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Senate OKs boro-raised transit guru to helm MTA

Jay Walder, renowned for his innovations in London’s transit system, now envisions some bold changes at the MTA.

Walder, who was raised in the Rockaways, was confirmed by the state Senate by a vote of 47-13 Sept. 10. He will take over the MTA leadership from Dale Hemmerdinger, perhaps as early and mid-October.

Walder’s salary will be $350,000, supplemented by a $22,000 retirement account and a one-year undisclosed housing allowance.

“If you go around the world, you see we are no longer at the top of the standings as a transit system,” Walder told a confirmation hearing prior to his confirmation. “We are not even in the wild card position. We have a lot of work to do.”

Walder has been praised for his leadership in London, including planning and executing former Mayor Ken Livingstone’s congestion pricing system that costs motorists $16 to drive into London’s central business district.

But Walder said he had no such thing planned for New York City, although 13 senators — all Republicans — voted against confirming him, some saying Walder’s involvement in congestion pricing concerned them.

His upgrading of the London transit system was also credited with helping the city win the 2012 Olympics.

Walder said he hoped to replace the MetroCard with a “smart card” similar to the Oyster card in London, which would not have to be swiped in a terminal.

Walder has said New York City’s bus system must be vastly increased, including expansion of fast, express buses through dedicated lanes, including fines for vehicles which enter the bus-only lanes.

He also advocates use of lighted displays in subways to inform straphangers how long the wait until the next train, such as are now in use on the L line.

“Leaning forward and peering down the track in search of a headlight is not the way to operate a 21s-century transit system,” Walder said.

Hemmerdinger took over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority leadership last spring when Executive Director Elliot Sander of Douglaston resigned after Gov. David Paterson said, “We are going to clean up and clean out the MTA.”

The jobs of chairman and executive director/CEO have since been combined.

As to other changes, Walder said Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams would remain as interim CEO of the MTA until his takeover. He said Andrew Saul, the MTA deputy director, would be the temporary chairman.

There remains the reality of the MTA’s financial straits. The agency’s debt payments from interest on $23 billion the agency borrowed is expected to total nearly $1 billion annually starting next year.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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