Home MTA Joseph Lhota kinda sorta takes over

Joseph Lhota kinda sorta takes over

by Benjamin Kabak

Former deputy mayor Joseph Lhota started at the MTA today as its executive director.

As the MTA is debating a new plan to speed up disruptive track work, the authority’s new boss is taking over. Although Joseph Lhota cannot assume his role as the MTA Chairman and CEO until after State Senate confirmation hearings set for early 2012, the Cuomo nominee and former Giuliani administration official joined the MTA today as its Executive Director, and he will be responsible for day-to-day operations. Andrew Saul will continue to serve as Acting Chairman until Lhota is confirmed in Albany.

“The MTA is the engine that drives our economy and makes our way of life possible here in New York, and we have a responsibility to operate our service as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Lhota said in a brief statement. “The MTA is facing a number of difficult fiscal and operating challenges, including funding our vital capital program and continuing to improve service in tough economic times. My focus in the next couple of months is understanding this organization from top-to-bottom, and listening to our employees, customers, and community leaders as we work together to shape an agenda and improve this vital service for all New Yorkers.”

His first official duty involved a rare joint statement with TWU President John Samuelsen. The two leaders asked New York City prosecutors to pursue maximum penalties for those who assault MTA employees. It is a good sign indeed for the upcoming TWU negotiations that the two parties are working together to make a public show of support.

In addition to the arrival of Lhota, the MTA announced a handful of other leadership changes as well, including one that is raising some eyebrows. Nuria Fernandez has joined the organization as Chief Operating Officer, and Catherine Rinaldi, former MTA and LIRR General Counsel will now serve as the authority’s Chief of Staff. Charlie Monheim, the outgoing COO, will remain on board as Director of Strategic Initiatives, and he will be working on the MTA’s technology projecting and overseeing labor relations.

The intriguing departure though involves Diana Jones Ritter. Brought in as a so-called efficiency expert, Ritter was to serve as the MTA’s Managing Director, but her appointment drew criticism. No one is saying much about her departure, but it seems as though the MTA will find its efficiencies elsewhere.

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Larry Littlefield November 14, 2011 - 12:49 pm

If you look at the decisions that can be made and cannot be made, and where the money goes, it is clear that George Pataki and Virgil Conway are still in charge. Along with Rudy Giulinai.

John Lindsey and Nelson Rockefeller still have considerable influence.

Bolwerk November 14, 2011 - 12:56 pm

*sigh* I’m just holding my breath now. Walder was transformational, and whoever came in after him automatically had some big shoes to fill. Lhota frankly seems like an odious appointment to me, but it remains to be seen whether he will make things worse. Cuomo obviously lacks Paterson’s pro-transit inclinations – one of the few unambiguously positive things about Paterson – so maybe it’s just time for damage control mode.

Now the thing to watch out for is whether the MTA starts picking up some old bad habits, which should become obvious quickly knowing that most likely management and the union are both happy to oblige the status quo, which Walder disrupted. Maybe when Lhota gets sick of the job, it could be time to appoint JSK. :-\

Larry Littlefield November 14, 2011 - 1:09 pm

“Maybe it’s just time for damage control mode.”

That’s a best case scenario of what he’s there for. Damage deferral is the worst case scenario.

As with some others like Christie and Cuomo and Walder, just remember that he didn’t make the mess. So he won’t be deciding to raise fares, cut service, and have the system degrade. He will be presiding over other people’s decisions. All he could have to offer is the truth.

Chris G November 14, 2011 - 1:44 pm

I sort of look at this in the same eyes of who will replace Mariano Rivera. As long as they do a passable job, they’ll lay the ground work for someone else to come in and flourish.

Al D November 14, 2011 - 4:54 pm

Maybe now Cuomo will be able to get more $ from Albany to MTA

Alon Levy November 14, 2011 - 5:00 pm

Maybe he should sign the transit lockbox bill first.

Benjamin Kabak November 14, 2011 - 5:02 pm

I wouldn’t count on it. Lhota is going to have to show some serious efficiency work before Albany picks up the checkbook. That’s why he was appointed.

Alex C November 14, 2011 - 7:52 pm

I have a strange feeling Lhota could turn the agency into a model of perfection and Albany would just use that as a reason to slash the MTA’s funding in half seeing as how it clearly doesn’t need money to operate efficiently. Only thing I trust Cuomo and Albany to do is find ways to screw over the MTA to pay for tax breaks.

Anon November 14, 2011 - 10:25 pm Reply
Alex C November 14, 2011 - 10:43 pm

Oh, this clown again. Isn’t there a misspelled sign some there?

Alex C November 14, 2011 - 10:44 pm

EDIT: Isn’t there a misspelled somewhere* for him to report on?

A concerned citizen November 15, 2011 - 5:50 am

While the massive capital construction project overspends at the MTA need careful scrutiny and trimming, a test of Mr. Lhota’s abilities will be in how he cuts costs for non construction type activities that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. A perfect example of this is the smartcard program. While there was no business or political case to replace the Metrocard, it is clear that such a project will cost over $250 million with little to show other than for the fact that it will replace a perfectly functioning system – the Metrocard. Such a project can easily be moved out by 5 years saving the MTA hundreds of millions in the short term crunch. There are tens of other projects like this…

Alon Levy November 15, 2011 - 3:30 pm

Smartcards done right are a major operating saving at the back end. They allow simplifying the fareboxes and TVMs, and the use of off-the-shelf non-proprietary technology rather than a vendor-locked Cubic product means there are more vendors to choose from.

Alas, Walder’s head was so far up in the clouds his ideas of smartcards were not exactly the brightest: PayPass, conductors checking every ticket on commuter rail, POP only on a few bus routes.

Andrew November 16, 2011 - 7:20 am

PayPass is not proprietary, and the technology is readily available off-the-shelf, right here in the U.S. (unlike any of the technologies you prefer). I don’t know why you keep insisting otherwise. Open payment systems have major advantages, to both the agency and the rider, over dedicated transit cards.

Jay Walder was not personally leading the smartcard project, and his comments about commuter rail conductors were presumably off-the-cuff remarks rather than formal statements of the MTA’s plans. (I don’t even know if the commuter railroads have started detailed planning yet – I think this is an NYCT project being planned for future integration with other agencies, both within and outside the MTA.)

Andrew November 16, 2011 - 7:35 am

Actually, the smartcard system is being developed specifically for its business case. Why don’t you look it up?


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