With Joe Lhota’s Impending Mayoral Run, Transit Can’t Be Ignored in 2013

A few quick thoughts on the news that MTA Chair Joe Lhota is going to leave the agency at the end of week to clear the way for a mayoral run…

Photo: MTA via ##http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Joseph_J._Lhota.jpg##WikiMedia Commons##

There are basically two angles to consider. One is that the MTA is about to lose its chief executive, yet again, after a brief but effective tenure. When Lhota replaced Jay Walder at the end of 2010, the major concern was that the region was losing someone who rose through the ranks at the world’s most complex transit agencies and gaining a former deputy mayor with no transit jobs on his resume. Despite his lack of transit expertise, Lhota turned out to be a good person to have in charge. He kept making headway on Walder initiatives like the expansion of real-time transit data, and his handling of the post-Sandy recovery process produced a spectacularly rare outcome: a public relations victory for the MTA. If he’s using the MTA chair position as a springboard to politics, Lhota must have been doing something right. It won’t be easy for Andrew Cuomo to fill the void.

The other angle, which I think is more significant, is that a sitting MTA chair entering the mayoral race is bound to elevate transit as an electoral issue. We can speculate all day long about what a hypothetical Lhota mayoralty would mean for transit, but just by running, he’ll guarantee that trains and buses get more attention than in a typical NYC mayoral election, which tends to reduce transportation to a second- or third-tier issue.

We’ll see whether New York City voters get a substantive discussion of major transit issues — the MTA’s punishing debt burden, the opportunities to significantly improve the city’s surface transit network — or just an amplified version of the usual MTA blame game, with Lhota serving as the other candidates’ punching bag. But with Lhota in the mix, transit can’t be ignored in the 2013 campaign.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe we’ll even get candidates who know what the City Speed Limit is….

  • Shemp

    As the hurricane bore down……

    Joe Lhota (@JoeLhota) tweeted at 0:52 PM on Mon, Oct 29, 2012:Maybe this is why bike and bus accidents are up 25% in NYC between 2011 & 2012. @jfermino http://t.co/RMEBiQIj http://t.co/xTJgV904(https://twitter.com/JoeLhota/status/262960034382741504)

  • Miles Bader

    Yeah.  I get why people are annoyed that he left, but having a mayor who actually has a clue about, and hands-on experience with, transit would be hugely valuable to the city…. and that’s especially true given the group of complete jokers that are currently aiming at the position.  However nice it was to have a competent head of the MTA, he might make much more difference as mayor…

    I also think it’s somewhat churlish to ask someone to not follow their dream just because it’s more convenient for us that they not do so… he did a good and honorable job while in the position, and left the city a better place.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Cuomo Selects Joe Lhota as Next MTA Chair

|
Governor Andrew Cuomo today named Joseph Lhota as his pick to run the nation’s largest transit system. Lhota, a former deputy mayor and budget director under mayor Rudy Giuliani, will officially hold the position of MTA CEO after a confirmation vote by the New York State Senate, which is not expected to pose much of […]

After 102 Days, Cuomo Finally Names Tom Prendergast MTA Chief

|
Today Governor Andrew Cuomo named Tom Prendergast Chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Prendergast had been serving as interim executive director of the agency for more than three months, since Joseph Lhota departed at the end of last year to run for mayor. Prendergast, like previous MTA chiefs Lee Sander and Jay Walder, brings deep experience […]
Lhota during his first stint as MTA chief. Photo:  MTA/Marc Hermann via Wikimedia Commons

Joe Lhota Is Cuomo’s MTA Chief, Again, Sort Of

|
Late yesterday, Andrew Cuomo nominated former MTA chief Joe Lhota to resume the role at a time when the agency is grappling with a decline in reliability that has reached crisis proportions. Lhota was hastily confirmed by the State Senate as the 2017 legislative session came to an end last night.

MTA Reorg: Respected Exec Monheim Out, Cuomo Operative In

|
A “shake-up” is underway at the top levels of the MTA, reported Crain’s Insider this morning. Two top executives, Charles Monheim and Linda Kleinbaum, are on their way out the door. Moving into the agency is Steve Morello, a political operative with deep ties to the Cuomo family. The departure of Monheim represents a loss […]