Union-Backed PAC Running $1M Pro-de Blasio Ad

Friday, October 25, 2013

A day after Democrat Bill de Blasio blasted the influence of outside spending in the mayor's race, a union-backed group started running ads in support of his candidacy.



Judge's Ruling Opens Door for Unlimited Campaign Cash in Mayor's Race

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A federal appeals court ruling today clears the way for advocates of Republican Joe Lhota to give unlimited contributions to a political action group supporting his run for mayor. 

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Today In Politics: Lhota Debuts New, Aggressive Style

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fresh off a strong debate performance, mayoral candidate Joe Lhota is maintaining an aggressive stance and keeping up his attacks on Democrat and front runner Bill de Blasio. On the campaign trail yesterday, Lhota told reporters that he's back, but will this new Lhota be enough to change the race?



In Second Debate, Lhota Remembers His Talking Points

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Joe Lhota remembered his talking points in Tuesday night's debate. Unfortunately for him, he said little to fundamentally alter the trajectory of the race, where Bill de Blasio is beating him by over 40 points. And in the most raucous exchange of the campaign, de Blasio and Lhota heatedly debated the legacies of David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani, harkening back to a time a dwindling number of voters remember.

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Today In Politics: Lhota Stumbles As Campaign Enters Final Stage

Monday, October 21, 2013

New York City voters will choose a new mayor in two weeks and if current projections hold, it looks like Public Advocate Bill de Blasio will win.


The Brian Lehrer Show

Joe Lhota; Lonegan v. Booker; Women in Leadership; Early Decision

Monday, October 07, 2013

Republican nominee for mayor of New York City Joe Lhota discusses his campaign. Plus: analysis of the weekend's debate between U.S. Senate candidates from New Jersey Steve Lonegan and Cory Booker; former candidate for Public Advocate and founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, discusses her new book on leadership; and a conversation about early college admission.


One Last Tango for City Council and Outgoing Chancellor

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

With the Bloomberg administration moving full steam ahead in its last few months to place 43 more schools inside existing public school buildings, City Council members took one last opportunity to press Chancellor Dennis Walcott on this controversial practice of co-locating schools.

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Transportation Nation

EXPLAINER: Where NYC's Mayoral Candidates Stand on Transportation Issues

Monday, September 09, 2013

Most like bikes and buses, but they're iffy on bike lanes. Some have clearly defined transportation platforms, while some don't even mention it on their website. One candidate even wants a monorail system. Here's where the top mayoral candidates stand on transportation.

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Two Leading Candidates Duke It Out in Final GOP Debate

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The top two Republican candidates for mayor argued over topics ranging from firefighters' safety on 9/11 to the safety of kittens recently rescued from subway tracks.


The Brian Lehrer Show

Meet the Candidates: Call Candidate Lhota

Friday, August 23, 2013

Joseph Lhota, former deputy mayor, MTA chairman and candidate for the 2013 Republican mayoral nomination, discusses his bid for mayor and takes listener calls as we continue our interviews with the candidates.

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Transportation Nation

How New Jersey Transit Failed Sandy's Test

Monday, May 13, 2013

The weekend before Sandy thundered into New Jersey, transit officials studied a map showing bright green and orange blocks. On the map, the area where most New Jersey Transit trains were being stored showed up as orange – or dry.

And it might have been a good plan. Except the numbers New Jersey Transit used to create the map were wrong.

ProPublica's choice: Best Reporting on Hurricanes and Their Aftermath

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Transportation Nation

NY MTA Head Formally Backs Fare Hike

Thursday, December 13, 2012

As expected, the head of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority is recommending the agency raise the base fare for subways and buses by 25 cents, and increase the cost of a 30-day MetroCard from $104 to $112.

Joe Lhota outlined his recommendation in a memo sent to MTA board members Thursday. The board is expected to approve the fare hike at its meeting next week. It would go into effect in March 2013.

Lhota says in his memo that the increase in fares and tolls will raise an additional $450 million annually for the agency.

To learn more, read the memo below, or download a pdf of it here.

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Transportation Nation

WATCH: Superstorm Sandy: The Devastating Impact on the Nation's Largest Transportation Systems

Thursday, December 06, 2012

(The hearings have ended.  Here's our story. Follow along with the live webcast of a Senate subcommittee hearing here . It begins at 10:30 eastern time.

We will be tweeting highlights -- so follow along.

Here's who's on tap to testify.

