Tuesday, July 02, 2013
By Beth Fertig
Former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said he doesn't see a lot of courage among the candidates vying to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to a speech he is scheduled to deliver Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Monday, April 23, 2012
New York's former Governor, David Paterson, has been nominated by his successor, Andrew Cuomo, to serve on the board of New York's MTA.
As Governor, Paterson presided over some of the deepest cuts the MTA had to sustain in generations -- but he also vociferously stumped for East River bridge tolls to fund transit. Those tolls foundered when they arrived at the state legislature, and a patched-up plan left MTA finances in a continually precarious position.
Paterson also appointed Jay Walder, a respected transportation professional, to run the MTA.
"I applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo's nomination of former Governor David Paterson to the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority," said Joseph Lhota, the current head of the MTA, in a statement. "I have known the former Governor for 35 years and look forward to the opportunity to work with him again. He has long shared the Governor's commitment to our mission of providing safe, efficient and effective transportation to more than 8.5 million riders every day.
"Once confirmed by the Senate, former Governor Paterson will bring a unique and practical perspective, particularly with respect to issues affecting minority communities and disabled New Yorkers. I look forward to former Governor Paterson bringing to our board deliberations the charm, wit and compassion he has shown throughout his public life.”
Transit activists were also pleased with the appointment. “With another planned fare hike looming in January 2013, Paterson’s experience as a governor and state senator will prove critical to working with Albany lawmakers to find new funding for our transit system, sparing overburdened New Yorkers yet another fare hike,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, in a statement.
Paterson, the former Lt. Governor. was elevated to Governor when his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, resigned after it emerged he had consorted with prostitutes.
Paterson, who is legally blind, had previously been a State Senator from Harlem. As Governor, Paterson became embroiled in his own scandals, involving an accusation of domestic violence against one of his top aides, and a possible cover-up. Paterson chose not to run for re-election, and now hosts his own radio show.
Paterson will replace Nancy Shevell, a GOP fundraiser and trucking executive, who resigned after marrying former Beatle Paul McCarthy.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
By Janet Babin : Economic Development Reporter, WNYC News
NY MTA Chief Joe Lhota is apologizing for comments he made about Harlem lawmaker Bill Perkins. But Lhota remains against a bill from Senator Perkins, that would ban eating in the subway.
The proposed law would fine people who eat in the subway up to 250-dollars. Lhota said in the New York Times that as a legislator, “Perkins does nothing but talk and talk and talk, and he does nothing.”
In a statement, the M-T-A chief apologized to Perkins and called him an excellent legislator. Lhota also said he shares Perkins commitment to addressing the problem of rats on the subway.
But in the article, Lhota also linked the rat problem to minority children. Lhota said Perkins bill “severely hurts and impacts minority communities. I don’t want to deny the kid the only time that day he’s going to get food,” Lhota said in the New York Times.
Senator Perkins called Lhota’s remarks “odd and offensive.” “I hope his apology extends to recognizing that this is not a race issue, but a quality of life issue,” said Perkins. Still, the Senator said he respects Lhota for apologizing and looks forward to working with him.
In a story last week, Transportation Nation reported that rats in the subway are far less dangerous than once thought.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
MTA Chief Joseph Lhota believes the Metropolitan Transportation Authority deserves more respect. Confirmed Monday by the New York State Senate, Lhota’s main goal seems simple enough on paper: getting the public not to hate on the nation’s largest transit agency.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
By Kate Hinds
After sailing through two committee hearings, Joseph Lhota was unanimously confirmed by the New York State Senate to be chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Monday.
"I'm very pleased and honored," Lhota said afterwards, speaking to reporters outside the Senate gallery. "I'm looking forward to this opportunity to make a difference."
But it was the state senators themselves who sounded humbled.
"We're honored Joe would come back to public service," said state Senator Malcolm Smith, who seemed to be speaking for most of his colleagues. Lhota was a former New York City deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration, and had been an executive vice president at Madison Square Garden when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tapped him for the MTA to replace Jay Walder.
