NYC Transit President Richard Davey appeared live on FOX 5’s Good Day New York with Rosanna Scotto and Bianca Peters from the 74 St-Roosevelt Av-Jackson Heights Subway Station to discuss ridership and safety in the transit system on his first day.
A transcript of this interview appears below.
Rosanna Scotto: Getting New Yorkers back on the city’s subways and buses a big challenge facing the MTA right now. Trust in the safety of the system is at record lows, and ridership levels, still struggling to rebound from the pandemic.
Bianca Peters: Yeah, with subway crime spiking riders are still wary about going underground. According to the MTA, total major felonies on the subways in March increased by 52% compared to the same month in 2021, and for the year so far it is up by almost 70%. Making subways and buses safe and reliable are the priorities right now for the new transit president, Richard Davey.
Scotto: Today is his first day on the job, and guess what? We're breaking you in this morning Richard Davey. You're not getting any passes on Good Day New York.
NYC Transit President Richard Davey: I had an hour pass and that was it, so, nice to see you both.
Scotto: Nice to see you. Congratulations on the job. You got your hands full. Let's talk about ridership. You're still struggling to get people back on the subways. Do you see any kind of movement there?
Davey: We do. I mean, well actually just last week on the [April] 27th, we did have, I think our second or maybe fourth largest ridership since COVID began on both subway and bus. Just about 5 million New Yorkers took our system last week, but as you said at the outset, you know, we have a lot of work to do. We've got to be focused on safety issues, and then the service issues that we can control at the MTA.
Scotto: So, you know, they say perception is what, two-thirds reality? Is it safe? Is it safe? I know the mayor wants to put more police officers down on the subways, not just on the platforms or by the front desk, but actually on the subways. Is that enough?
Davey: Yeah, I mean look, I think the subway, it is safe, but it can be safer, right? And that's the mayor's commitment, the commissioner’s commitment to get more cops out on our system, not only on platforms, but actually riding trains. I think we're starting to see that pay fruits. You know, we're doing some end-of-line work in the in the overnights to ask folks who maybe are homeless or trying to shelter in our system to get off the train and provide them services as well. And then we need to, you know, as the Chair has said, crack down on things like fare evasion and others that, you know, that's unfair for New Yorkers who are paying the fare. So, as you said, we've got a lot of work to do, but I think we've got, you know, we've got the right momentum to focus, and we're going to continue to work hard.
Peters: Yeah, Mr. Davey, I do have to commend you on the fact that I have seen zero homeless people sleeping on the subway cars since this was implemented. So, hats off to you on that. You talked about that fare evasion, that costs you guys about $500 million a year. That is a lot of money. What are you guys going to be doing so there has to be some kind of other implementation so that you can, you know, save some of that money, whether that means new turnstiles or something. So, what's the plan for that?
Davey: Yeah, so two things. I think one is making sure first that our customers can pay their fare. I was just at a station earlier today where none of our fare vending machines were working. None. That's unacceptable. We need to make sure that our customers who want to pay, can pay. For those who aren't for whatever reason, you know, evading fares, we just convened a blue-ribbon commission to look at this issue holistically. So, your point, whether it's improving the physical barriers that we have at our turnstiles to advertising some of our fare programs that we have for New Yorkers who might be down on their luck or might be struggling to afford to use our service, there are programs there. But I think it's going to be a number of solutions, not one. But first, we need to make sure our machines are working so our people, our customers, can pay. And then two, to make sure that we've got systems in place to make sure that New Yorkers know that it's fair to pay their fare.
Peters: And you know we've got to add number three in there, has to be making sure that the cameras work inside the subway stations, which we know were not in that Brooklyn subway attack. I know you're getting a lot of heat for that, but you have to have someone held responsible in terms for those not working properly during a catastrophic event like that.
Davey: Yeah, I mean, my management philosophy is not to really focus on the who, but to focus on the what as an outset, and why. So why weren't the cameras working at that instance? I know that the vast majority of our cameras are working all the time, there are thousands of cameras in our system. I think it does beg the question, though, you know, can we look at more cameras on board our trains and our buses, for example, in the future, and also on our platforms as well. So, while we have thousands of cameras out there, the vast majority of which are working, you know, other opportunities to improve, you know, our safety on the system.
Scotto: So, you're at the Jamaica subway station, where about a week ago, there was I don't know, a guy stabbed, I think may be killed. You know, it seems like there's nowhere to go. Are the cameras working at the Jamaica subway station as well? Have we gotten footage of that?
Davey: So, on that one, I don't know, I haven't been briefed yet. But as I understand it, as I said about 99 point some percent of our cameras are working on a regular basis. It was unfortunate, you know, as you said in the shooting that those weren't working at that particular time on that day. But I can assure New Yorkers that the vast majority our cameras are working, and I think even NYPD has told us that of all the agencies that they work with, you know, here in the city, in terms of security footage, and otherwise, we're among the best that they work with. They've been able to solve crimes based on what we're able to provide. But again, you know, to your point, 99% is great, but we want 100%.
Scotto: All right, let's get to know you a little bit. You're a lawyer. You worked here, around the time...
Davey: Yeah, don’t hold that against me, please.
Scotto: That's okay, I live with a lawyer, too. So don't worry, you're safe here. But I do have a problem, because it seems like you are a cat person and not a dog person.
Davey: That is true, and I'm sorry. Yeah, we got two rescue cats, so and they're kind of tough. So, I don't know how big a dog is, but.
Peters: Mr. Davey, I like even more for being a cat person.
Davey: That's great. That's great. But as you said I lived in New York during 9/11, so 20 years ago, and excited to be back.
Scotto: Obviously, things have changed since you've been here. Part of it has been decriminalizing things, like decriminalizing people, you know, evading fare. Our last mayor did that, the Manhattan DA did not want to charge anybody. Was that the start of terrible things to come? Was it a snowball effect? What are your thoughts on this?
Davey: Yeah, I'm not sure it was a snowball effect. I mean, look, I think that, you know, on the one hand, not wanting to, you know, change the trajectory of someone's life because they made a dumb mistake, you know, as a teen or as a young person makes sense. But on the other hand, I think, you know, for in the case of fare evasion, as you said, you know, there are some instances where fare evaders, you know, maybe carrying weapons or, you know, fare evasion is just the first of perhaps, you know, several crimes that they may attempt to commit in our system. So, I think it's striking that balance between, you know, a kid who makes a stupid mistake and then someone who's actually, you know, chronic perpetrator of a crime. And so, I think that's what we need to be focused on is addressing those folks who would do us harm, our New Yorkers harm, in whatever way as opposed to someone just making a dumb mistake.
Scotto: Gotcha. Well, we wish you luck. The last person who held this job permanently, Andy Byford, was known as the Train Daddy. Are you thinking about a nickname for yourself?
Davey: No, but two things though. Like Andy, I will have a weird accent because I'm a Bostonian, I rarely have my R’s in place. We'll have a different barber though, as I understand it, Andy might have been a little balder than I so, I’ll probably find a different barber than Andy.
Scotto: Well, we hope you don't lose your hair from the job. All the best Richard Davey. We’ll be checking in with you. Good luck.
Davey: I look forward to it. Thank you both.
Scotto: Thank you.