Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Joe Lhota visited Dutchess County this week on a "goodwill mission" of sorts - Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports:
The MTA owns the Metro-North Railroad which operates the Hudson and Harlem lines in Dutchess County. Joe Lhota told a crowd of about 200 business people at a County Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast that "It's a new day at the MTA."
Lhota was New York City's deputy mayor for operations and budget director during the Guiliani administration. He was appointed to the MTA nine months ago by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Lhota came to Dutchess after the agency was heavily criticized in local media, one newspaper calling for the MTA to be dissolved - he says costs are being cut at every turn, and vows the MTA will spend less this year than it did last
The MTA is experiencing increased annual health care and pension costs. Lhota admitted the issues are being addressed. He pointed out the MTA is on track to move more than 85 million customers this year, up from 82 million in 2011.
Poughkeepsie Senator Steve Saland has been critcial of the MTA, but is encouraged by Lhota's visit.
Lhota explained he is open to lawmakers revising or replacing the payroll tax with something "more equitable." Lhota added he'd welcome legislation that would give the Hudson Valley's four representatives individual votes, rather than one shared vote on the MTA board.
He said that the MTA is negotiating the possibility to bring Metro-North's Hudson and New Haven branch trains to Penn Station, part of a reciprocal agreement which would allow LIRR service to Grand Central Station.