Train Daddy is back.
Andy Byford, a former New York City subway chief, was praised by riders and transit enthusiasts for his efforts to improve an outdated system that was plagued with delays and breakdowns. Amtrak's senior vice-president for high-speed rail development will be returning to American rail next month, Amtrak announced Thursday.
Three years ago, Mr. Byford quit as the head of America's largest subway system after a dispute with then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had hired Mr. Byford following the declaration of the subway in a state emergency. After leaving New York, Mr. Byford was appointed London's commissioner for transport in September. He had previously been there to manage New York's mass transit system.
In a text message sent to The New York Times by Mr. Byford on Thursday, he stated that he was excited and humbled to join such an American icon. "I received many job offers, but Amtrak is the best for me.
Streetsblog reported Mr. Byford's new job on Thursday.
New York City Transit is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's arm that operates the subway and buses. Mr. Byford was a loved figure in a city that doesn't easily accept newcomers. British subway nerd, Mr. Byford spent his entire career working with transit systems all over the globe. Before arriving in New York, he was the head of Toronto's network and worked on Sydney and London systems.
Only 58 percent were on-time when Mr. Byford assumed control of the subway. He had, by the time he left the subway, helped increase the on-time performance to more than 80 percent through fixing faulty switches and improving train speeds.
New Yorkers were delighted with the improvements. Transit lovers gave him the nickname ’Train Daddy’ and stuck stickers with Mr. Byford’s face on street signs with the slogan Train Daddy loves you very much'. He was a smiling greeter at stations and helped clean up a flooded station once.
However, at least one New Yorker of influence was not down with New York's new king -- his boss.
He suggested that Mr. Byford had resigned because Mr. Cuomo had reduced his duties as part a reorganization at the M.T.A. which took him away from more ambitious projects.
The subway system Mr. Byford had in mind for New York is not yet realized. The subway almost collapsed three months after Byford's departure. This was due to the coronavirus pandemic that decimated the city. Although ridership numbers are increasing, safety and crime remain top concerns for many New Yorkers. Kathy Hochul, New York, has requested that the city contribute $500 million annually.
Amtrak isn't doing well, and Mr. Byford will be facing familiar challenges as he moves into a new role.
Amtrak's ridership fell during the pandemic. It has not fully recovered from the loss of passengers and the railway service has never made a profit. Amtrak will receive $22 billion from President Biden's infrastructure package of $1 trillion. Trains will be able travel up to 160 miles an hour, slightly faster than the current trains.