“Train Daddy” Andy Byford to Amtrak
Train daddy is back.
Andy Byford, the former New York City subway executive who received praise from riders and transit enthusiasts for improving an antiquated system plagued by glitches and delays, returns next month as Amtrak’s senior vice president of development of bullet trains back to American Rail, the train service announced Thursday.
The new position comes three years after Mr Byford announced his resignation from operating the country’s largest subway system amid a rift with the then-governor. Andrew M. Cuomo, who hired Mr. Byford after declaring a state of emergency on the subway. In September, Mr Byford resigned as London’s transport commissioner, where he had gone after leaving New York to oversee that city’s mass transit system.
“I am excited and humbled to join such an American icon,” Mr. Byford said in a text message to The New York Times on Thursday. “I’ve had a number of job offers, but Amtrak and bullet rail is where I want to be.”
Mr Byford’s new position was reported by Streetsblog on Thursday.
In a city that doesn’t warm to newcomers easily, Mr. Byford became a popular figure during his two years as president of New York City Transit, the branch of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that operates the subway and buses. Mr. Byford, a self-proclaimed tube nerd from the UK, had spent his career working on mass transit systems around the world. He ran the network in Toronto and worked on systems in London and Sydney, Australia before coming to New York in 2017 with major improvement plans.
When Mr. Byford took over the subway, only 58 percent of the trains were on time. By the time he left, he had helped increase the punctuality rate to over 80 percent by repairing faulty switches and increasing train speeds, among other things.
Transportation in New York City
New Yorkers were delighted with the progress. Transit enthusiasts, who nicknamed him “Train Daddy”, put stickers of Mr. Byford’s face on street posts with the slogan “Train Daddy Loves You Very Much”. He regularly greeted passengers at train stations with a big smile and once even helped clean up a flooded train station.
But at least one influential New Yorker wasn’t done with the new king of New York — namely, his boss.
When Mr. Byford resigned, he suggested it was partly because Mr. Cuomo had scaled back his duties as part of an MTA reorganization that kept him from more ambitious projects.
The subway system that Mr. Byford envisioned for New York is far from being realized. Three months after his departure, the subway was nearly shut down as the coronavirus pandemic calmed the city. Rider numbers are finally picking up, but crime and safety remain top concerns for many New Yorkers. The system is also facing a deficit, considering fare increases for subway and bus drivers and cuts in services. New York Governor Kathy Hochul has asked the city to contribute $500 million annually.
Amtrak isn’t faring much better, and Mr. Byford, moving to a newly created position, will face familiar challenges.
Amtrak’s ridership has also plummeted during the pandemic and has yet to fully recover, nor has rail travel ever turned a profit. President Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure package included $66 billion for rail when it was passed, and Amtrak is scheduled to receive $22 billion of that money, some of which will go toward new trains. Over the next year, Amtrak will begin rolling out new Acela trains in the busy Northeast Corridor. The new trains will be able to travel up to 160 miles per hour, slightly faster than those currently in service.