News that Ms. Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim is leaving her position as Metropolitan Transportation Authority managing director is disappointing for MTA employees along with transportation riders, advocates, taxpayers and other funding agency partners.
Many including myself will look back in MTA history to point out that Ms.Hakim would have made an excellent choice to replace Joe Lhota as MTA President. In her current position as MTA managing director she played a major role in attempting to solve ongoing problems of running the nation’s largest public transit system.
As NYC Transit president, she ran the nations 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, Long Island Rail Road 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.
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. The same will be true for the next MTA $40 to $50 billion 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Program.
She made an excellent advocate for formula and potentially billions more in future Federal Transit Administration discretionary dollars.
Gov. Cuomo claims to be a friend and advocate for women. His actions speak otherwise as in this case he was mistaken in not selecting her as the first full-time female MTA president.
Ms.Hakim could have broken the glass ceiling for women. She was clearly better qualified for the position than current MTA President Pat Foye. She has consistently proven her experience to hit the ground running on behalf of commuters and taxpayers in whatever capacity during her career in the public transportation field.
I worked with her during my many years as Director of Operations and Program Management for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. She will be missed by all including those who had the privilege of working with her.
(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.