The appointment of Canadian transportation executive Mario Peloquin to replace retiring Metropolitan Transportation Authority managing director Ms. Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim is disappointing for MTA employees, along with riders, advocates, taxpayers and other funding agency partners.
There are hundreds of experienced MTA HQ, MTA Office of Capital Construction, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Rail Road senior management staff who were well qualified to fill this vacancy.
Why did the MTA have to go out of town, let alone out of the country to find someone? Any successful organization, grooms, trains and promotes from within their own company. This can only have an adverse impact on the morale of hundreds of managers, along with thousands of MTA employees, many of whom have successfully worked for decades in making the system better.
In her position as MTA managing director she played a major role in working to solve ongoing problems of running the nation’s largest public transit system.
As NYC Transit president, she ran the nation’s largest bus and subway system. She also served as special counsel at NYC Transit, as well as executive vice president and president. As general counsel at the MTA Capital Construction, she worked on mega projects such as the Second Avenue Subway, LIRR East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal and the #7 subway Hudson Yards extension.
She has served as the executive director of New Jersey Transit, the nation’s second-largest transit agency. She also served as executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. While working for both the MTA and NJ Transit, she never promised what could not be delivered. As they say in Brooklyn, her word was her bond. This gave her excellent credibility with other major funding agencies like the Federal Transit Administration.
How will Mr. Peloquin follow in the footsteps of Ms. Hakim without her experience and develop credibility with other major funding agencies like the Federal Transit Administration?
The MTA is heavily dependent upon federal assistance for close to $8 billion in formula and potentially $3 billion or more in discretionary competitive funding to support the MTA’s $51 billion 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Program.
Federal support for the MTA has actually remained consistent and is growing. It has increased over past decades.
When a crisis occurred, be it 9/11 in 2001 or Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Washington was there for us.
Additional billions in federal assistance above and beyond yearly formula allocations were provided. In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided billions more.
Most Federal Transit Administration grants require a 20 percent hard cash local share. In many cases, Uncle Sam accepted toll credits instead of cash. This saved the MTA $1 billion dollars in the previous 2010-2014 Five Year Capital Program.
These savings may grow closer to $1.7 billion dollars in the next $51 billion 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Program.
NYC Mayor de Blasio or Gov. Cuomo would be wise in considering appointing Ms. Hakim to serve on the MTA Board.
There is no one better to represent the interest of commuters, taxpayers and transportation advocates, than someone like her.
She has expert knowledge from the inside of how the MTA and its various operating agencies such as NYC Transit, Long Island & Metro North Rail Roads manage their respective multi-billion dollar ongoing and new capital projects and programs.
Ms. Hakim has consistently proven her experience to hit the ground running on behalf of commuters and taxpayers in whatever capacity she has served during her career in the public transportation field.
We would finally have an MTA Board member who could hold the agency’s feet to the fire and make them be truly accountable for operating, maintenance and capital improvements to support the safe and reliable transportation that all riders desire.
(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked in 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.)