Many senators expressed astonishment that the new MTA chair would want the job. The MTA is largely viewed by legislators as "insular, inefficient, and — dare I say it — arrogant," state Senator Andrew Lanza said. Senator Charles Fuschillo, chairman of the senate's transportation committee, summed it up: "We’ve heard this is the most bloated bureaucracy in the country, we’ve heard about the double books, we’ve heard about every problem – we’ve even seen people on the front page of the (New York) Post the other day, playing chess when they should be working."
Lhota, for his part, was even tempered throughout, although he did use his time on the hot seat to to impart a couple of teaching moments. After hearing several legislators trot out the old trope that the agency has two sets of books -- a misperception that is almost a decade old -- he bristled. "The fact of the matter is when you go to our website and drill down, you’ll see an enormous amount of information," he said, adding that the MTA is one of the most transparent agencies in New York State. "There never was two sets of books," he said, "and there never will be two sets of books.”
But the senators knew they had a political macher, not a transportation wonk, in their court, and they seemed to be going through the motions. While Lhota fielded questions on everything from the MTA's finances, to overtime pay, to his stance on tolling the East River bridges, the only legislators who seemed able to muster genuine indignation were the perpetually offended Ruben Diaz, who was unhappy about a subway station in his district, and representatives from Dutchess and Orange Counties -- two of the four so-called "quarter pounder" counties, who share one vote on the MTA board and feel overcharged and underserved by Metro-North.
When senators opined wistfully about the possibility of cutting back on taxpayer support, Lhota sought to nip that in the bud. “I do have to bring up one thing, and I’ll be very honest and very blunt," he said. "There is no way that the MTA can operate without taxpayer money. It was never envisioned to be run nwithout taxpayer dollars. There is not a transportation or commuter rail or transit system in the country that doesn’t work without some other infusion of cash...The entire operation of the MTA cannot be paid for from the riders. It was never envisioned that way when the legislature created the MTA in 1968. I just want to be able to say that.”
During the hearings he talked about his vision for the MTA -- one in which the already pared-down agency further streamlines while improving service. Lhota said he'd be looking closely at the agency's back office operations. “Each one of the operating agencies of the MTA (has) an enormous amount of redundancies," he said. "They all have their own legal staff…. All of the administrative functions are duplicated. I think the time has come for there to be one MTA.”
And he said he was realistic about the challenge: “The bottom line is there’s no consistent standard of excellence across all the MTA. In most cases the service is reliable, stations are clean, and employees provide good customer service. But we’ve all seen dirty subways, we’ve all seen elevators and escalators out of service, buses that crawl at four miles per hour, commuter rail service crippled by bad weather, we’ve heard about projects over budget and behind schedule."
By the end of the afternoon, when the full senate convened to vote, legislators buoyed by the promise of a new era at the MTA rose to their feet to give the new chairman a standing ovation.Lhota told reporters afterwards that he's ridden the subways all his life, and he'll continue to do so. (But with a power that few straphangers can exercise.) "As a rider, I’m also going to be a critic, when I see something wrong on the subways I’m going to make sure it gets fixed," he said. "So the type of chairman I’m going to be for riders? I’m going to be a rider/chairman."
TN MOVING STORIES: Highway Bill Vote This Week, E.U. Bans Airport Body Scanners, Detroit's Buses Get an 'F'
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
Where -- and when -- did transit over the Tappan Zee Bridge go? (Link)
The New York MTA and the Transit Workers Union opened contract negotiations. (Link)
As police cleared Zuccotti Park, bicyclists helped reinforce Occupy Wall Street protesters. (Link)
The House is almost ready to vote on a highway bill. (The Hill)
And: lawmakers say the FAA bill will be ready to go by the end of the month. (Politico)
There are more vehicles on the roads in the DC area -- but more of them are passenger cars, not SUVs. (Washington Post)
One road in London is doing away with curbs and sidewalks in an effort to be more pedestrian-friendly. (Good)
Montreal unveiled a $16.8 billion plan to increase transit ridership, but funding it is going to be a problem. (Montreal Gazette)
Back in the day, new MTA head Joe Lhota wanted City Hall to control the city's transit system. (New York Times)
The Illinois state legislature signed off on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s call for speed cameras near schools and parks. (WBEZ)
A transit advocacy group says half of Detroit's buses are either late or don't arrive at all. (Detroit Free Press)
WNYC looks at the economic benefits of hydrofracking.
