• Streetwise map not so subway-wise · When the MTA announced its Doomsday Budget over the winter, most observers did not believe the authority would actually go through with the plan. While Albany dillied and dallied its way to a half-baked solution, New York’s transit advocates were skeptical that the MTA would cut service and bolster fares by 25 percent. Even isolated Albany politicos politicians aren’t immune to that much of a transportation disaster.

    Despite our guarded optimism, a popular map-making company was not so confident. Streetwise, the publishers of the ubiquitous laminated fold-out maps, printed their 2009 New York City edition with the Doomsday cuts in place, amNew York’s Heather Haddon reported this morning. The map has no W or Z trains and features now-wrong subway information. The company sent the map to the printers earlier this year while Albany was still hammering out a solution, and a spokesperson claimed including the cuts “wasn’t an easy decision to make.”

    While future editions of this map will feature the proper New York City transit information, the Florida-based company has no plans to recall the incorrect maps. For transit buffs, this is something of a collector’s item. For those relying on the map — and the tourists in particular — this misprint will just lead to more underground confusion. · (9)

mtaoig When I’m waiting for a train, I’ll often take a look at the rubber bumper along the edge of the subway platform. Generally, I don’t like what I see. The bumpers are in various states of erosion, and sometimes the boards are visibly loose or just not there.

The bumper story came to a head in February of 2008 when a station collapsed. That day, part of the Kings Highway station platform fell and took a 14-year-old with it. The next day, NYC Transit President Howard Roberts promised an inspection of every single platform.

Today, we have a follow-up. After condemning NYC Transit’s response time in a preliminary report in January, the MTA Inspector General released his final report about the state of the platform edges, and the picture he paints is not a pretty one.

The document — available here as a PDF — carries with it a rather regal title: “An Inquiry Into Whether MTA New York City Transit Consistently and Correctly Identifies and Reports Subway Platform-Edge Safety Defects.” As you could imagine, Barry Kluger isn’t too pleased with the MTA’s efforts at correcting and addressing their platform issues. He summarizes:

  • Platform-level inspectors at NYCT subway stations failed to correctly identify and report platform-edge safety defects visible at 16 of 23 stations sampled by OIG (70%), as confirmed by top officials in charge of station maintenance based upon their review of NYCT records and OIG photographs.
  • Out of an OIG sample of 25 comments made by platform-level inspectors reporting non-safety defects, 22 of those comments used language that actually indicated safety defects, according to a review of those comments by top station maintenance officials.
  • Station Operations Division middle managers are not promptly resolving confusion caused by inspectors who describe platform-edge conditions as safety defects, but rate and report them as non-safety defects.
  • Different inspectors described the same platform-edge condition inconsistently. For example, inspection reports covering one station in the OIG sample, on five different days during a nineteen-day period, with no intervening repair, showed that two inspectors described the rubbing boards as “ok,” two others described them as “loose” (a safety defect) and a fifth noted that “rubbing boards in need of repair.”
  • While NYCT requires that repair of so-called “non-safety defects” (which include safety defects that have been temporarily repaired) be completed within 60 days, its stated goal is to address 75% of those defects on time. Nevertheless, NYCT only addressed within 60 days some 41% of those rubbing board defects reported in the first eight months of 2008. Further, the backlog of defective rubbing boards is so great that NYCT’s goal for bringing these boards into a state of good repair is now December 2009.

In the end, Kluger offers up a succinct conclusion. “Rubbing boards with safety defects resulting from damage and deterioration pose a serious,predictable and widespread safety hazard, especially on subway lines with outdoor stations,” he says. He also recommends that New York City Transit systematize defect analysis and prioritize oversight and safety repair.

Interestingly, the Inspector General’s report ends with a letter from NYC Transit President Howard Roberts. In response to the IG’s preliminary report from January, Roberts stresses how he will direct Transit officials to improve their inspection efforts. Roberts, one of the key officials behind the Line Manager pilot, believes his program will help streamline platform repair efforts. The jury is out on that program, but I believe Roberts is on the right track with that promise. Now let’s see the Line Managers deliver.

