A lot riding on new management of the MTA

The subway station near the 59th Street Columbus Circle Station.
The subway station near the 59th Street Columbus Circle Station. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

The MTA’s focus so far this summer has been on improving the lousy subway service and navigating the political warfare of how to pay for the repairs. Now the agency is finally getting around to the other long-overdue fix: its management.

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, who was recruited to return to the agency in June, smartly has split what had been the executive director’s job into two positions. It was an impossible task to oversee it all — the daily operations of mass transit in 12 populous counties, including a 24-hour subway and bus system in one of the world’s busiest cities, and the deal-making and money management of a $32.5 billion capital plan to modernize and maintain an aging infrastructure.

The responsibility for implementing the $836 million emergency plan to restore the broken system falls to Veronique Hakim, the new managing director in charge of operations for NYC Transit, Metro-North and the LIRR, and Pat Foye, the new president, who’s in charge of long-range plans to improve and modernize not only the system’s physical infrastructure but also the infrastructure of MTA itself.

Hakim, who was head of the subway system previously and the acting head of the MTA since January, has been adeptly handling emergency plans during “summer of hell” repairs at Penn Station. Foye, who brings deep experience in the private and public sector, most recently headed the Port Authority. There, he created the successful public-private partnerships that overhauled the Goethals Bridge and that are now modernizing LaGuardia Airport.

Those skills will be needed if the MTA is going to spend its money well. Foye got positive train control, an anti-collision, anti-detrailment technology, implemented on PATH transit for New Jersey. Now he needs to get it done for the MTA systems. In managing assets, Foye should sell unneeded MTA properties and create an education program to recruit and train workers for more than 2,000 jobs so maintenance doesn’t fall behind again.

Lhota has confidence in his team, and now all three will be accountable for restoring public confidence in the MTA.