The Canadian government ruled out federal funding for a high-speed rail line between Windsor and Quebec. (The National Post)
The European Union banned U.S.-style body scanner machines in European airports. (ProPublica)
A bike room grows in lower Manhattan. (New York Times)
How many riders must high-speed rail attract to offset the construction emissions? (Atlantic Cities)
TN MOVING STORIES: Beverly Hills Wants To Stop Subway Under School, DOT Issues First Ever Tarmac Delay Fine, GM To Produce Pink Car
Monday, November 14, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
Houston will require businesses to offer bike parking. (Link)
Bay Area bikers are getting free lights. (Link)
Reports of the death of the internal combustion engine have been greatly exaggerated. (Link)
Beverly Hills wants to stop Los Angeles from boring a subway tunnel under its high school. (AP)
It's Joseph Lhota's first day on the job as head of New York's MTA. (NY Daily News)
And: the MTA may shut down whole subway lines overnight next year as part of a massive work blitz. (NY Daily News)
Select Bus Service comes to New York's 34th Street. (WABC7)
The DOT slapped American Airlines with a $900,000 fine for tarmac delays -- the first ever. (Politico)
A new comic book teaches riders how to navigate San Francisco's transit system. (Greater Greater Washington)
Chicago's transit authority is threatening to reduce some suburban bus service if several Cook County commissioners follow through with a plan to cut funding. (WBEZ)
General Motors is producing its first pink car for the U.S. market. (Detroit Free Press)
TN MOVING STORIES: San Diego's Transportation Plan Pleases No One, Metro-North Parking In Short Supply, and Why Are Today's Car Paint Colors So Boring?
Sunday, October 23, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
Democrats are trying -- unsuccessfully so far -- to make headway in getting the president's transportation spending package passed. (Link)
A corgi dressed as a NYC bus won a Halloween dog costume contest. (Link)
New York Times editorial: we hope Cuomo's appointments to the Port Authority and the MTA mean "the governor is ready to get in the game" -- and that he'll return the administrators' calls.
New York Daily News editorial: MTA head Joe Lhota has to figure out how to stop Albany from raiding transit money and hold the line on fare hikes.
The Bay Area's two dozen transit system face a $25 billion shortfall over the next 25 years. (San Francisco Examiner)
The proposed route for California's high-speed rail will "destroy churches, schools, private homes, shelters for low-income people, animal processing plants, warehouses, banks, medical offices, auto parts stores, factories, farm fields, mobile home parks, apartment buildings and much else as it cuts through the richest agricultural belt in the nation and through some of the most depressed cities in California." (Los Angeles Times)
A NY MTA board member from Staten Island says it's unfair his borough is the only one that has to pay a toll to get off the island, says he wants to toll 12 NYC river crossings. (Staten Island Advance)
Alaskan Way viaduct demolition: it's happening. (Seattle Post Intelligencer)
Also in Seattle: one out of every four roads is in serious disrepair, which critics say is the result of the city's "fix the worst first" policy. (Seattle Times)
San Diego's $214 billion transportation plan pleases neither transit advocates nor drivers. (North County Times)
Parking is in short supply at Metro-North station lots in Connecticut, where the wait list for a parking sticker can stretch past six years. (Wall Street Journal)
Passenger assaults on NYC bus drivers are up 20%. (New York Daily News)
Why were car paint colors so great in the 1960s and 1970s--and why are they so boring now? (Slate)
TN MOVING STORIES: Pennsylvania Pols Battle Over How To Fund Transportation, Taxi Group Joins AFL-CIO, Planned Bridge Between Detroit and Canada Tabled -- For N
Friday, October 21, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
Power, politics, and a Brooklyn bike lane. (Link)
Joseph Lhota was named to run New York's MTA. (Link)
NYC okays wheelchair-accessible taxi. (Link)
