The news that Andy Byford, the newly appointed MTA chief, is a fan of the band The Smiths did not exactly impress during a Twitter live Q&A with him. It played about as well among subway riders as the news that the L train shutdown will be “a huge challenge.”
Questions to Byford and to Aarah Meyer, the MTA’s chief customer officer, poured in on March 29 under the hashtag #AskNYCT, in the first public Twitter meeting with the new chief. But the answers seemed to leave many customers dissatisfied, just as they are with the train service that they can’t wait to see improved.
Some comments in the thread ran bitter. As Byford gave the news that the MTA is upgrading databases to better gather performance data, for example, some users reminded him of the 30-day plan to reorganize the MTA that gov. Cuomo announced in 2017—and that hasn’t yet produced the desired results.
One user, going by the handle @CaliKapowski, complained that the MTA’s mantra is always, “We’re gonna do this but it’ll take a while.” Byford replied that the MTA is indeed going to get the needed work done but that, well, it’s going to take a while.
Almost every #AskNYCT answer has been a really dry ass "we're gonna do this but it'll take a while".
— Punky Booster (@CaIiKapowski) March 29, 2018
Byford was appointed head of the transit authority in January. He sees direct contact with customers as a fruitful way to show the company’s commitment to grievances. He announced that the morning Twitter live chat would be the first of a series. Not everybody seemed persuaded that this will result in any improvement of New York’s troubled subway system. A user under the name of Jef Taylor dubbed the Q&A an “empty PR gesture.”
It was Justin Brannan, a councilman from Brooklyn, who jokingly asked Byford about his favorite band—and the world learned that Byford likes the Smiths. But Brannan moved to starker tones when he tweeted that the people of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and other Brooklyn neighborhoods far from Manhattan are fed up with the MTA’s service. Byford didn’t reply to that one. He seemed to choose tweets that addressed specifics, such as the possible replacement of MetroCards with other payment methods like phone or credit cards. Or a question about an upcoming boost in the train cleaning workforce.
#AskNYCT People who live in other states get to work in Manhattan faster than me and my constituents. This is unacceptable and I think you know that. I'm here to be a partner. Tell me what I need to do. The people of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach & Bensonhurst are FED UP.
— Justin Brannan (@JustinBrannan) March 29, 2018
Subway riders seem to be able to expect at least a few little improvements in the near future: a speeding of refunds in cases of defective MetroCard machines, an improvement in the subway cars’ sanitary conditions, and a replacement of what Byford called “outdated” MetroCards with contactless payment options.
MetroCards have served us well, but are now old technology. For that reason, we are migrating to contactless payment whereby you can pay for fare using your phone or a credit card. In the meantime, we're looking at ways to speed up refunds or card replacements. #AskNYCT ^AB https://t.co/jMhx8MZEI4
— NYCT Subway. Wear a Mask. (@NYCTSubway) March 29, 2018
As for the structural improvements, it’s not news that they will take time. Until they can be implemented, the MTA will prepare a “comprehensive plan to modernize every aspect” of what it does, according to Byford’s last tweet. Only a few of the people who took part had words of praise for the MTA and their daily endeavors.
Riders will be able to ask more questions about all of this during the next twitter town hall. The date for that is yet to be announced. Follow @NYCTSubway for updates.
Click on the link below to read all the tweets from yesterday morning.