New TTC chief officially takes over

The Toronto Transit Commission chief operating officer who replaced Gary Webster as general manager is officially elevated to his new post.
Andy Byford has previously worked in transportation in Australia and the U.K. (CBC)

The Toronto Transit Commission chief operating officer who replaced Gary Webster as general manager was officially elevated to his new post on Tuesday.

Andy Byford was named interim general manager last month after Webster was fired by the TTC board. As he takes over Webster's position, the job is being renamed chief executive officer. 

"That's actually deliberately symbolic," Byford told members of the media on Tuesday. "I think we need to show we're under new management…I'm very determined to lead an absolute transformation of the look and feel of the TTC, to maybe move away from what was seen as an old-fashioned organization, possibly a little introspective, possibly a little overly bureaucratic."

Webster was fired without just cause because he did not support Mayor Rob Ford's plan to use $8.4 billion in provincial money for subways and underground light-rail transit, as opposed to surface LRTs.

In turn, TTC chair Coun. Karen Stintz brought forward a council motion that eventually saw all five board members who voted for Webster's firing replaced.

Byford says he'll be apolitical

Byford said he's not concerned about pressure from the mayor's office or council.

"What I will be doing is offering frank and fearless advice to the mayor's office, to the chair and to the commission, and pretty much to whoever asks it," he said. "My job as a transit professional is to know my facts. Obviously I have opinions, based upon experience, but I will certainly be apolitical in that."

He did not directly answer a question about whether he supports subways or LRTs, saying only that it was a policy decision.

Byford said it's an "honour and privilege" to run the TTC at a time when the organization is dealing with new vehicles, a new ticketing system, an expansion of the Spadina line, and the 2015 Pan-Am Games.

Byford, a veteran public transportation bureaucrat, joined the TTC in November.

He came to the transit operator from Sydney, Australia, where he was chief operating operator for Rail Corporation New South Wales.

Byford has also held several positions with rail operators in the United Kingdom, including as a general manager with the London Underground.

'Safe, reliable, punctual, efficient, pleasant'

He said his past gives him a fresh perspective as well as experience dealing with politics.  

Byford said his goal is to provide "safe, reliable, punctual, efficient and pleasant" service. Specifically, he wants to see more accountability based on 25 key performance indicators and to have senior managers be more visible in the field. 

"Youv'e got to get your basics right before you try anything more substantial," he said.

Stintz said doing an outside search wasn't necessary because Byford was already hired when it was thought that Webster would retire within the next few years.

"We have the best candidate, so there's no point in doing a search," she said.