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  • The uninformed masses take on the MTA · New Yorkers love to complain about the MTA, and no matter how little people know about the situation, they always think they know better than those in charge. In the past, I’ve taken on seemingly ignorant commenters on The Times’ City Room blog. Over the weekend, The Post gave us another gift: Unedited comments sent to the MTA via its website.

    The comments — printed here for our viewing pleasure — are priceless. The MTA chiefs are called “morons,” “nimrods,” “thieves” and various other R-rated honorariums. Someone complains about missing the AirTrain because he or she forget to check the E train service advisories. Another bemoans a stench found in a station staircase without identifying the station in question. Others are proclaiming the eight percent fare hike as “literally taking food off my table.”

    It is a true stereotype that New Yorkers love to complain. Generally, they do so with limited knowledge of the situation, and the MTA is no example. There are genuine reasons to complain about the MTA just as there are genuine reasons to praise it. But when the murmuring crowd is mostly ignorant, few are going to listen. · (3)

Since the Ravitch Report landed on the desk of Gov. David Paterson in December, “internal belt-tightening” has turned into an MTA buzzword. Throughout the build-up to the Doomsday budget and all throughout the transit fight in Albany, the MTA has proclaimed itself ready for cuts. These cuts could come in the form of fewer station agents, one-person train operations and fewer stations cleaners. While the agency has given lip service to the idea of cutting down its bureaucracy at MTA HQ, a new report begs to differ.

In a piece published in The Post on Sunday of a three-day weekend, James Fanelli reports that the agency has actually increased staff salaries at HQ by around $3.46 million. He writes:

Between March 2008 and March 2009, 140 directors, managers and other employees who work in the MTA’s main Madison Avenue offices received raises, according to a Post analysis of agency records. Of these bump-ups, 79 came without title changes.

In the same period, the Midtown HQ’s headcount surged by 43 staffers to 695, records show. The new hires included a $75,000-a-year photographer, a $117,000-per-year director of police support and a $134,204-a-year director of workforce development. Also, for $172,000 a year, it brought on a “chief diversity officer” who is supposed to help give contracts to minority-owned businesses. All were newly created positions.

Overall, payroll at headquarters rose 6.7 percent to $55.5 million.

Fanelli spoke to MTA spokesperson Ernest Tollerson about the increases, and Tollerson noted that many of them were cost-of-living increases. He also said that many of the new hires will help save money in the future.

It seems to me that this story is more about The Post riling up anti-MTA sentiments than anything else. The $3.5 million in increases represent less than one quarter of one percent of the MTA’s current debt, and the agency has to retain the workers who help move over eight million people a day.

At a time when the agency is working to convince its union to take a pay freeze, when the agency is raising fares, when the agency wants to cut station agents, this news looks bad. In a world in which failed CEOs earn tens of millions of dollars though, annual raises for mid-level workers is hardly a national crime. With an Albany-mandated audit heading the MTA’s way, we’ll see those bureaucratic cuts soon enough.

Graphic detailing the spending courtes of The Post.

Categories : MTA Economics
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A Shuttle train sits at Grand Central, decked out in Google Maps advertising. (Photo by flickr user Paolo Mastrangelo)

Around the country, advertising revenues are dropping precipitously. From traditional bastions of print media to online news outlets, any business dependent upon advertising is feeling the crunch. The MTA is no exception.

As revenue goes, advertising isn’t really a key source of money for transit systems. In total, according to the Federal Transit Administration numbers, transit agencies drew in $334 million in revenue in 2007. That total makes up around one percent of nationwide transit revenue. Closer to home, the MTA reported over $100 million in revenue in each of the last two years.

Not this year, says William Neuman. According to The Times scribe, the agency is seeing lower-than-projected revenue from advertising due to missed minimum payments by Titan Worldwide. The advertising agency is tasked with selling ad space on buses and subways and in stations and owes the MTA around $7.5 million for a three-month period ending in April. Neuman reports:

The company, Titan Worldwide, fell short a total of $7.5 million in mandatory payments to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from February through April, citing lower than expected ad sales. That would be enough to buy 16 new buses for the authority, which recently received a state bailout in the face of multibillion-dollar budget deficits over the next few years.

