEO position that October, will be taking the reins of the MTR Corporation, a Hong Kong-based rail company.

As MTA Chair, Walder brought a wealth of experience to the table, including six years at Transport for London and an earlier 12-year stint at the MTA in the 80s and 90s. His tenure as chair was marked by his response to the agency’s ever-tightening finances. At a time when huge debt loads and Albany transit raids placed big strains on the MTA’s budget, Walder was able to implement substantial efficiencies and bring innovative programs on line quickly, like the real-time bus information project known as BusTime. He also could not avoid enacting the biggest round of service cuts the NYC transit system has seen in a generation.

Walder will be departing at an eventful time for the agency. Its contract with the TWU Local 100 expires at the end of the year, and negotiations are expected to ramp up in the following months. The MTA recently announced $2 billion in cuts to its five-year capital program, which still leaves a $9 billion hole. Some combination of fare hikes, service cuts, and deteriorating conditions looms unless new revenue sources are secured or the MTA abandons mega-projects like the Second Avenue Subway.

There are not many people out there who can bring the same degree of experience and competence that Walder brought to the job. We’ll have more on Walder’s departure as the story develops.

Update: We’re hearing that staff at MTA HQ were taken by surprise by Walder’s departure, though Liz Benjamin tweets that Senator Marty Golden doesn’t believe he was pushed out by Governor Cuomo.

  • Larry Littlefield

    So who was Walder’s employer?  Was it the people who paid his salary?  How about an exit interview?  Perhaps he might be willing to be candid, given that he is leaving the country, put probably not.

  • JamesR

    This is ominous. I remember how he had provisions put into his contract to keep him from being fired without receiving a large payout from the state. This made it seem as though he’d be there for the long haul, yet he’s now decided to leave of his own volition. What’s worse is that I have no idea what (if any) potential candidate could possibly be more qualified for the position than he as. 

  • Dannygarwood

    Yo Jay! Bring us back an Octopus Card and some Egg Custards!

  • krstrois

    If I were in his position, I’d go to HK, too. Cannot imagine trying to run the MTA with such a hostile political and economic environment when there are cities (many in Asia, I would imagine) that are dying for his kind of expertise/leadership and who would be ready to take some risks and invest in transit. We can’t even get one dedicated bus lane in midtown. 

    I agree it bodes ill for NYC that we can’t, or won’t, keep our talent. 

  • krstrois

    If I were in his position, I’d go to HK, too. Cannot imagine trying to run the MTA with such a hostile political and economic environment when there are cities (many in Asia, I would imagine) that are dying for his kind of expertise/leadership and who would be ready to take some risks and invest in transit. We can’t even get one dedicated bus lane in midtown. 

    I agree it bodes ill for NYC that we can’t, or won’t, keep our talent. 

  • Ian Dutton

    This is especially bad news for those of us “left behind”. It’s sad that history aligned so promising an MTA chief with one of the worst economic and political climates for transit in generations. Just think where we could be had Walder served in more opportune days.

    I wish Walder well – and wish MTA riders the best, just as you’d wish a homeowner “the best” in the face of rising floodwaters.

  • fdr

    Has Iris Weinshall submitted her resume yet?

  • Mark Walker

    Greg Mocker will have to find someone else to shamelessly dump on. It’s hard to blame Walder for moving to a nation that’s investing in its transit system, as opposed to one where the MTA is a favorite media whipping boy, deemed unworthy of the revenue it needs to survive.

  • Mark

    Jay Walder proved to be a very competent head of the MTA.   He took an incredible amount of grief for doing his job well.  New York will have a very hard time finding someone as good to replace him.  Shame on the senior leadership of New York State for not keeping him.   NY needs someone with Jay’s integrity to lead the agency in these tough times.   I fear the MTA will get a new head who’s primary job is to stand by as politicians undermine NY’s transit system.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I personally would not want to preside over deferred maintenance.  That’s one reason I left the MTA in 2004.  The writing had long been on the wall, but it took a long for me to conclude that there was little prospect of a turnaround.

  • Joe R.

    I can’t really blame him.  I would also resign from an employer who didn’t give me adequate funding to get the job done.  It’s obvious here in the US we refuse to spend what is needed to fund infrastructure.  With government spending of all kinds being seen as evil these days, that’s not likely to change anytime soon.  NY’s loss is HK’s gain.  Only question is who is enough of a masochist to step up as head of the MTA.  It seems like the 70s all over again.  🙁

  • gcymb

    FROM THE SIGNAL HELPER WHO CRUSHED THE SIGNALGATE FARSE, GRAB HIS PASSPORT BEFORE HE FLEES….. I MIGHT NEED HIM WHILE DEAL WITH TOM PRENDERGAST………….

  • Frank Lee Perturbed

    Damn! I thought that said Jim Walden resigns…

  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t agree more. Maintaining talented management like Mr. Walder is certainly a sign of poor attention given across the country.

  • Anonymous

    A great manager lost at a tough time. Will be interesting to see the direction the MTA goes from here.

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