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MTA announces first woman to lead subway car maintenance

Siu Ling Ko, Vice President and Chief Mechanical Officer, Car Equipment, at the Smith-9 Sts Station on Fri., September 17, 2021. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA)
Marc A. Hermann / MTA

Siu Ling Ko will be the first woman to take over the role of maintaining the city’s more than 7,000-car subway fleet as vice president and chief mechanical officer of subway car equipment with New York City Transit, the MTA announced Sunday.

“I am honored to accept this role,” said Ko in a statement. “Riders are returning to the subway system and our team is as prepared as ever to deliver world class subway service for millions of New Yorkers.”

The freshly-minted transit leader is the first woman in the position at the mass transit agency that is predominantly male at both the rank-and-file and leadership level.

A 34-year veteran of NYCT’s Subway Car Equipment division, Ko will oversee the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of 7,092 subway cars and the 24/7 operation of 13 maintenance yards and two overhaul and locomotive shops. 

“Having started with Siu in the 1980s as junior engineers in Car Equipment, I know firsthand her wealth of experience and knowledge makes her uniquely qualified for this leadership role,” said NYCT interim president Craig Cipriano in a statement. “Her decades of experience will help move us towards our goal of making subways faster and more reliable, and her appointment as the first woman to serve in the role of Chief Mechanical Officer furthers our commitment to diversify our leadership ranks and create opportunities for all.”

Ko started as an associate engineering technician at NYCT more than three decades ago and has held several positions since.

She has directed maintenance, overhaul shop and new car procurement audits, new car contract warranty programs, and technology services, along with maintenance and repair, according to MTA.

Ko got her degree in electrical engineering from NYU Tandon School of Engineering in Downtown Brooklyn. 

Of MTA’s 69,639 employees, 12,513 were women, or 18%, however only 30% of the workforce are white, according to the September Diversity Committee books. 

The highest share of female employees is at MTA Headquarters at 2 Broadway and its Construction and Development arm, both at 35%, while the lowest is at the Metro-North Railroad at just 12%. 

Out of the seven executive leadership positions, the only woman is Catherine Rinaldi, president of Metro-North, while there are two more women out of 11 additional leadership positions listed on MTA’s website. 

Only four out of 21 MTA board members are women. 

Cipriano’s predecessor at the helm of NYCT, Sarah Feinberg, was nominated by disgraced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo to share the MTA’s top job with Janno Lieber, which would have made her the first woman to lead MTA. But the State Legislature in Albany declined to move forward with a bill to split the role into a separate chairperson and chief executive officer. 

Governor Kathy Hochul has not yet said whether she supports the bifurcation law, but noted earlier this month she is “very confident” in Lieber, who holds both roles in a six-month acting capacity until February 2022, with a possible three-month extension to May.

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