“This is another example of the M.T.A.’s exposure to the global economic recession,” said Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the authority, which plans to raise fares and tolls by about 10 percent in June…

Another company, CBS Outdoor, sells ads in the subway system, and it fulfilled its contractual requirement of making a $55 million lump-sum payment to the authority in January for all of 2009.

Neuman’s article is chock full of interesting information about subway and bus advertising. For example, an ad on the outside of a Manhattan-based bus sells for $1500 a month this year. In 2008, the MTA could command $1800 for the same ad.

On the business side, overall sales for CBS Outdoors, another MTA advertising partner, are strong due to the new ad spots on the outside of train cars. Titan, on the other hand, still owes the agency money from last year, and the agency may have to renegotiate its deal with the MTA to avoid incurring crippling penalties and payments.

“We’re trying to work with them to find a way to keep this contract in place,” Donovan said to The Times. “Our goal is to work it out and minimize the impact on the M.T.A.’s bottom line.”

Neuman also notes that Titan’s original bid for the 10-year contract with the MTA was for $103 million more in minimum guaranteed payments than the next highest bidder. William Apfelbaum, the company’s chairman, said that the difference in minimum payments would not impact his company were the economy strong.

In the end, the MTA isn’t really relying on advertising revenue for a significant portion of its budget, but the story remains the same: A public transportation agency should not have to attempt to squeeze every last dollar out of advertising just to stay afloat. We applaud the MTA for looking at new ways to draw in revenue through advertising, but as long as that money is icing on the cake and not a key part to the budget, we would have nothing to fear.

Categories : Subway Advertising
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Every Friday, when NYC Transit sends out the weekend service advisories, the press release always discusses the agency’s $10 billion capital improvement plan. Yesterday, Infrastructurist ran a piece on China’s transit investment plan.

Outside of New York, the U.S. is hardly committed to transit, and here’s Jebediah Reed’s take on it:

As of March 31, China has committed $259 billion to the project, and plans to spend nearly a half trillion dollars more in the next three years, boosting the total investment to $730 billion by 2012…The US–a country with a per capita GDP about 16 times that of China–has set rail as a national priority and has committed… $13 billion. Or, about 2 percent as much in China. This, of course, is in a place where it costs a hell of a lot more to get anything done.

“Why, oh, why,” he asks, “do we have such difficulty approaching serious projects with the required seriousness in this country?”

The discussion on Infrastructurist moves into the comments, and it is, of course, enlightening. China’s approach to everything — politics, governing, investment, society — is far different from ours. Yet, China has the right idea in investing in a legitimate national rail network. If they can do it, so can we.

Anyway, just something to think about for Memorial Day weekend. I’ll be back with new content on Tuesday morning unless I got inspired during the long weekend. In the meantime, let’s get to the service advisories.

A few notes: The subways will run on a Sunday schedule on Memorial Day Monday. That means, for example, no B, V and W trains, among others. Pay attention the service advisories. Some run only through Monday morning and others encompass Memorial Day.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 25, Bronx-bound 25 trains run express from 3rd Avenue-149th Street to East 180th Street due to cable installation near East 180th Street.


From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 24, 3 trains run in two sections due to track panel installation:

* Between 148th Street and Crown Heights-Utica Avenue and
* Between Crown Heights-Utica Avenue and News Lots Avenue (runs every 20 minutes)


From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 24, there are no 4 trains between Crown Heights-Utica Avenue and New Lots Avenue due to track panel installation. Customers may take the 3 instead.


From 5 a.m. to 12 noon Sunday, May 24, there are no 5 trains between 149th-Grand Concourse and East 180th Streets due to rail repair. Customers may take the 2 instead.


From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 24, the last stop for some Bronx-bound 6 trains is 3rd Avenue-138th Street due to track panel installation between Morrison-Sound View Avenues and St. Lawrence Avenue.


From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 24, Bronx-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Avenue to Parkchester due to track panel installation between Morrison-Sound View Avenues and St. Lawrence Avenue.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 23, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 25, Bronx-bound 6 trains run express from 3rd Avenue to Hunts Point Avenue due to platform edge rehabilitation at Cypress Avenue, East 143rd Street, East 149th Street and Longwood Avenue stations.


