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Goodbye, Byford: The next city transit chief must be effective and innovative

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 1/24/2020 Daily News Editorial Board

Departing after two years, outgoing Transit Authority boss Andy Byford drove steady gains in subway service from a recent nadir, kicked off a smart bus rethink, and fought to improve the lousy plight for riders with disabilities. Good going.

If he left in part because of frustrations with Gov. Cuomo, well, we get it. Cuomo can be a tough man to work with, or for. But he’s governor and will keep being governor. And more than anyone else, he runs the MTA, a fact all, including him, must never forget.

While remembering that, Byford’s successor must embrace innovation. Thursday, Gov. Cuomo rightly said that the old methods that bring in capital projects late and over budget must change. Indeed: Last year, transitcrats, including Byford, were ready to cease all L trains in Manhattan for more than a year to rehab the Sandy-damaged tube under the East River.

It took Cuomo, backed by the engineering faculties of Columbia and Cornell, to override the insiders to fix the L by sealing over crumbling bench walls and putting the cables on racks. More than 300,000 daily trips were saved.

The caterwauling critics were wrong: Racking cables isn’t a novel or risky idea.

Proof? A 4-year old girl we know has a pop-up book, which Cuomo referenced yesterday, entitled “The Ultimate Construction Site Book,” first published in France in 2014. Inside, there’s a two-page spread called “Building a subway.” It depicts cable racking and no bench walls. See the video on our website.

We’ve shown the book to the leadership of the MTA, Port Authority and Amtrak, because the exact same time-saving, cost-saving method can repair Amtrak’s Sandy-inundated Hudson tubes immediately rather than waiting a decade or longer to dig a new tunnel and shut down the old one as part of Amtrak’s $30 billion Gateway boondoggle.

It’s elementary.

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