New Yorkers support the incipient bike share program, 72 to 23. (Link)
A coalition of environmental groups is suing three rail operators in California to force them to lower diesel soot. (Los Angeles Times)
A Pennsylvania state senator will introduce legislation to pump another $2.5 billion a year into that state's transportation system and is challenging the governor come up with his own plan. (AP via Penn Live)
Plans to build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada have failed in the Michigan Senate. (Detroit Free Press)
California adopts nation's strictest cap and trade standards, and is working on lowering the state's tailpipe emissions standards. (KQED)
The Metrorail link to Dulles Airport will probably be $150 million over budget. The overall price tag: $2.8 billion. (Washington Post)
A NYC taxi drivers association became the first non-traditional labor organization to join the AFL-CIO since the early 1960s. (Crain's New York)
Londoners fear the impact the Olympics might have on that city's transit system. And no pressure, London: "The success or failure of the games will hang in part on whether the system can keep up with the increase in demand." (AP via Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
NYC may shutter a bus franchise that makes women ride in back. (Reuters)
DC's Capital Bikeshare is raising prices to help pay for its expansion. (AP via WaPo)
Teen drivers: OY. Wait, make that OMG. (NPR)
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Transportation Nation has a long rundown of the Lhota appointment as head of the MTA, which had been practically a foregone conclusion for weeks now.
"Throughout my career in both the public and private sectors, I have initiated reforms that are performance-based and that cut costs, and I look forward to bringing this same approach to the MTA," Lhota said in a statement from the governor's office. "I thank Governor Cuomo for this exciting opportunity to serve the people of New York."
You can read the governor's statement on the appointment at Transportation Nation. But let's take a look at some of the on-background remarks about the appointment:
Reaction among transit watchers, none of whom would speak on the record to avoid alienating the next chief of the NY MTA, was part puzzlement and part wait-and-see.
“I was a little surprised that Joe Lhota rose to the top of that pool,” said an official from a previous mayoral administration. “He understands inter-governmental relations and he understands the politics but he’s more of a political operative than a manager.”
Both Cuomo and outgoing MTA chairman Jay Walder have said in the past few weeks that the next chair did not need to have a transit background. “I think it is helpful to have a knowledge of mass transit,” Walder said at the NY MTA’s September board meeting. “I don’t know that it’s an absolutely essential quality.”
Lhota fits that profile. His resume shows no transportation posts. But he did manage large governmental agencies in the Giuliani administration and ran the city when the mayor was out of town. Since then, he has navigated the executive suites of the Cablevision Systems Corporation, which owns Madison Square Garden. And Lhota has served as a board member at the City University of New York for the past ten years. Lhota was one of two board members who did not support withholding an honorary degree from playwright Tony Kushner last May. The vote to table the degree past last spring’s commencement was much-criticized and later reversed.
Sources differed on Lhota’s ability to rise to those challenges. The NY MTA needs someone “who can handle the union relationships, the crisis of money, and Lhota will get it faster than most people,” said one.
But others don’t expect Lhota to be a voice for transportation in the way Jay Walder was. Walder came from London Transport and is headed for a job running Hong Kong’s transit system. In his tenure as MTA chief he pushed for several innovative transit measures, including countdown clocks, real time information, and better communication with customers. But his relationship with the union was toxic, and Walder presided over the MTA’s deepest cuts in more than a generation.