From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 24, Manhattan-bound 7 trains run express from Willets Point to Queensboro Plaza due to track panel installation.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, A trains run local between 168th Street and Euclid Avenue due to switch renewal south of West 4th Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 23, to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, there are no C trains running due to switch renewal south of West 4th Street. Customers should take the A instead.


From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 24, Manhattan-bound D trains run on the N line from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue to 36th Street (Brooklyn) due to work at the 38th Street Yard.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 23, to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, Brooklyn-bound D trains run local from 34th Street-Herald Square to West 4th Street due to switch renewal south of West 4th Street.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 22, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 25, free shuttle buses replace trains between Norwood-205th Street and Bedford Park Blvd. due to a track chip out north of Bedford Park Boulevard.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 22 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, Manhattan-bound EF trains run local from Forest Hills-71st Avenue to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue to due to a track chip out north of Grand Avenue.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, Jamaica-bound EF trains run local from Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to a track chip out north of Grand Avenue.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, Brooklyn-bound F trains run on the E line from Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue to 42nd Street-8th Avenue, then on the A line to Jay Street. This is due to switch renewal south of West 4th Street and the Broadway-Lafayette to Bleecker Street transfer connection.


From 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 22 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, there is no G train service between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square. Trains run every 20 minutes between Court Square and Smith-9th Streets. Customers should take the E or R instead.


From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 23 and Sunday, May 24, Manhattan-bound J trains skip Flushing Avenue, Lorimer and Hewes Streets due to rail replacement at Gates Avenue.


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, May 24, uptown N trains skip 49th Street (Manhattan) due to track cleaning. – It’s like a trip to the dentist!


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, May 23, uptown N trains skip Prince, 8th, 23rd, and 28th Streets due to track cleaning.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 25, N trains run local between Pacific Street and 59th Street (Brooklyn) due to subway tunnel rehabilitation.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 25, Brooklyn-bound NR trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge between Canal Street and DeKalb Avenue due to subway tunnel rehabilitation. Customers may take the 4 at nearby stations.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, R trains are extended to the Jamaica-179th Street F station due to a track chip out north of Grand Avenue.


From 6:30 a.m. Saturday, May 23 to 7 p.m. Sunday, May 24, there is no Franklin Avenue Shuttle service between Franklin Avenue and Prospect Park due to rail repair. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (14)
  • Sander’s parting gift: Promises of a MetroCard-free payment system · Today marks Elliot Sander’s final day as CEO and Executive Director of the MTA. He had a short and tumultuous run, but it was among the best in MTA history. In a series of exit interviews with the press, Sander, ever a forward-looking transit optimist, dropped word of a payment system that could arrive as early as 2011 if the MTA puts it all together. Sander said that the MTA is looking to replace the magnetic strips of the current MetroCards with a smart-card/E-ZPass payment system that could tie in subway, bus and commuter fares as well as bridge and tunnel tolls. The system would automatically bill users as an E-ZPass does and could link the MTA, PATH and New Jersey Transit as well.

    For more on this long-awaited technological development, check out coverage in The Post and The Daily News. I’m glad Sander is still focusing on the future of transit in New York City even as he heads out the door at the MTA. · (6)

When the Senate finally voted to approve an MTA rescue package, it was clear that the beleaguered transit agency had lost at least one battle. While millions of New Yorkers rely on the MTA every day, people just did not have faith in the agency, and at a time when transit advocates needed the authority to win the public relations war, it did not.

Apparently, though, deep-rooted mistrust of the MTA runs deeper than a PR battle over the agency’s short-term financial fate. According to a recent telephone poll conducted by Barcuh College Survey Research on behalf of NY1 News, most New Yorkers simply do not trust the MTA and many more do not understand the sources of the MTA’s financial woes. Bobby Cuza had more:

A combined 61 percent of those polled said they trust little or nothing the MTA says. Twenty four percent said they trust some, and just eight percent trust most of what the MTA says…”They kind of echo the governor’s sentiment in thinking that you can’t believe a whole lot of what the MTA says,” said NY1 pollster Mickey Blum.

