1. Home
  2. Press Releases
  3. Transcript: NYC Transit President Davey Appears on Up Close with Bill Ritter

Transcript: NYC Transit President Davey Appears on Up Close with Bill Ritter

New York City Transit
Updated May 29, 2022 12:30 p.m.

NYC Transit President Richard Davey appeared on WABC-7's Up Close with Bill Ritter this morning to discuss safety in the transit system and improving bus service.

A transcript of the interview appears below.

Bill Ritter: Joining us this morning, the man who took over as president of New York City Transit less than a month ago, in charge of subways and buses, the biggest in the country, that system. Richard Davey, he is at the West Farms Bus Depot in the Bronx. Mr. Davey, thank you for joining us and welcome for your first time on Up Close.

Richard Davey: Thanks, Bill. I appreciate you having me.

Ritter: And we're dealing with an issue that is absolutely front and center, above maybe all else because nothing else can start happening, like rebuilding the economy, until this fear factor and the violence stops. You're new on the job. What's it been like? How much is this priority number one for you or is it less than that?

Davey: Oh, it's priority one, two, and three. I mean that’s what we're hearing from our customers obviously and our employees for that matter. Safety has to be our job one. And when I say our it's obviously MTA but it’s also the City and the NYPD, the Mayor, the Governor. There's a huge commitment to addressing these issues, which is great news but boy, do we have a lot of work to do.

Ritter: So, what are some of the proposals that you're thinking of doing and instituting? What do you say to people who are viewing right now who perhaps are leery of the subway? I take it, I will tell you, I take it at least three times a day. And I know I have changed my behavior underground.

Davey: Yeah, and I too Bill, take the subway every day. I haven’t owned a car in a decade or more. I'd say a few things. I think you know, one we have, you know a strong commitment from the Mayor and from the Police Commissioner to get more cops down in our subways and in our subway cars obviously. We have more cameras in the system than ever before. We've been deploying cameras throughout so if you commit a crime, we will find you. We will have a picture of you, and we will find you. And then you know, we're asking our customers too, if they see anything unusual to report it to a station agent, report it to our people so we can get it in the system. The good news is we're seeing a significant uptick in arrests. We're seeing a significant uptick in these kinds of apprehensions. But you are right, we need to work together to re-instill New Yorkers’ faith that the system is safe at all hours of the day.

Ritter: You know, on my visits in the subway I see once in a while some police officers perhaps at the station booth. But I don't see it, I don't see them on the trains. I can just count on less than one hand, how many times in the last couple of months I've seen a cop on the subway train. Why not just flood the subways for a while with more police?

Davey: Yeah, I mean, look, again, we've heard the commitment from the Mayor and he wants to put more cops out. I've certainly seen more. But I think your point, the more is better to apprehend these criminals but also give folks a sense of safety. You know, I think the NYPD announced earlier this week, they're going to be reinstituting a program from the 1990s which is to surge more officers on our system, particularly overnight, where more crime is happening disproportionately. So, I think the strategies are there. I think to your point, getting the folks into our system is critical. And again, for our employees as well. We’ve had employee assaults and other challenges, so we want to make sure it's safe for both our riders and our 50,000 MTA workers.

Ritter: Mr. Davey, that sounds really great. And I believe you're, everyone I've talked to about you says you're a really earnest guy and mean what you say and know your business. But to the viewers who are watching right now and say I don't want to take the subway anymore, I'm scared. Can you tell them that you know, we have a proposal on the table that we're going to try to get 3,000 more cops underground next week or something specific?

Davey: Yeah, I mean, look the Mayor and NYPD put out a pretty specific subway plan back in January and February to address you know, the multitude of issues, Bill. Right, so it's not obvious with some of these tragedies that you have described, that happened over the weekend and before. But it's also the feeling of comfort on a train. So, you see a homeless person or someone who might be mentally ill, which is a huge challenge, you know getting folks in the system, to provide services, we have end of line programs now. So, at night we have police and homelessness outreach and other workers helping to provide services for folks in our system. So, I mean, I don't think it is one silver bullet. I think it's a number of tactics which the City is committed to. We're committed to working with them. And so, you know, what I would say to riders is, you know, we are putting every effort forward again, we, the City, MTA, and others to combat these issues. And, you know, we're working hard, but it will, it's going to take time, no doubt. I think everyone's admitted that for a variety of reasons, you know, this issue will take time.

Ritter: The Mayor's proposal, of course, was very early in his tenure. And since then, of course, just recently in the last month, and we've seen, we've had a mass shooting on the subway, fortunately no one was killed, but several, lots of people, ten people were shot in Brooklyn. We've had last weekend, we had that man shot out of nowhere on the train. People didn't pipe in, they didn't try to stop him, they didn't jump him. They didn't kick him where it hurts. You know, he just killed some young man. And then I think this school shooting has freaked people out. A lot of students obviously ride the trains to and from school. And I think that's really a specific thing. And then on Thursday, on Wednesday night, video was posted, just a horrible video. I know you've seen it, and it went viral. Lots of people have seen it. Of a young man, you know, harassing and yelling on the subway and then grabbing the hair of a young woman, holding her, and not letting her go. And not one person tried to stop it. Not one person yelled at him. Not one person approached him and said, get your hands off that woman. What's your reaction to what you saw?