The governor is also appointing two other people to the MTA family:
Cuomo also appointed two women to serve in key transportation posts: Nuria Fernandez, a former Federal Transit Administration official and Chicago Aviation Commissioner, who resigned under pressure from then Mayor Richard Daily after failing to close a deal with United Airlines. Fernandez will serve as the the MTA’s CEO, and Karen Rae, who worked in the Obama Administration on high speed rail, will serve in the Governor’s office as Deputy Secretary of Transportation.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
Patrick Foye is the new head of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, pending board approval. (Link)
Power, politics, and the Prospect Park West bike lane. (Link)
Millions of Americans drive over structurally deficient bridges every day. (Link)
Amtrak is now making Wi-Fi available on other regional trains besides the Acela -- but with a catch: content filters block some legitimate subjects, like gay rights sites. (Greater Greater Washington)
Senator John McCain's proposed amendment to the transportation spending bill was tabled yesterday. (The Hill)
NYC is taking a closer look at the B110 bus, which is privately operated public bus that asks Jewish women to sit in the back. (NY Times)
Million dollar medallions: two NYC taxi cabs medallions were sold for $1 million apiece, the highest recorded sale since the city’s modern livery system began. (NY Times)
NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg says a lawsuit demanding that taxicabs be wheelchair-accessible is unrealistic and would inconvenience all passengers. (NY Daily News)
Portugal can't afford to finish building a high-speed rail line originally planned to go between Lisbon and Madrid. (Marketplace)
NJ Transit is partnering with Google over a 'tap and pay' system. (Star-Ledger)
One NYC artist tells the story of the Puerto Rican diaspora through a Schwinn bicycle. (NY Daily News)
A team of engineering and seismic experts said a controversial proposal to build Los Angeles's Westside subway extension under Beverly Hills High School is safer than an alternate route. (Los Angeles Times)
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Our sister site Transportation Nation followed up on reports that the search to replace Jay Walder as head of the MTA may be soon over. Former Giuliani aide Joseph Lhota is said to be leading the pack as a possible candidate.
If Lhota was picked, Governor Cuomo would be replacing a transit professional with a manger with experience handling government. He'd also be putting a former Republican operative into the driver seat of the often vilified agency Republicans from around the state are working to strip of revenue via the payroll tax they say is crippling local economies and fundamentally unfair.
The precipice on which the NY MTA teeters consists of several difficulties: a 2012-2015 capital construction plan with a $10 billion dollar shortfall; a looming contract negotiation with Transport Workers Union Local 100 that, by all signs, will be acrimonious; a threat from a group of state legislators to cut the dedicated revenue stream that is the regional payroll mobility tax, which last year contributed $1.3 billion to authority coffers. That’s about an eighth of the authority’s operating budget.
Sources differed on Lhota’s ability to rise to those challenges. The NY MTA needs someone “who can handle the union relationships, the crisis of money, and Lhota will get it faster than most people,” said one. Another thought the Republican Lhota could help the Democrat Cuomo beat back a Republican-led push in the state legislature to eliminate the payroll mobility tax.
But a third believed Lhota was the front-runner precisely because he won’t speak up too loudly for the needs of mass transit: “He’s going to be the person who makes the cuts without making any demands on the state budget. He may even then turn around and say to the city, ‘It’s all your fault.’ He’s going to protect Andrew Cuomo from the hard choices.”
The replacement process, and the potential Lhota pick, is illuminating a tendency in the Cuomo administration. The search committee members signed confidentiality agreements--not unusual by themselves. What was interesting was how tight-lipped everyone actually was. The fact this information was leaked even led some people close to the process to wonder if it wasn't a Cuomo-controlled event meant to test public reaction to Lhota's candidacy.
If things are as they are shaping up to be, and Lhota is the front runner, the third quoted paragraph is the most interesting. In, at best, creating a hostile environment for Walder, the Cuomo administration made a decision to alienate a transit lifer liked by both elected officials and transit advocates.
A Lhota appointment look based on political calculations more than anything else. The Cuomo people are signaling an interest in reducing their exposure to potential political problems, not in solving the agency’s unsustainable financial crisis. This of course was created over the years by politicians worried about their political exposure.
If you add in the push-out of Chris Ward at the Port Authority, it's Cuomo's top priority is having his people in key, highly-public posts who will put the governor’s political interests first.