Witness Panel 1

  • Honorable Charles Schumer
    United States Senator, New York
  • Honorable Robert Menendez
    United States Senator, New Jersey
  • Honorable Kirsten Gillibrand
    United States Senator, New York

Witness Panel 2

  • Mr. John Porcari
    Deputy Secretary
    U.S. Department of Transportation

Witness Panel 3

  • Mr. Joseph Boardman
    National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
  • Mr. Joseph Lhota
    Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
    Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Mr. Patrick Foye
    Executive Director
    Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  • Mr. James Weinstein
    Executive Director
    NJ Transit
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Transportation Nation

(LISTEN) MTA Head Joe Lhota: How We Fixed the Flooded Subway

Monday, November 05, 2012

MTA chairman Joe Lhota (L) speaking with an MTA worker. (Photo by MTA via flickr)

Listen to the conversation with WNYC's Amy Eddings below.

(New York, NY) Just one week after Hurricane Sandy turned New York City's subway tunnels into something out of Waterworld, service is back up and running on almost every line. But how?

MTA chairman Joe Lhota told WNYC the credit belonged to the agency's employees. "The workers of the Transit Authority...I will tell you I've never seen a bunch of people work so hard to get the system back up and running."

And here's how they did it: "They've been cleaning [signals] by hand, literally," he said. "First you had to pump out the water, then you had to wipe down the mud that was left down there, then you had to literally wipe down the rail, and then fix each and every one of the switches by cleaning them and making sure there was no salt to prevent the electric conductivity."

Lhota said after that process, the MTA then powered up the system and ran test trains before resuming service.

"We're making progress every day," he said, adding that the rest of the lines would be operating "soon."

"That's our intent, to be able to...get the L later in the week, get the G later in the week, getting all the other trains later in the week. We want to get the #1 train eventually down to Rector Street, we'll try to do that by the middle of the week...inch by inch, rail by rail, we're going to get there," he said on WNYC radio.

Later in the conversation Lhota told WNYC's Amy Eddings -- who relies on the G train to get to work: "You'll get the G soon. Can't tell you exactly when, but you'll get the G real soon."

What probably will take a little longer: retooling New York city's infrastructure to withstand future floods. "There are some more substantive things that need to be done," said Lhota, and "not just for the subway should be a concerted effort on the part of the city and the state and taking the best minds in the architectural world and the water mitigation world and figure out what exactly can we do to prevent this from happening again?"

Any effort to prevent flooding, he said, "It's not just going to be limited to the subways. It shouldn't be."

Want to know what's running and what's not? Check our Transit Tracker.


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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: All Aboard the Brooklyn-Manhattan "Bus Bridge"

Friday, November 02, 2012

MTA head Joe Lhota stopped by the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station in Brooklyn on Friday morning to greet passengers waiting in line for the buses over the Manhattan Bridge.

Lines are long but from this video it looks like they were moving quickly.

The buses will be in place until subway service between the two boroughs is restored.


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Transportation Nation

Put Away That MetroCard: No Transit Fares in NY on Thursday, Friday

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Flooding at the South Ferry subway station (photo courtesy of NY MTA)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday night that he was "declaring a transportation emergency" and authorized the MTA to waive fares on subways, buses, and rail lines through Friday.

Cuomo said that decision was prompted in part by the grueling traffic in Manhattan on Wednesday. He called the gridlock "dangerous" and said he wanted to encourage people to use transit.

But the subway system that will be up and running Thursday will not be the system New Yorkers are used to. Only 14 of the 23 lines will be operational, and even those will be running in segments. LIRR service is being slowly phased back in. Cuomo said one bright point was that roughly 50% of regular customers would have normal service on the Metro-North commuter rail line.

"Bear with us," said MTA head Joe Lhota, who was seated next to the governor at the last-minute press conference. He called the damage done by Hurricane Sandy the "most devastating event ever to happen to the MTA."

There are still subway tunnels flooded with water from "floor to ceiling," said Cuomo. Beginning Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers will begin deploying 250 "high-speed pumping devices" to aid water removal. These will be operated around the clock until the tunnels are clear.

Meanwhile, to shuttle passengers between Brooklyn and Manhattan, the MTA will put 330 buses into service to act as a bus bridge. Late Wednesday night the New York City Department of Transportation released more details about how the bus lanes will be structured. DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said the city was creating a "surface subway."

