Joseph Lhota, a former New York City deputy mayor and budget director, was nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo to head the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the biggest U.S. transit agency.
Lhota, 57, will replace Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jay Walder, who has served since 2009, according to a statement today from Cuomo’s office. Lhota, executive vice president at Madison Square Garden Co., was deputy mayor of operations under former Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Before that he was budget director, managing a $36 billion operating budget and $45 billion capital plan, the statement said.
“Joe Lhota brings one-of-a-kind managerial, government, and private-sector experience to the job and a lifelong commitment to public service that will benefit all straphangers,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said in the statement. “I look forward to working together as we continue to reform the MTA, reduce costs, and improve service.”
The MTA operates the city’s subways, buses and commuter railroads, including Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad, and carries 8.5 million riders a day.
New at Helm
Lhota, along with Patrick Foye at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, face the task of developing transportation policy as regional population growth, aging infrastructure and declining revenue strain both agencies. Cuomo nominated Foye yesterday to replace Executive Director Christopher Ward, who will leave his post at the end of this month.
Lhota’s appointment is subject to state Senate confirmation, and he’s expected to begin as interim CEO within one month, the statement said.
In other appointments, Cuomo, 53, named as chief operating officer Nuria Fernandez, currently senior vice president at CH2M Hill, an engineering, construction and operations services company. He selected as his deputy secretary of transportation Karen Rae, who in March 2009 was named deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration by the Obama administration.
Hong Kong Bound
Walder announced in July that he would become chief executive officer of MTR Corp., Hong Kong’s urban rail operator. At the MTA, he’s cut 3,500 jobs and curbed overtime pay as part of an initiative that began last year to produce $3.8 billion in cumulative operating savings by 2014.
The MTA’s 2011 budget calls for $12.1 billion in spending. Its four-year fiscal plan, which the board proposed in July and will vote on in December, counts on freezing pay and raising fees to erase deficits for two years without cutting service.
“Joe Lhota will be taking on one of the toughest jobs in government in one of the harshest economic times in America,” Gene Russianoff, a spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, a Manhattan-based public-transportation advocacy group, said in a statement.
“Millions of riders will be looking to Mr. Lhota to maintain and improve the quality of service and to work to keep fares affordable,” he said. “We also want a vocal and visible advocate for the subways, buses and commuter rail, one who will speak up if the budget cuts are hurting service.”
Securing funds to replace aging infrastructure, improving relations with labor unions and keeping the agency’s promises to cut costs are among Lhota’s biggest challenges, said Russianoff, an attorney and member of Cuomo’s MTA Search Advisory Committee.
In 2002, Lhota joined Cablevision Systems Corp., the owner and operator of Madison Square Garden until it was spun off in 2010, and has overseen government affairs, human resources, and information technology as executive vice president of administration since 2005. He also spent 15 years in public-finance investment banking at PaineWebber and CS First Boston.
Lhota received a master’s in business administration in 1980 from Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a bachelor of science in business administration from Georgetown University in Washington.