Mayor Agrees With Former MTA Chief That Subways Are 'Woefully Inadequate'

By Jill Colvin on January 5, 2012 8:09pm 

MTA chairman Jay Walder (l.) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg inspected the large cavern being constructed for the new 34th street subway station together on February 3, 2010.
MTA chairman Jay Walder (l.) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg inspected the large cavern being constructed for the new 34th street subway station together on February 3, 2010.
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Chris McGrath/Getty Images

CITY HALL — Mayor Michael Bloomberg agrees with former MTA chief Jay Walder that the city’s transit system is lagging behind the rest of the world.

Speaking at a press conference in Hong Kong this week, Walder panned the MTA's infrastructure as "terrible."

"New York, when I arrived there, was in a financial crisis," Walder said, according to audio of his remarks from RTHK English news.

"The system simply did not have enough money to continue to operate. The assets were not being renewed and the infrastructure was in terrible condition," he said.

Asked by a reporter Thursday what he thought of Walder's statement that “the infrastructure at the MTA is pretty woefully inadequate," the mayor agreed.

"I don’t think anyone would question, if that’s what Jay said," Bloomberg said.

"We have not had the monies to invest in new technology and more subway cars and better signaling and more buses and expanding the catchment area — all of those things that the MTA should be doing that we need to keep growing this city," he said.

While the mayor acknowledged that there have been steady improvements since he arrived in the city in 1966, when the trains were covered in graffiti and broke down all the time, he said the system has long failed to keep pace with other development.

"We have just too many old things," Bloomberg said.

"If you compare today's MTA system here [in New York] to modern MTA systems [across the globe]… [other country's transit systems are] an order of magnitude more modern." 

Walder resigned suddenly in 2011 from his position at the MTA to take a job with Hong Kong’s privately run MTR Corp.

He had butted heads with Governor Andrew Cuomo and worked to add modern features such as countdown clocks to the city's subways — but even these steps are a world away from Hong Kong's state-of-the-art system, Walder said.

“I think we have a very different situation here,” Walder noted of the Hong Kong transit system. “We have a first-class railway. We have a sustainable financial model that is supporting that railway.”

MTA chairman Jay Walder gave a critical assessment of the MTA to Chinese media.
MTA chairman Jay Walder gave a critical assessment of the MTA to Chinese media.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

"I don’t think it’s the same situation as what you have in New York," he added.

Walder’s replacement, Joseph Lhota, whom Bloomberg praised as  "a very able successor," is expected to be confirmed next week.

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