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MTA Chief Joe Lhota Resigns; Leaves “Part Time Job” for Higher Aspirations

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Joe Lhota leaves the agency’s finances in historically bad shape, and two fare hikes are baked into the cake over the next few years. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Before Gov. Andrew Cuomo even had a whole week to celebrate his reelection, the spotlight was put back on him and a subject he has tried skirting responsibility for, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Chairman Joe Lhota unexpectedly decided to resign, ending his short return to the agency.

Under Lhota, the M.T.A. launched an action plan that is trying to stabilize and then modernize the subways, but it essentially failed. He also put into place Andy Byford to overlook the subways and buses. While progress is being made on paper, the subways still remains in crisis. The buses are slow and unreliable, and regional rail into and out of the city is becoming more of a hassle as well.

Lhota has led the agency during a time when ridership continues to decline. Weekend ridership over the past year is down an abysmal 9 percent or so. Part of the plan to fix the subways includes doing a lot of work on weekends and nights, but Lhota failed to explain this whole process to straphangers and make sure that getting around the work on the weekends wasn’t so confusing that people would simply give up and ride in a taxi. He leaves the agency’s finances in historically bad shape, and two fare hikes are baked into the cake over the next few years.

The acting chairman will be Fernando Ferrer, the M.T.A. board’s vice chairman and former Bronx borough president, The Daily News reports.

The system is slightly improving as the investments start paying off from hundreds of millions of dollars, The New York Times reports. There are still major problems, and most of these wouldn’t be seriously addressed until the next phase of the action plan when the subway system would be modernized. Updating signal systems and making other necessary upgrades, including the purchase of new rolling stock and maintaining/expanding rail yards, could demand over $40 billion.

“There is still a long way to go to achieve the performance that New Yorkers demand and deserve,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Critics also took issue with Lhota for acting as chairman only part-time and for his conflicts of interest, The Daily News reports. One of the most controversial conflicts of interest came from him getting paid six figures to be on the board of Madison Square Garden, which could have interfered with Lhota’s ability to fairly assess decisions being made to the arena and Penn Station, which is used by the subways and Long Island Railroad.

Riders continue to want improvements as they haven’t noticed many positive changes despite what the M.T.A. says.

Leah St. Clair, 21, took issue with the aging fleet of the subway.

“Sometimes, you can’t hear the conductor on the older trains,” St. Clair, said. She comes into the city from Long Island. The regional railroads operated under the M.T.A. replace their rolling stock more frequently than the subways do but can still run into aging equipment issues that never get fixed or replaced.

“I’m tired of these old trains. I’m tired of these delays. I’m tired of everything,” Nekeis Guity, of Castle Hill, the Bronx said.

By: Michael Eric Rosenthal

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