Starting at 6am tomorrow -- timed to coincide with the start of the subway -- buses will operate over Manhattan Bridge via a two-way bus lane on the lower level. These bus-only lanes will be operational 24/7 and will be enforced by the NYPD. Buses will also go over the Williamsburg Bridge. In both cases, buses will make major stops on their way uptown via the Bowery and Third Avenue along a dedicated curbside lane -- which he said will also be enforced by the NYPD.

The buses will run up to 55th Street, then turn around and head back to Brooklyn on Lexington Avenue.

For more information about transit service in New York, visit our Transit Tracker.







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Transportation Nation

(UPDATED) NY MTA: Some, Not All Buses Back, No Timetable for Subways

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

10:11am: A beheaded subway entrance. (photo by Jim O'Grady)

UPDATE: Tuesday 4:50 PM: The MTA's Charles Seaton says not all bus routes will be running Wednesday morning, that limited routes will be running. Those will be announced later Tuesday evening.

UPDATE Tuesday 11:50 AM: The latest on MTA and NYC transpo is always at our Transit Tracker.

Some bus service will begin at 5 p.m. on a Sunday schedule.

There is no timetable yet for subway service resumption. Governor Andrew Cuomo and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said in a joint press conference Tuesday morning they hope to have full bus service restored Wednesday morning. No fares will be charged through Wednesday.

Portions of subway service will return in pieces as it is able. Buses will be used to connect fractured sections.

Flooding could keep east river crossings shut for some time. The Clark, Steinway, Rutgers and Strawberry Street tubes under the East River are all flooded. Lhota said pumps are clearing the Joralemon Street tube and will have it dry in a few hours.

No buses or trains were damaged because of effective shut down preparations. Assessment of the extent of the damage on the tracks "will take a little bit more time than we thought," Lhota said.

Lhotoa said flooding at the South Street subway station was "literally up to the ceiling."

Pumping is underway in the Battery Tunnel.

Metro-North has no power from 59th Street to Croton.


POSTED Tuesday 9:05 AM: MTA chair Joe Lhota spoke to WNYC's Soterios Johnson Monday morning about the extent of the damage to the subway system. Listen to the interview below, and read the partial transcript of his remarks.

Lhota said he knew last night there was a problem. "Last night I was downtown and it was pretty obvious...I saw the water surge coming up, realizing that the systems were going to be affected. Our electrical systems, our alarm systems, tell us when there's water down there. They basically shut off. It's an automatic system...they would only shut off if there was water down there."

Johnson asked Lhota just how bad the flooding was. "The assessment is ongoing. Dawn is just cracking right now," Lhota said, adding that the sunlight would help with the assessment process, "which is going to be ongoing. We'll report back to New Yorkers later in the day as to what we have assessed, and determine how long it's going to take to get the system back up and running. One thing I do want everyone to focus on is the fact of how dynamic and how robust the New York City subway system is." And New Yorkers need to understand: "We're going to be flexible, we're going to try to be creative. Those systems that can be up and running, those portions of the system that can be up and running -- I want them up and running as quickly as possible. Then use our bus service and our buses -- re-route them in such a way that they supplement and complement each other. And that's what I mean by creativity: if there's a portion of  the system that's going to take longer to repair, that doesn't mean the whole system is down...we're New Yorkers, we adapt very very well."

Johnson asked if salt water had flooded the subways. "I can't imagine that it's fresh water, it's going to be at best brackish, but for the most part it's salt," Lhota said. "Water and electricity never mix properly, but when you add salt to it, once the water is gone, the salt leaves a film...the way electronics work on the subway system is two pieces of metal running together conducting electricity. And it there's anything in between those two pieces of metal -- like film left over from salt -- that needs to be cleaned off because the connections need to be clear and straightforward for us to manage the process of making the subway system safe."

Johnson asked Lhota what his worst-case scenario for restoration of subway service. "I literally can't answer that until later today," Lhota said. "his happened overnight, it's been ongoing, the assessment's been ongoing, and we've called...all of our workers backs." "Are we talking days or weeks?" asked Johnson. "It's unfair to me -- I'm going to  try to get this up and running as quickly as I possibly can," said Lhota. "I really don't want to be tied down to answering that question the way you've asked it because it'll be something that will linger out would be a scientific wild guess on my part to answer it that way and I just need to get better information and then determine it."

