Date: Dec 18, 2001
Press Release Number: 168-2001
Greg Burnham’s Efforts Led to Rebuilding of Agency’s Computer System,
Development of Regional Transit Fare Payment System
Port Authority Chief Technology Officer Greg Burnham – who narrowly escaped death when the World Trade Center towers collapsed around him – has received national recognition for his leadership in guiding the rebuilding of the agency’s massive computer system.
Information Week – a national publication for technology professionals – named Mr. Burnham as one of eight “Chiefs of the Year” for his leadership after the September 11 attacks. The magazine honored Mr. Burnham, a Princeton, N.J., resident, for “braving devastation, human loss and impossible conditions” to maintain the agency’s business.
“Mr. Burnham and his staff are true heroes,” said Port Authority Acting Executive Director Ronald Shiftan. “Their tireless efforts following the September 11 attacks allowed us to pay our 7,000 employees on time, to pay bills submitted by our vendors and to allow agency staff to perform critical functions needed to operate the region’s transportation network.
“The attitude and dedication of Greg and his staff during this difficult period were outstanding,” Mr. Shiftan said. “Although three of their colleagues were lost in the tower collapse, they were able to put aside their personal grief and work 16-hour days to take care of business.”
Mr. Burnham was in his office on the 71st floor of One World Trade Center on September 11 when a jet hit the tower. He and his staff walked down to the lobby, and Mr. Burnham tried to get to the nearby World Trade Center Marriott Hotel, a predetermined meeting point for executive staff.
When Two World Trade Center collapsed, Mr. Burnham was covered with debris but managed to escape.
After Mr. Burnham made his way to the Port Authority’s offices in Jersey City, he immediately began directing his staff to rebuild servers to support backed up data, replace thousands of destroyed desktop computers and department servers, and reroute networks to sites in New Jersey.
The task of rebuilding a massive computer system did not stop Mr. Burnham and his staff from working toward the future.
Earlier this month, the Port Authority Board of Commissioners approved a new fare collection system for PATH – a rapid transit system operated by the agency – that accepts “smart cards” and is the first step in an integrated regional transit fare payment system.
Working with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New Jersey Transit, the Port Authority will design the new system to allow the use of smart cards – plastic cards, the size of a credit card, each with an imbedded microchip. Using this technology, PATH riders, and eventually riders of other regional transit systems, will be able to deduct transit fare purchases against user accounts that can be linked to a credit card, as is done with E-ZPass accounts.
Mr. Burnham, 54, joined the Port Authority in 1998 as Chief Information Officer after working for 20 years at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., most recently as head of research computing. He grew up in Queens, N.Y., and earned a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University and master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University.