In fact, much of the MTA’s problems stem from billions of dollars of debt it was forced to take on because the state cut funding to the agency. But New Yorkers don’t see Albany as the problem; 47 percent say the MTA is at fault for the current economic crisis. Just 22 percent blame state lawmakers, and 17 percent blame the governor, with 14 percent unsure.

Meanwhile, subway and bus fares will go up about 10 percent next month. Then, unless the economy gets significantly worse, the MTA says it won’t have to raise fares again until 2011. But skeptical New Yorkers don’t buy it. Almost two-thirds — 65 percent — think there will be another fare hike within a year. Only 23 percent think this will be the only fare hike this year.

Over the last few years, the MTA has become one of the more publicly accountable governing agencies in New York City. They broadcast all of their Board meetings and make just about every financial document readily accessible. Yet people do not trust them because the politicians in Albany and not the transit policy wonks at the MTA are running the publicity campaigns.

For now, this is a concern that can turn into a problem. The MTA should take heed of these findings and work on a public image campaign. I’ve met with and spoken to numerous MTA officials, and they truly want to help the public. They don’t like being viewed as an agency that can’t finish anything on time or on budget and can’t control its deficit. While perception and reality often align, the MTA must work on its perception if it wants to gain the trust of the public in needs to push for money for a true modernization and expansion program.

Categories : MTA
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An Unveiled Sign

A new Metro-North stop and the Bronx’s first transit addition in decades will open tomorrow morning. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Tomorrow morning shortly before 6 a.m., a Grand Central-bound Metro-North train on the Hudson line will make a stop at Yankees-E. 153rd St. stop. It will be the first train with passenger to stop at this new station, and it will usher in an era of increased transit accessibility for Yankee fans from Westchester and Connecticut.

Yesterday, I went up to the new station for its official dedication. Joining me at Grand Central for the ride up north were Jorge Posada, David Cone and Brian Cashman as well as one Michael Bloomberg.

The day was a congratulatory one for the MTA. They opened up the new station at Yankee Stadium on time and on budget. The agency known for its massive delays and cost overruns held down an aggressive timetable and a $91-million budget for a project that had to be managed around active train lines.

It took just 24 months to build and should help reduce traffic volume in and around the South Bronx during Yankee games. “It’s another alternative to taking the subway here,” the Mayor said during the ceremony “And the more alternatives you give, the fewer people will drive.”

Jorgie, Coney and Cashmoney

The trip up north started at Grand Central Terminal with a deadhead ride — a free train — to the new station. The new schedules claim it is a 16-minute ride from Grand Central to the Yankee Stadium stop, and they’re not kidding. It’s a fast, smooth ride that will make just one stop — at 125th St. — when it debuts on Saturday morning.

When we arrived at the station, the Yankees just stood there as city and MTA officials took over. The Mayor started off with a joke. While chatting with Brian Cashman in the VIP train car on the way up — I, by the way, was with the press in a different car — he offered to pitch for the Yanks. “I throw righty and not lefty,” he said. “They just don’t need another right-handed pitcher. So I guess I’m out of that job and will keep my old one.”

Bloomberg

After that, though, it was all business. Bloomberg praised the MTA for realizing the three-decade-old dream of building a station at Yankee Stadium and in the South Bronx. He stressed how the station will improve the quality of life for not just Yankee fans but for residents of the polluted and congested neighborhood. “It’s not just for Yankee Stadium; it’s for the entire South Bronx,” he said while trumpeting his long-term goals of getting cars off the road in New York City.

After Bloomberg finished up, a spate of speakers followed him. Elliot Sander, the outgoing MTA CEO and Executive Director, MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger and Metro-North President Howard Permut gave the agency spiel. New Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., trumped the stadium’s impact on the Bronx.

Jorge, Cashman and the Cops

The technicalities of the station are advanced, and the structure itself is a sight to behold. It is a state-of-the-art 10,000-square-foot, fully ADA-accessible facility. Officials estimated up to 10,000 passengers per day for Yankee games, and if they reach that goal, vehicular traffic around the stadium should decrease significantly. It features four tracks all ten cars in length and real-time train arrival boards.