As to when the bridges and tunnels will be open: "I literally just sent a text message to Pat Foye, the head of the Port Authority," said Lhota. "He and I need to figure out how to open up the bridges, how to open up the tunnels. The wind has calmed down significantly...the tunnels, if they're dry, the assessment can be relatively straightforward. [But] the bridges, given the extent of the wind, we're going to need a couple hours having the engineers assess that there's no damage to any of the bridges. We experienced at the Triborough - RFK bridge wind gusts over 100 miles an hour last night. That's extraordinary. We've got to make sure that the integrity of the bridge is there. I'm confident that it is, but out of an abundance of caution we're going to need at least two hours for our engineers to go through and assess to make sure that the bridges are safe. I think they're safe -- in fact I'm almost positive they're safe -- but out of an abundance of caution, we will do the work we need to do."

Johnson asked about the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter rail lines. "First off," said Lhota, "we're trying to count the number of trees that are downed on Metro North and it's going to be in the hundreds...we're going up in a helicopter today to assess the entire system from the air to determine where we have our problems. The Long Island Rail Road experienced an enormous amount of flooding all through the South Shore, the Babylon branch all the way out to ...Montauk. We're assessing that right now and will determine how far we can go." He continued: "I am very worried about power....the power is a problem. It's an electric subway system for the most part. Some of our commuter rail system is electric as well, some it's diesel, or a combination...we need electricity to run. So this power problem in the tri-state area is significant for getting us up and running on the commuter rail front...the power on Metro North is down from 59th Street in Manhattan all the way up to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson line, all the way up to New Haven, Connecticut on the New Haven line. We have no power on the system at this time."

In terms of the actual conditions of the rails: "We're going to have to evaluate it," Lhota said. "We're going to have to walk ths system to determine the extent of it and we're also going to have to cut up all the trees that are in the way and get them out of the way."

With reporting by Alex Goldmark


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Transportation Nation

Road Trip: NY Transit Officials Head Upstate to Inspect Subway Hatchery

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This car will one day ride the rails in Chicago. (Photo by Pat Bradley/WAMC)

(With reporting from Pat Bradley, WAMC) Earlier this week, New York MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and NYC Transit President Tom Prendergast made a 300 mile pilgrimage north to a place of significance to city transit riders: the Bombardier manufacturing plant in Plattsburgh, New York.

"My understanding is two-thirds of all the equipment that's been made here has actually shown up at either the New York City Transit Authority, or the Long Island Rail Road, or Metro-North," said Lhota.

(Pat Bradley/WAMC)

And that trend will continue: in June, the MTA signed a $600 million contract with Bombardier to build 300 new subway cars. Those cars are in the design phase and will be delivered to NYC in 2015.

Bombardier also makes rail cars for systems across the country, including BART, CTA, and NJ Transit.

(Pat Bradley/WAMC)

Lhota told reporters that while he toured the facility, he paid attention to the little details. "When I was on the train that's being built for NJ  Transit," he said, "I was noticing they put little coat racks behind each one of the chairs, where someone could put a coat or a sweater, or put their purse -- that's a great little feature."

A future NJ Transit rail car (Pat Bradley/WAMC)

He also took the opportunity to point out that what's good for downstate transit is good for upstate.

"Whenever I go to Albany, and I want to talk about the MTA -- for those folks who are not from the New York metropolitan area, they're going to say 'well, why should we care about the MTA?'" Lhota recounted. "Most of what we spend on our capital program -- the billions of dollars that we spend on new cars, on rails -- most, not all of it, but a huge majority of it, is made in New York State....we need the product, we help people up here get the jobs."

A NJ Transit rail car (Pat Bradley/WAMC)

Listen to WAMC reporter Pat Bradley's story about the visit.

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Transportation Nation

NY MTA: Suburban Passengers Get $7 Subsidy Per Ride, Subway Riders, A Buck

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tax subsidy per average ride.

LISTEN: Get more details in this conversation as WNYC's Richard Hake speaks to MTA head Joe Lhota.


NY's MTA Chief said his agency contributes more than $7 to each Long Island Railroad passenger's ride, compared to just over a dollar per subway ride.

Joe Lhota came out swinging Thursday in defense of the payroll mobility tax struck down by a state court Wednesday. (Full ruling)

Lhota held a press conference in Grand Central Terminal to call the ruling "flawed and erroneous." He showed up armed with some figures.

Suburban rides on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad receive a bigger subsidy per ride, than NYC subway rides.

