Tuesday was Jay Walder’s first day on the million-dollar job in Honk Kong, and while the focus was on fair hikes there in his first press conference, the former M.T.A chief did not hesitate to take a swipe at New York, where frustrations with the politics and finances of the system drove him away.
“New York, when I arrived there, was in a financial crisis,” Mr. Walder said. “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.”
“What I did,” Mr. Walder continued, “was to be able to right that financial basis and to be able to put the system back on firm financial footing.”
Well, sort of. Transit advocates have been critical of his decision to balance the budget with roughly $7 billion in debt, using MetroCards as credit cards, as Transportation Alternatives put it. And then there was the whole dismantling of the pay roll tax at the end of last year, but Governor Cuomo promised yesterday not to cut into the current capital plan, so that was a hopeful note. At the same time, he never once mentioned the word “transit” during his State of the State address yesterday.
Still, Mr. Walder could not help but take a swipe at our mass transit system in comparing it to his new assignment, which underscores his decision to leave.
“I think we have a very different situation here,” Mr. Walder said. “We have a first-class railway. We have a sustainable financial model that is supporting that railway. And I think the people of Hong Kong are benefiting tremendously from what we have. I don’t think it’s the same situation as what you have in New York.”