MTA Announces A New Metro-North Railroad President

A week ago today, the MTA issued a press release to announce their selection to be the next president of the Metro-North Railroad. The successor will be Howard R. Permut who will take over after current Metro-North President Peter A. Cannito retires on July 15th. Here is the full press release courtesy of the MTA:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority today announced the selection of Howard R. Permut as President of MTA Metro-North Railroad. Permut is currently Metro-North’s Vice President of Planning, Development and Procurement. He was part of the original team that created Metro-North out of the Conrail commuter operations in New York and Connecticut in 1983. Permut will assume the position when current Metro-North President Peter A. Cannito retires on July 15.

A native New Yorker, Permut has been at the forefront of Metro-North’s vision to expand service, ridership and revenue – both East and West of the Hudson River. Under his leadership, programs were developed to improve and expand train scheduling, market and advertise current and new services and create innovative strategies to increase train station access via parking spaces and multi-modal connecting services.

As a result of these initiatives, Permut is largely credited with facilitating the emergence of Metro-North as the transportation mode of choice in the discretionary off-peak and reverse peak markets while maintaining the railroad’s 85% market share of the traditional Manhattan-bound peak commuter. Permut has also provided leadership and expertise in Metro-North’s relationships with its service partners – both for the railroad’s current operations (Connecticut Department of Transportation for the New Haven Line and NJ Transit for the West of Hudson services) and for the creation of new service opportunities (New York State Department of Transportation, Amtrak and local municipalities).

“We interviewed a wide range of candidates and I am delighted that the best candidate was an internal one,” said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO. “Howard has been part of Metro-North’s creation and rebirth and his experience and unique perspective more than qualify him to lead Metro-North into the future. It is also a tribute to Pete Cannito that his successor is one of his direct reports. I again wish to extend my thanks to Pete for this and all his contributions during his tenure.”

Permut’s initial priorities for Metro-North include maintaining the high levels of safety and service reliability while planning for the railroad’s future. “It is an honor to have been chosen to lead such a terrific workforce and I thank Lee for this opportunity,” Permut said. “It is my intention to maintain the already high levels of service Metro-North provides its customers and the region at large. As every Metro-North President has done before me, I will work with our customers, employees and service partners to continue improvements so, together, we can strive to make this railroad an acknowledged brand name for excellence.”

A planner by training, Permut began his career in Chicago in 1975, working for the Northeastern Illinois Regional Transportation Authority. As a Manager of Capital Programs there, he developed facility improvement plans for railroad, bus and rapid transit systems serving the greater Chicago area. He returned to New York in 1979, joining the MTA as a Senior Policy Planner, specializing in assessing policy and program analyses with a particular focus on labor relations. He was one of 10 people chosen to form Metro-North from the dilapidated Conrail commuter lines in New York and Connecticut. On January 1, 1983 – Metro-North’s birthday – Permut became the railroad’s first Director of Planning. He continued to be promoted into positions with greater levels of responsibility throughout his 25-year career with the railroad he helped create.

Permut has shared his expertise with both students and fellow transportation specialists through a wide range of visiting scholar positions as well as memberships within professional associations in the transportation and planning disciplines. Permut holds a Masters of Science in Transportation from Northwestern University and a B.A. in Geography from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Metro-North employs approximately 6,000 employees and runs a system comprising more than 700 miles of track on 5 main lines and 3 branches in nine counties and two states. The landmarked Grand Central Terminal is its flagship station.

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Hicksville Station Parkging Garage Closed Indefinitely

Six days ago Steve Ritea along with Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday broke the news that the parking garage located at the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR)’s Hicksville station will be closed indefinitely. Here is his full report:

Be warned, motorists who use the four-level parking garage in Hicksville near the Long Island Rail Road Station.

You can’t park there today — or until further notice.

The 1,400-space garage, owned by the Town of Oyster Bay, was closed indefinitely Tuesday afternoon after a town worker spotted a crack in a structural support beam, officials said.