The tax funds $1.8 billion of the MTA budget, about 15 percent. The tax is levied in 12 counties where the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority operates subways, buses, bridges, or commuter rail. It is a constant political football for suburban districts around New York City who feel they are paying for the city's subway.

Here are the subsidies for the average ride for each of the three rail networks operated by the MTA.

LIRR: $7.34
Metro-North: $4.26
Subway: $1.11

Now, there are billions of rides taken on the subway and only about 80 million on LIRR (and we're tracking down the additional figures to flush out this kind of comparison) but Lhota's point is that the subsidy isn't exactly a suburbs-to-city stream of tax money. The biggest winners are the riders of Long Island Rail Road, coincidentally, exactly the people who vote for Nassau County (aka Long Island) Executive, Ed Mangano, the man who filed the lawsuit challenging the mobility tax.

Here's a primer on the mobility tax and four other fees that could also be overturned if the court ruling stands courtesy of the MTA:

Fees and Taxes affected by the ruling according to the MTA:

  • Vehicle Registration Fee – Vehicle registrants residing in the 12-county district pay an additional $50 to register a car for each 2-year period.
  • Taxi Surcharge – A 50¢ surcharge on all medallion taxi (yellow cab) trips that begin within New York City and end within the 12-county MTA service territory.
  • Automobile Rental Tax – Automobile rental charges within the 12-county MTA region incur an additional tax of 5%.
  • Auto License Fee – $2/year for each driver's license. So most people pay an additional $16 fee at the time of their renewal.

And here's how the MTA explains the payroll tax collection:

As for the Payroll Mobility Tax itself it is paid by employers and self-employed individuals earning more than $50,000/year located within the MTA’s 12-county region at rates ranging from 0.11%, or 11¢ for every $100 paid to employees, to 0.34%.On December 12, 2011, Governor Cuomo signed legislation revising the Mobility Tax structure by exempting or reducing some categories of taxpayers who had been paying the 0.34% rate, as follows:

  • Self-employed individuals earning less than $50,000 per year (Exempt)
  • Businesses w/ annual payroll between $10,000 and $1.25 million (Exempt)
  • Public and private elementary and secondary schools (Exempt)
  • Businesses w/annual payroll = $1.25 million -$1.5 million (0.11%)
  • Businesses w/annual payrolls = $1.5 million and $1.75 million (0.23%)


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Transportation Nation

NY MTA Losing $100 Million Annually To Fare Evasion

Monday, June 25, 2012

NY MTA chairman Joe Lhota, at Monday's committee meetings  (photo by Kate Hinds)

Fare evasion costs New York City $100 million a year. And it's worse on buses than subways.

Putting an exact number on the city's problem is difficult, officials said at Monday's New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority committee meeting. Thomas Prendergast, the president of New York City Transit, said "I believe the number is between $50 and $75 million (annually)."

But later that morning, an MTA official said internal estimates put that number closer to $100 million a year -- with fare evasion on buses alone accounting for over $50 million a year.

MTA head Joe Lhota said he met last month with NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly. The result: police are stepping up enforcement and spot checks on buses -- and the effort involves both uniform and undercover officers.

"This new effort has just started," said Lhota, "and I think we'll see the fruit of this relatively soon."

So far this year (as of 6/24), police have made 1,228 "theft of service" arrests on city buses. That's up 72% compared to the same period last year.

Thomas Prendergast said he found some of the fare evasion numbers surprising. "We have the higher end of the rates in Staten Island," he said, "where there's a lot of school service and a lot of the fare evasion may be students."

So far this year there have been 60 arrests for fare evasion in that borough.

Prendergast said he wanted to produce a thorough report on the problem, "rather than just making anecdotal comments."

One board member asked Prendergast why fare evasion occurs more often on buses. "At the front end of my career," said Prendergast, "I drove a bus for 30 days and qualified as a bus operator in Chicago. And let me tell you, it's one of the most difficult jobs."

He then painted a stark picture of a situation drivers could find themselves in. "If you want to work midnight to eight, by yourself on a bus, and challenge somebody for a fare -- we require people to challenge once for a fare -- versus sitting in a booth and calling someone if someone doesn't pay a fare -- it's a very, very complicated issue."

And not a financially insignificant one. "Every dollar we can save from fare evasion is a dollar we can spend for other things," he said.

To give that $100 million figure some context: in 2010, the MTA cut 38 bus lines -- and reduced service on 76 more -- to save $93 million a year.

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