Like Byford before him, MTA’s new city transport chief kicks off at a time of turmoil

“Part of seeing things through is that there is no political interference from Albany, who has improved under Governor Hochul, and part of it is that someone stays on long enough to measure their success,” Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst at Reinvent Albany, wrote in a statement. “Being accountable is easier if someone is there long enough to evaluate the progress they’ve made.”

Brian Kane is the executive director of the MBTA advisory board but was only an advocate when Davey became the agency’s general manager and recalls that shortly after he took office, Davey invited all advocates to the operations control center to see how the subways and buses were run.

“He was very open, he always had people inside,” Kane said. “I wrote something once, a little bit critical of him, and he invited me and we really talked about it. I think he has an open style of management and leadership. I think the New York City advocacy community will find a willing listener and someone who does their homework and understands the issues.”

This month, in his first public appearance since his appointment in March, Davey spent nearly an hour answering questions from the press about his goals, priorities and what kind of leader he intended to be. If riders were hoping for surprising, out-of-the-box ideas, Davey didn’t deliver.

“Safety, security, reliability and cleanliness,” he said, were his goals. “I think it’s about taking existing ideas and accelerating them.”

The arguments for making the subways safer have only grown stronger after last week’s shooting. Adams, who has said he is flooding subways with more police, is now calling for some kind of technology to be installed in subways that can detect weapons. But with 472 stations and more than twice as many entrances, if anything was installed, it would be extremely expensive and would take millions of dollars to operate — money the MTA isn’t lying around.

During Davey’s conversation, he didn’t reveal too many personal details, but said he planned to live somewhere in Manhattan and spend a lot of time on the subway system.

“I generally don’t have a life, so I expect to start talking to people and seeing how we perform, like I did in Boston,” he said.

Davey did say his wife Jane Willis, who is a lawyer, would be moving in with him. Willis is known to have been a member of the MIT blackjack team that counted cards to beat casinos. Their story was written in the book “Bringing Down The House” and turned into the movie “21”.

Mitchell Moss, director of the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, said that despite recent comparisons to the 1970s, the subway system is no longer like that. It runs comparably well, with fewer breakdowns, and the safety and cleanliness are nothing like New York once had. With that in mind, Davey thinks he is the right leader for the moment.

“He has enough experience to get here and knows how to work with other people. In fact, this is a job where you have to convince and lead by building relationships with the workforce,” Moss said. “We have to assume that Lieber would pick someone who knows how to do these things.”

Davey’s first day is May 2.

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