Town officials said motorists instead can park in Broadway Mall’s southwest lot, and shuttle service to and from the train station will be provided weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. until further notice.

Also, normal street parking restrictions will be lifted within a half-mile radius of the LIRR station, although drivers cannot park in spaces for the handicapped without the proper permit or in front of fire hydrants.

“No one has indicated any danger of an immediate collapse,” Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto said of the garage, which was built in 1971. “In the interest of everyone’s safety … the garage will be closed until further notice.”

Tuesday afternoon and evening, most commuters who returned to the garage to retrieve their vehicles were allowed to walk in and drive out on their own. Those who had parked in about 120 spots near the cracked beam, however, waited as their vehicles were driven out of the garage by a town employee as a precaution, with the vehicle turned over to the owner outside the garage.

“What took them so long to find out there were structural problems here when thousands of commuters leave their cars here every day?” asked Nancy Sherman, 48, of Jericho, holding a flier that explained the garage’s closure. She said she uses the lot when she takes the train into the city for her job with a pharmaceutical company.

Walking toward the garage to retrieve her car, she said, “We pay a lot of taxes. Where is it going if not to ensure our safety?”

Commuter Frank Nieves, 43, of Hicksville, wondered where he’ll park today before catching the train into the city for his job as a real estate manager.

“I don’t know what I’ll do,” he said. “I guess I’ll figure out a way.”

Venditto said cars not removed last night would be allowed to stay in the garage until their owners return. No one will be towed, he vowed.

The garage, at Newbridge Road and Duffy Avenue, provides roughly 20 percent of the parking spaces around the LIRR’s Hicksville station.

Venditto said the crack was found in the overnight hours of Monday into yesterday, when a town maintenance worker walking through the garage to pick up debris noticed the crack in a concrete-and-steel T-beam on the eastern side of the third level. The worker notified his supervisors.

Engineers were called in and recommended that the garage be closed until repairs could be completed.

Parking in the garage, which includes a basement level, ground level and two upper levels, is allowed by permits issued by the Town of Oyster Bay.

James Nizza, 39, of Melville, said he got a LIRR notification on his BlackBerry about the garage’s closure while heading home from the city, where he works as an insurance analyst.

“I’m not surprised. This garage has been falling apart for years, but I’m shocked that it’s an emergency situation now,” he said. “People will be irate … . It’s going to be chaos.”

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A New MTA Police Chief Appointed

A week ago today, the MTA issued a press release announcing the appointment of a new MTA Police Chief. Here is the full press release courtesy of the MTA:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced that MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot G. Sander had appointed Michael R. Coan to be Chief of the MTA Police Department, effective today.

Chief Coan is a 26-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, where he rose through the ranks from Patrol Officer to senior-level positions including Commanding Officer at two precincts, Inspector/Counter Terrorism Coordinator in Brooklyn South, and Commanding Officer for Public Information Services and Executive Officer of Manhattan South. His most recent position was Deputy Chief/Executive Officer of the NYPD Detective Bureau composed of more than 3,500 detectives and supervisors citywide.

Deputy Chief Ronald J. Masciana had been serving as Acting Chief of Police since the departure of Chief Kevin McConville in October 2007. Chief Coan will report to MTA Deputy Executive Director and Director of Security William A. Morange.

“Michael’s experience and leadership skills in policing strategies, crisis management, risk and security assessment will build on the success and strengths of the MTA Police Department and further enhance our security efforts,” said Sander, who has prioritized security as one of the MTA’s top areas of focus. “I also want to thank Deputy Chief Masciana for ably serving the MTA as Acting Chief of Police for the past seven months.”

Chief Coan said: “I look forward to the challenge of providing safety and security to the customers and crew members of the region’s railroads and I appreciate the opportunity to lead such a professional organization.”

Chief Coan graduated from St. John’s University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice.

The MTA Police Department patrols the stations, trains and right-of-way of the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and Staten Island Railway.

