Richard Davey started his first day as president of New York City Transit greeting riders and workers at the Jackson Heights Roosevelt Avenue station in Queens.

Wearing a dark plaid suit, a cheerful red tie and with a notepad in hand, he listened to concerns from commuters as they headed in and out of the station.

“The garbage cans are turned over, there's paper everywhere, bottles everywhere, cans, bottles, other kinds of bottles on the street,” East Elmhurst resident Paulo Pinho, a doorman finishing his shift, told the new head of subways and buses for the MTA. 

Davey popped up to the elevated tracks to greet a couple of subway operators, and other MTA employees — some 54,000 workers across the subway, bus, paratransit, and Staten Island Railroad divisions are under his management. Then he headed back down to do a live appearance for the television show Good Day New York on Fox 5, before going to the Rail Control Center, the nerve center of the MTA.

Stopping to speak with reporters, Davey said he would focus on fixing things that will improve service for commuters.

“That's everything from signal systems that aren't working, potentially, cleanliness of stations or our customer service from our employees,” he said.

Davey previously ran Boston's mass transit system and served as Massachusetts' transportation secretary. He was most recently at Boston Consulting Group, where he helped work on the MTA's Subway Action Plan. 

Now, he takes over one of the world's largest public transportation agencies as it faces multiple crises.  Riders are wary, after a range of violent subway safety incidents. Weekday subway service levels remain stubbornly below 60% of the pre-pandemic levels, even as weekend ridership has seen a greater return. Bus service has been as high as 69% pre-pandemic levels, but bus speeds are still frustratingly slow, due to a return to pre-pandemic traffic levels.

The MTA is awaiting a new report from the firm McKinsey on what it can expect ridership levels to look like going forward. A previous report analyzing the financial impact of Covid found ridership could return to near pre-pandemic levels by 2024, but those projections were made obsolete by the Omicron surge. The agency reports it has enough money to cover expenses through 2026, but will face major financial challenges if ridership doesn’t rebound more quickly and if it can’t find a new way to generate revenue.

On top of that, another question is whether Davey will stick around longer than two years. He said he hopes to do so, but New York City Transit hasn’t had a leader that stayed longer than two years since Thomas Prendergast, who ran the subways and buses from 2009 to 2013.

During his Good Day New York interview, Davey confirmed that he is a cat person, with two rescue cats, “and they're kind of tough,” he said.

Host Rosanna Scotto asked him a question about whether district attorneys not prosecuting fare evasion was "the start of terrible things to come."

Davey responded by echoing the perspective of his boss, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber, saying the issue is about not criminalizing young people for minor mistakes.

“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, a chronic perpetrator of a crime,” Davey said. “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.”