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After 33 years, MTA’s king of buses leaves what he thought was just a backup career

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Going to work as an MTA bus driver was Darryl Irick’s backup career plan after he earned an accounting degree.

He ended up staying at the agency for 33 years. On Friday — his 55th birthday — Irick will call retire as the MTA’s senior vice president of buses, a job in which he oversees 18,000 employees and 5,700 buses that each weekday carry 2 million riders.

Buses are the Irick family business. His father Henry started driving for the MTA in 1968. His mom, Earline, was the first woman school bus driver in Orangeburg, S.C.

After his hiring in 1986, Irick quickly moved up the ranks, becoming a driver and then a dispatcher. He became head of the bus operation in 2011.

He broke barriers along the way — he’s among the highest ranking African-Americans at the agency.

“I have a strong personality, and I’m not going to allow anyone who’s different from me or sees me different from them stand in my way,” said Irick. “I find a way to go through them or around them. That’s been the theme of my progress.”

He’s led the agency through a series of changes and upgrades that have had major impacts for riders.

Faster-rolling Select Bus Service was launched on his watch. Irick has also overseen the installation of bus tracking technology, which lets riders know when to expect their bus to arrive. He helped implement the city’s first pilot program of fully-electric buses, and began a program to equip some buses with automated bus lane enforcement cameras.

One thing has frustrated his progress — the logjam of cars and other vehicles across the five boroughs, which slow bus service to an average speed of around 8 mph.

“Buses don’t levitate,” said Irick. “They don’t have their own right of way. Buses don’t have their own signal system like the subway does."

Bus mechanical defects plummeted under Irick’s watch. The average distance buses travel between breakdowns was 3,340 miles in 2011, when Irick took the job; last year that distance rose to 6,413 miles, MTA data shows. Irick credits the improvement to new database technology that tracks bus problems.

Irick is among many top MTA executives who have risen up the ranks of the agency. J.P. Patafio, head of buses for Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, says that has undoubtedly helped Irick's career.

“It’s the type of place where you can work and you move up," said Patafio. “I think that’s something important because you maintain a connection with the people who work in the TA [the Transit Authority — the old name for NYC Transit]."

Craig Cipriano will take over for Irick as the MTA’s bus chief.

Source: New York Daily News, June 23rd, 2019

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