News & Reviews News Wire Former New York City Transit chief Byford to join Amtrak

Former New York City Transit chief Byford to join Amtrak

By | March 23, 2023

Executive, widely praised for improvements in subway performance, will take newly created role in high speed development

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Then-New York City Transit President Andy Byford waves to transit enthusiast during a vintage-equipment excursion in 2019. Byford will join Amtrak as a high speed development executive. Ralph Spielman

NEW YORK — Former New York City Transit President Andy Byford will join Amtrak in a newly created role, senior vice president of high speed rail development programs.

The new job, first reported by Streetsblog NYC, was announced in an Amtrak email to employees today (Thursday, March 23). He will join the company April 10.

Byford was widely praised for his work improving the New York subway system in two years with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, earning the nickname “Train Daddy” from transit enthusiasts, improving on-time performance from 58% to 80%. He resigned in 2020 over “interference” by then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo [see “NYC Transit president Byford resigns,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 23, 2020]. He went on to oversee London’s transit agency before resigning last October, indicating he was “closing out a 33-year public service career” and returning to the United States [see “Former NYC Transit President Byford to leave London job …,” News Wire, Sept. 23, 2022].

Byford said in a text to the New York Times that he was “excited and humbled to be joining such an American icon. I had a number of job offers by Amtrak and high speed rail is where I want to be.”

Lisa Daglian, executive director of the MTA’s Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, told Streetsblog NYC the addition meant the nation would benefit from Byford’s “wealth of experience.

“He’s lived and worked in places where high speed rail actually exists and is in a great position to help bring it here,” Daglian said. “He’s got excellent relationships within the MTA that will help smooth the way as conversations about a multitude of projects continue. And he understands the complexity of the system and its components — and mostly, how to put riders first.”

15 thoughts on “Former New York City Transit chief Byford to join Amtrak

  1. Mr. Byford told the NYTimes he “was humbled to be joining such an American icon”. “Icon”? Really?!?! When it has had, since Richard Anderson was chosen to be CEO in 2018, a top management armed not with building blocks but with wrecking balls? Amtrak cannot operate trains on time at conventional speeds. And sometimes they don’t operate them at all whether it be account malfunctioning engines or cars or now the latest in a seeming never-ending series of service disruptions and suspensions, host railroad PTC initialization issues. And we are going to do HSR?!?! Icon indeed. Maybe he’s just being politic.

  2. Exactly Charles, perhaps after he settles in a bit he will move into a key position, but that would be contrary to current inept corporate culture.

  3. Amtrak has just made its most rail passenger qualified senior management hire in a very long time.

    Andy Byford really knows his stuff–although like David Gunn does not easily tolerate fools. It will be fascinating to see if Amtrak’s management culture of what I consider “institutionalized pessimism” gives him any real freedom to act. We know what happened to Gunn when he wouldn’t toe the party line on the NEC and the national network and showed a willingness to endure a potential strike. Like Byford with Andrew Cuomo he was gone too soon. Way too soon given what followed!

    While I could hope for an equally qualified hire for the revitalization of the National Network, emerging corridors will and must come now with the funding and commitments made in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). If done right these new Amtrak routes will network with the long-hauls. Indeed several opportunities suggested in the “Amtrak Connects” proposal could be used to tie together shorter routes such as Chicago-Louisville and Nashville-Atlanta-Savannah to create true new long haul services (in this case Chicago-Nashille-Atlanta-Savannah-Florida) with the added corridor trains as the catalyst.

    But that the Coscia/Gardner team hired Byford speaks well of their commitment to do more to grow their business.

    How they define HSR (high speed rail) may prove the most significant test here. There is vastly more likelihood of new 110mph operations in the USA than of true 188mph TGV style HSR. This interim level of service needs to be properly built and sold as the real improvement it is.

    It will also be fascinating to see what the first Amtrak HSR project other than the core NEC turns out to be. Virginia/North Carolina? Actual train operation on the California starter HSR Line? Something like Buffalo-Albany that is truthfully Higher Speed Rail? Dallas–Houston as another Higher Speed route if the Texas Central HSR private project can’t proceed. This could go on the existing alignments (much upgraded) of the BNSF (former Rock Island, Ft Worth and Denver route) or via the UP (former SP line) to avoid the Nimby hysteria that appears to have exhausted the TC projects’ financial reserves just as they seemed to have surmounted their final court challenges.

    Time will tell. Wow!

  4. I hope he wasn’t hired to do an impossible job. Given his accomplishments at getting ordinary trains to run better, I would rather Amtrak had hired him to troubleshoot the full system. Or, better still, to be in charge of the whole system. The board should have hired him to replace his bosses

    1. You hit it right on the head, Mr. Kurland. Certainly replace Stephen Gardner. But I’m afraid Gardner has himself so ensconced in the top job that no one dares challenge him as long as Anthony Coscia remains Board Chair. Congress needs to wake up. But, but, but, according to Mr.M.E. Singer in a post a while back, it was the great liberal and Amtrak fan(?) Sen. Chuck Schumer who lobbied “Amtrak” Joe to keep Coscia on as Chair during the search for new Board members.

  5. I am a huge fan. I hope he gets the power to make the changes necessary, and the funds to do it. I fear he will have neither and people will see this a blight on his career. But hope isn’t reality, neither is fear so I’d be happy to be wrong on the latter.

    1. Mr. McGinn, your worries on how this might work out are very well-founded. Are you listening Mr. Fowler? Your seeming unbounded optimism is not warranted.

  6. Amtrak finally hired a man with impressive credentials. and a proven track record for improving and turning rail and transit systems around. He did a great job in New York City with the transit system and also like Amtrak having to deal with political ineptness and nonsense and Like Amtrak, The MTa is also a hopless bumbling agency filled with political hacks and bumblers who don’t know how to run a railroad. So Mr Byford is no stranger to dealing with bumblers and idiots presently running Amtrak into the ground or off the tracks. As an experienced rail and transit executive, he follows in thn the steps of another great transit leader who actually ran and improved Amtrak and that was David Gunn. Let’s hope Mr Byford will be sucessful and be able to turn Amtrak into a respectble and credible organization and make passenger rail travel once again an important part of the transportation system of this country. Amtrak needs to hire more people like Andy Byford as well as respected, experienced professional railroaders to run and manage the company and toss out all the political hacks and bumblers who don’t know a thing about trains or railroads or how they function and what they do, much less thec c actual workings of the equipment and which also goes for any new equipment that Amtrak needs to order and for it to work properly and efficiently and not spending time and wasting money sitting in car shops or repair tracks instead of where it needs to be out on the high iron, serving the public and making money for Amtrak
    Welcome aboard Andy Byford and here’s to a smooth and prosperous trip and tenure at Amtrak
    Joseph C. Markfelder

  7. My guess is that any sustained speed over 80 mph is “high speed” to Amtrak. His first job may be a visit to Brightline in Florida. And then go to California to see how NOT to do high speed.

  8. This could be an April Fool’s story if the date was different. What Amtrak High Speed Rail Program?

  9. As a rider of NYCT during Andy’s term, I saw the improvements first-hand. I expect he will have influence in ways across Amtrak from this position.

  10. And Mr. Byford will have impact in the newly crated position if granted authority with responsibility. Interesting that comments about the newly created position garnered a comment from MTA but short on specifics from Amtrak.

  11. If Andy was a celebrity to all of New York City for improving the MTA, then I have a good feeling that he’s gonna be of great help to Amtrak.

    1. Maybe he’s the right man in the wrong job. I’m not aware of all that much high-speed rail development.

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