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Harmon Shop & Yard Earn The MTA Chairman’s Safety Award

6 days ago the Metro-North issued a press release to announce the recipient of the 2007 MTA Chairman’s Group Achievement In Safety Award. Here is the full release courtesy of the MTA:

The 450 men and women who work in the Maintenance of Equipment Department at the Harmon Shop & Yard and in Poughkeepsie have been awarded the 2007 MTA Chairman′s Group Achievement in Safety Award.

From 2000 to 2007, these employees have reduced injuries of all kinds by a whopping 78%. When you look only at injuries that resulted in “lost time,” meaning the employee had to be off work to recuperate, the reduction was even greater – 92% during the same eight-year period. Last year there were only 3 lost-time injuries, compared to 38 in 2000.

“We are committed to making all our facilities injury-free,” said MTA Chairman Elliot Sander. “And it gives me great pleasure and pride to recognize this exceptional team effort at the Harmon Shop.”

John Militano, of Carmel, NY, who manages the sprawling, century-old Harmon shop, said that a concerted effort began in 2001 to reduce injuries.

“We started to work on resetting employees′ attitudes about working safely every day,” said Militano, the M of E Facilities Director. “We had to make sure people had the right tools, we revamped work processes, and made safety routines a consistent part of daily activities,” Militano said. They began a safety slogan contest and the witty reminders hang all over the shop.

“People appreciate being told �good job.’ So we started to recognize their safety achievements on a regular basis too – and that simple recognition really helped to heighten everyone′s awareness of maintaining a safe workplace.” This award is hard-earned and well-deserved.

MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger presented the award Wednesday at the MTA Chairman’s Excellence in Safety a ceremony in Grand Central Terminal.

“I believe that safety is the MTA’s highest priority. Certainly the work MTA employees do day in and day out – providing more than 2.5 billion safe annual rides to the public – proves that,” Hemmerdinger said.

I would like to take this moment to congratulate the fine men & women for excelling at their positions. Transit Blogger is very proud!

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LIRR Billing Issue Strikes Again!

Last October, I wrote about a huge billing snafu that occurred when the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) doubled billed approximately 2000 individuals who purchased tickets at a ticket machine with a credit or debit card. Unfortunately another huge billing snafu took place 6 days ago as once again thousands of customers were at the risk of or were charged for tickets they did not purchase. Steve Ritea of Newsday has more in this report:

For the third time since October, the Long Island Rail Road has improperly charged customers for tickets they didn’t buy, officials said yesterday, with fewer than 22,800 customers affected by the current mistake.

LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone said a worker testing a computer software upgrade Friday mistakenly sent a file with credit and debit card information for 22,800 riders to an outside firm that charges the cards. Not all were charged, but Calderone said the LIRR had not yet determined how many were.

After complaints over the weekend, the LIRR began reversing all of the charges yesterday, he said.

“Unbelievable,” said Gerard Bringmann, president of the LIRR Commuters’ Council. “I mean, yeah, it could happen once, even twice, but a third time? … Heads should roll.”

“This is inexcusable and we intend to get to the bottom of it,” said LIRR president Helena Williams. She has suspended testing of software upgrades until the problem is identified.

To try to curry good will among the frustrated, Calderone said the LIRR will honor May monthly passes during today’s morning rush hour for customers who tell conductors they were affected by the problem.

In October, a software glitch caused roughly 20,000 riders who used debit or credit cards to be double-billed. The LIRR quickly reversed the charges and fixed the computer problem.

Then in late November, 423 transactions were processed through the LIRR computer system though no tickets were issued. A railroad manager made a computer error that caused the problem, officials said. They said the file would be “locked” to protect against it happening again.

Calderone said the latest error was caused during a software upgrade, whereas the November incident happened during normal operations. The November fix was unrelated to the part of the system where the latest problem occurred, he said.

“While these were three separate and unrelated episodes, the LIRR understands our customers’ frustrations and is doing everything it can to prevent a recurrence by upgrading our hardware and software capabilities,” Calderone said.

For more information, customers can call 1-877-547-7876.

Now that I am dealing with the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) again, I need to remind myself not to use my card unless absolutely necessary!

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