Davey: When I saw the video, I was outraged. And in particular, she's pleading for someone to help. I frankly wish I could have reached in to help her at that moment. Lots of New Yorkers probably did. At the same time, you know, it was probably traumatic to be observing that. Obviously, he was erratic, by the way there's a picture of him out now. The police are on his tail as well to bring him in to face justice. But it was just awful to see. It was gut wrenching to see in that moment. But again, you know, if folks have information about this individual please reach out to New York City police. We want to bring him to justice. You know, in those instances, hard to say right? You don't know if that person is armed or dangerous. And so, you know, I can't judge those who were on that train at the time. But needless to say, we're going to find that, we're going to find that guy and prosecute him.

Ritter: Well, that's good. That's good to hear. I want to move on to some other issues about the transportation system as a whole, the buses and the subways. What kind of state are they in? Did it surprise you? I know that people are saying, you know, listen, it's a tough budget for everybody. This has been hard not having the revenue come in for two and a half years.

Davey: Yeah, I mean, obviously COVID has impacted you know, major transportation systems across the United States, across the world, right? So, New York is not alone. It's not as if New York, MTA did something bad or different. It's just the reality. I think a few things, we need to really study our ridership and understand when people are coming back, if they're coming back, what pace they are coming back. I would say Monday, excuse me, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, at least in the initial numbers we're seeing the last couple months seem like that emerging workweek. And our ridership is softer on Mondays and Fridays. Still 3 million people riding our subway system, but softer. So, what does that mean? Should we be adjusting our service? We're also seeing people, more people, I think come back on nights and weekends. So, the recreational ridership is probably returning faster. Should we be looking at adding more service? So, I think these are the questions we're thinking about at MTA. But really, how do we become more nimble and provide service, you know that our customers need?

Ritter: You were a big deal in Boston and Massachusetts running the city’s and state’s transportation systems. What did you do there that you'd like to sort of mirror here? And what are we doing here that you think your successors should take up back in Massachusetts?

Davey: Yeah, I appreciate that. I mean, look, you know, two things. I think, for me, it's back to the basics here. Right. It's cleanliness, it’s safety. And it's punctuality. I mean, I think it's almost regardless of who you are, what kind of customers you are. Those are the three things that people care about the most. And so again, we've talked a lot about safety earlier this morning, but really focusing now on our punctuality, and our cleanliness. And really getting into the details of why trains are delayed, why buses are delayed, you know, there are a lot of tactics and I think it's probably more 1,000 points of light as opposed to one particular thing we're going to do, we're going to do at Transit. I mean, I'll tell you a secret. When I ran the Boston system, I often looked at New York as a leader, right. And I know, now I've admitted that on television. You know, I think we're the best, but the best can be even better, right? And so, we've got 50,000 hardworking men and women across this organization. It's clear that people are passionate about transportation and transit. It’s clear New Yorkers are passionate about it. We need to tap into that passion. And again, get back to the basics, cleanliness, on time performance, safety.

Ritter: Last question, I can’t help but notice the big bus, the double bus, behind you.

Davey: Oh, is that what?

Ritter: What's in store for the bus system from your take?

Davey: I mean, look, I think transit systems around the country haven't invested enough in buses as a general matter. It's an equity issue, among other reasons. But MTA is really focusing on improving their bus system. We've rolled out a new redesign on Staten Island last year. I'm here in the Bronx today to talk to our employees, to talk to our bus depot managers. Talk a little bit about our upcoming rollout of our redesign for the Bronx, which is happening the last Sunday in June. So, check out our website to get those details. But a redesign of the network to make it faster, more efficient for our customers. And Bill, we have a process ongoing right now out in Queens, where we're also talking to folks about a potential redesign again, making it faster and more convenient for our customers. So, we want to invest in the bus service. And we want to work with the City too. I give Mayor Adams a lot of credit. During his campaign he said let's do 150 miles of bus lanes. I love it. And we want to help him achieve that vision.

Ritter: It will help a lot with car traffic as well and I appreciate it.

Davey: So, it will get a lot of good stuff. Well, absolutely and you know, and get cars out of bus lanes, etc. Anyway, as you can hopefully see I'm super excited about the bus service that we want to provide.

Ritter: I can tell. Thanks for bringing that excitement and your take on the fear factor on the underground, especially on your first month. Richard Davey, good luck to you. We are all in fact counting on you and hoping for the best. Thanks for joining us for the first maiden adventure on Up Close.

Davey: Thanks, Bill. I appreciate it.