Gov. Cuomo’s appointments for his new Metropolitan Transportation Authority is the equivalent of placing three bets at the transportation race track.
One is a winner, the second will place and the third show.
The winner was Ronnie Hakim, who as acting MTA chairman, has proved she would make an excellent choice to serve as the next MTA chairman or president.
In her new position as MTA managing director, she will be able to play a major role in solving 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 Ave. subway, East Side Access and the No. 7 subway extension to Hudson Yards.
She has served as the executive director of New Jersey Transit, the nation’s second largest transit agency.
She was 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, such as the Federal Transit Administration.
The MTA is heavily dependent upon federal assistance for over $6 billion in formula and potentially $1 billion or more in discretionary competitive funding to support the MTA’s $32 billion 2015-2019 Five-Year Capital Program.
She makes an excellent advocate for federal formula and potentially billions more in future federal discretionary dollars.
MTA Chairman Joe Lhota could not find a better first deputy to assist him in management of day to day operations. She has already proven her experience to hit the ground running on behalf of commuters and taxpayers.
The appointment of past MTA Chairman Lhota to assume his old position placed second. The good news is no doubt that as MTA chairman and CEO between November 2011 to December 2012, he did a great job bringing MTA transportation back from the damages brought by Super Storm Sandy.
Lhota’s previous experiences at the MTA and at City Hall serving as NYC finance commissioner, Office of Management and budget director and deputy mayor for operations under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani position him to hit the ground running.
The bad news is that it is disappointing to learn that he will retain his position as a senior vice president of NYU Langone Medical Center.
Now, more than ever, his MTA assignment is a full-time job well beyond the standard 9 to 5 hours most New Yorkers work.
Lhota can’t serve two employers at the same time.
Transit riders, taxpayers, transit advocates and elected officials can accept no less.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Pat Foye to be the new MTA President comes in third or shows.
He may not be the best choice.
Consider his track record at the Port Authority between 2011 and today.
The World Trade Center PATH Station costs doubled from $2 billion to $4 billion.
It took 15 years after 9/11 to complete this project many years behind schedule.
Sixteen years after 9/11, the Cortland St. World Trade Center NYC Transit No. 1 subway station is still two years away from returning to service.
The Port Authority and MTA fought for years over budget, funding sources, scope and schedule.
If there are no new delays, perhaps the station will reopen by December 2018.
The approved Port Authority 2017-2026 ten-year $32 billion Capital Plan provided only $3.5 billion toward construction of the new $10 billion 42nd St. Port Authority Bus Terminal. Initiation of yet another planning study for this project costing $70 million is just the first down payment.
After decades of discussions, the project has yet to complete the environmental review process, preliminary along with final design and engineering — let alone begin construction.
Customers may have to wait until the next Port Authority 2027-2036 Capital Plan before a complete $10 billion funding package is in place.
It may be another twenty years before completion.
After 30 years, the $10 billion Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel has yet to complete a federal environmental review process.
This project would put trucks on trains between New Jersey to either Brooklyn or Queens and on to Long Island.
Let us hope the new MTA team of Lohta, Foye and Hakim can successfully manage the MTA $32 billion, five-year, 2015-2019 Capital Program.
Taxpayers and riders will be watching and should hold Cuomo accountable if conditions do not significantly improve over the next 15 months prior to Election Day, November 2018.
(Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.)