As the New York legislative session came to a close Wednesday night, the senate approved Governor Cuomo’s nomination of Joe Lhota as MTA chair and CEO. Lhota served in the same role for about a year before resigning and launching a bid for New York City mayor in the 2013 race. Since then he’s been serving in a senior vice president role at NYU Langone Medical Center.
A lot has changed since Lhota stepped down at the end of 2012. Here’s a quick update for the “new” chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority:
- The subway network has grown — In the last few years, the MTA completed the 7 train extension to 34th Street-Hudson Yards, as well as the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway, with three new stations served by the Q train on the Upper East Side.
- And so have subway delays — Back in 2012, there were 28,000 subway delays each month on average. In 2016, that number was up to about 70,000 delays each month — a 150 percent increase.
- SBS routes have tripled — There are now more than a dozen Select Bus Service routes in New York City compared to just four at the beginning of 2013.
- There’s WiFi and cellular service everywhere — While we would have preferred a new signal system before we got WiFi, it comes in handy for telling Governor Cuomo when trains are delayed due to problems with the signal system.
- We’re not settling for lousy bus service anymore — Lhota is probably going to focus more of his attention on the rapidly deteriorating state of New York City’s subway network, but bus service isn’t doing so hot either. We’re starting to see things headed in the right direction though, thanks in no small part to the Bus Turnaround coalition, which has identified ways to make buses work better.
- The agency is falling behind — As the MTA struggles to provide basic service, other transit agencies are picking up the torch of innovation: San Francisco and Houston are attracting new bus riders by thinking outside the box, and Seattle and Paris are investing in ambitious rail expansion projects.
- Politicians are paying attention — It’s not just advocates like us who are keeping tabs on the MTA. While some local elected officials still focus on the needs of the “apocryphal working stiffs” who drive to work, many know that their constituents rely on the MTA, and they’re starting to pay closer attention.
Of course, there’s plenty that hasn’t changed. We’re still waiting for a replacement for the MetroCard, we still have subway signals from the 1930s, we’re still running trains from the 1960s, East Side Access still isn’t done, and most B Division subway lines still don’t have real-time arrival information.