But who does that serve, if political decisions are put ahead of qualification or competency, other than Cuomo's public image and political leverage? It's a question that will continue to be asked if Lhota ends up at the top of the MTA pile.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY) - The committee appointed by New York Governor Cuomo to find the next CEO and chairman of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority has completed its work. The governor is now mulling a short list with six names on it, culled from eleven candidates interviewed for the job. Sources familiar with the process say the name at the top of the list is Joseph Lhota, executive vice president of Madison Square Garden and former right hand man to Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Lhota served in the Giuliani administration for six years, first as budget director and then as deputy mayor of operations. He also worked as an adviser to Giuliani's presidential campaign in 2007-2008.
Other known finalists are NYC Transit President Thomas Prendergast, who oversees 50,000 subway and bus employees; Nuria Fernandez, senior v.p. at an infrastructure management company and former deputy administrator with the Federal Transit Administration; Karen Rae, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration and a former commissioner of the New York State Transportation Department; and Daniel Grabauskas, the Mitt Romney-appointed general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority who resigned under pressure from Governor Deval Patrick in 2009.
Lhota is considered the leading candidate by those familiar with the search process. Reaction among transit watchers, none of whom would speak on the record to avoid alienating the possible next chief of the NY MTA, was part puzzlement and part wait-and-see.
"I was a little surprised that Joe Lhota rose to the top of that pool," said an official from a previous mayoral administration. "He understands inter-governmental relations and he understands the politics but he’s more of a political operative than a manager."
Both Cuomo and outgoing MTA chairman Jay Walder have said in the past few weeks that the next chair did not need to have a transit background. “I think it is helpful to have a knowledge of mass transit," Walder said at the NY MTA's September board meeting. "I don’t know that it’s an absolutely essential quality.”
Lhota fits that profile. His resume shows no transportation posts. But he did manage large governmental agencies in the Giuliani administration and ran the city when the mayor was out of town. Since then, he has navigated the executive suites of the Cablevision Systems Corporation and Madison Square Garden. And Lhota has served as a board member at the City University of New York for the past ten years. Lhota was one of two board members who did not support withholding an honorary degree from playwright Tony Kushner last May. The vote to table the degree past last spring's commencement was much-criticized and later reversed.
Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future, a policy think tank, said he didn't know Lhota well enough to comment specifically. But he said that from a leadership perspective, "It’s important someone be selected who can really make a strong case for transit and can convince legislators that this is so critical to the city’s future and that we’re on the precipice of something bad happening."
Bowles added that the stakes are enormous: "If there’s one thing Governor Cuomo could do now to boost the city’s economy, it’s shore up the transit system."
The precipice on which the NY MTA teeters consists of several difficulties: a 2012-2015 capital construction plan with a $10 billion dollar shortfall; a looming contract negotiation with Transport Workers Union Local 100 that, by all signs, will be acrimonious; a threat from a group of state legislators to cut the dedicated revenue stream that is the regional payroll mobility tax, which last year contributed $1.3 billion to authority coffers. That's about an eighth of the authority's operating budget.
Sources differed on Lhota's ability to rise to those challenges. The NY MTA needs someone "who can handle the union relationships, the crisis of money, and Lhota will get it faster than most people," said one. Another thought the Republican Lhota could help the Democrat Cuomo beat back a Republican-lead push in the state legislature to eliminate the payroll mobility tax.
But a third believed Lhota was the front-runner precisely because he won't speak up too loudly for the needs of mass transit: "He’s gong to be the person who makes the cuts without making any demands on the state budget. He may even then turn around and say to the city, 'It’s all your fault.' He’s going to protect Andrew Cuomo from the hard choices."
Earlier today, the governor said at a press conference: “We’re going to have an announcement on the MTA shortly." He added that the public would know his nomination for the chairmanship within “days.” Cuomo has told members of the search committee that he wants to name that person before Jay Walder decamps from the $350,000 a year post on October 21 to run a private rail and real estate company in Hong Kong.