From an engineering perspective, the MTA had to spread out four tracks of the Hudson Line to construct the extra-wide platforms. The agency had to snake them between the columns supporting the Major Deegan Expressway and Exterior Street. Additionally, Metro-North has activated a section of track one mile east of the stadium stop to ensure that Harlem and New Haven Line trains can make the stop during gamedays and still hook back up with their proper routes.

In terms of service, the station will see regularly hourly service along the Hudson Line, but on gamedays, service will be increased significantly. Trains from Grand Central will leave every 15-20 minutes, and either three or four additional trains from points north along the Hudson, New Haven and Harlem lines will pass through the station prior to games. Anyone who lives near a Metro-North line east of the Hudson now has little reason to drive to a game.

The fare scheme is too complicated to explain in detail because it depends upon point of origination. In general, tickets to the station from points north will cost either 75 cents (off-peak) or $1 (peak) more than it does to get to Manhattan. From Grand Central to Yankee Stadium, peak tickets will be $6.50 and off-peak $5 until the fares go up next month. It’s certainly an expensive, if fast and comfortable, alternative to the subway.

Metro-North will also accept the $3.50 City Tickets good for weekend and holiday travel with the New York City limits, and all monthly passes will be honored as well. To beat fare-beaters, customers must have a valid ticket to exit the station before a game and to access the platforms afterward.

In the end, it’s hard not to be excited about this station. It’s a big, modern station just a five- to eight-minute walk away from the new Yankee Stadium. It should be popular for years to come, and it will open for business on Saturday. So if you’re off to see the Phillies play the Yanks on Saturday afternoon, take the train and take comfort in the fact that, when push comes to shove, the MTA can build a new facility on time and on budget. It may not be as sexy as the Second Ave. Subway, but as Hemmerdinger noted, these smaller expansion projects are just as important to the future of transit in New York City as the big-ticket items are.

Click through for a slideshow of the unveiling.

Categories : Bronx, Metro-North
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Updated 5:36 p.m.: Tomorrow marks current MTA CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander’s last day on the job, and MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger has named Helena Williams, current president of the Long Island Rail Road, as the interim replacement.

Sander, who announced his resignation on May 7, is leaving at the firm request of David Paterson. The New York Governor used the recent MTA rescue package as leverage to exert more control over the financially beleaguered transit agency, and Sander, a Spitzer appointee but probably the most qualified authority head in its 41-year history, lost his job. Williams will assume the interim title on Monday, following MTA Board approval.

In taking on the job, Williams will also keep her duties as head of the LIRR. She is, however, looking forward to the challenge of leading the agency. “I am honored to be asked to step in temporarily – pending approval of the MTA Board – to serve in this position while continuing my duties as President of the LIRR,” Williams said via press release this afternoon. “As we all know, the subway, bus, bridge, tunnel and commuter rail systems are the lifeblood of our city and of the entire New York metropolitan region. I’ve spent much of my career at the MTA, so this will be an exciting challenge.

Williams, a labor lawyer with a degree from St. John’s, has been at the MTA for 15 years and has served as the head of both the Long Island Bus and LIRR. She also worked as the deputy county executive to Tom Suozzi in Nassau County. As the press release notes, the LIRR has flourished under her leadership with record on-time performance figures and better customer communications.

“This is a time of transition at the MTA, but it is critical that we continue to serve our customers without missing a beat,” H. Dale Hemmerdinger, current chairman of the MTA Board, said. “Helena Williams is doing a terrific job at the Long Island Rail Road and will be an excellent steward for the entire transit system until a new Chairman and CEO is appointed.”

Williams was the first female named to head to LIRR, and by assuming this new position, I believe she is the first lead the MTA as well. When Paterson names a successor, she will keep her job as president of the Long Island Rail Road.

Meanwhile, gov. Paterson is expected to name a permanent successor in the near future. Time is, however, of the essence. As The Times’ William Neuman reports, the Senate adjourns for the summer on June 22. If Paterson has not named a replacement by then, he will either have to summon the legislatures back for a special session or live with Williams as the interim head for a few months. His office declined to comment on the search, saying simply that they are looking for a candidate with “a mandate, a philosophy and a record of complete transparency and accountability to taxpayers.”

Categories : MTA
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