On Thursday, July 21st, PCAC was as surprised as most people to hear that MTA Chairman Jay Walder announced his resignation. According to the press release: “Jay H. Walder today informed Governor Cuomo of his intention to resign his position as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority effective as of the close of business on October 21st, 2011. Mr. Walder will be joining the MTR Corporation in Hong Kong as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors. The MTR is a publicly-traded company that operates rail services in Asia and Europe, and is involved in a wide range of business activities, including consulting and property development.”
It is somewhat ironic that the PCAC released its 2010 Performance Review (see story on the PCAC home page) also on the 21st and noted: “The PCAC was pleased when newly elected Governor Cuomo chose to retain Mr. Walder in 2011. The need for continuity in leadership is paramount at this juncture in the MTA’s evolution.” The report gave good marks for Mr. Walder’s initiatives: “In the first full year as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board, Jay Walder has capably led the MTA through the trials of severe budget constraints marked by fare increases and service cuts. His commitment to “making every dollar count” helped stem the deficit, but came at the cost of staffing level and service reductions.”
The PCAC views Mr. Walder’s departure with regret — a loss of capable sustained management and leadership. The financial and service challenges that face the MTA are daunting. It is hoped that Governor Cuomo will see the appointment of the next Chairman as a task that should be given the highest priority. The goal must be a replacement who is highly experienced and knowledgeable about public transportation and who has the personal fortitude to lead effectively amidst the myriad of pressures that come with the job.