Will Conductor Cuomo Put the M.T.A. On Track?

Reluctant governor thrust into M.T.A. vacuum, wonks writhe with anticipation; next stop: a fight grittier than gay marriage

There are few greater political liabilities than the M.T.A., which is why the Cuomo administration has held it at arm’s length for so long. Even with Mr. Walder in place, he could keep this up for only so long, but now, unable to point to a Paterson appointee calling the shots, the responsibility will be his all the more. “When the big issues come, from fare policy to safety and the reliability of the system, in the end this is America, and the elected officials are held responsible,” said former Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who used to oversee the agency in the Assembly.

Should the governor embrace the M.T.A, advocates believe he has a singular ability to fix its problems, many of which stem from a Legislature that shortchanges the M.T.A. on a regular basis, thwarting projects like congestion pricing and other forms of transportation funding and even raiding the agency’s budget on occasion, as happened twice last year. “A big part of this is getting the support of the Legislature,” Mr. Brodsky said.

With his string of victories this year—the rent regs/property tax cap deal, gay marriage and an on-time, balanced budget—Governor Cuomo has shown an ability to bend Albany to his will.

“I think a lot of people feel our public transportation system is being held together by chicken wire,” said Assemblyman Micah Kellner, who represents the Upper East Side. “There’s a lot of speculation Jay left because why oversee a crumbling system when you can oversee the best in Hong Kong. That’s a wake up call to New York that we need to do something transformative. So whether that’s the governor taking more control of the M.T.A. or possibly breaking up the three systems, they don’t work so well anymore.”

Mr. Kellner put forth Mr. Brodsky’s name as a possible change agent. “Nobody’s smarter or worked with it more deeply than him,” Mr. Kellner said. Many of the other names that have been batted about come from within the M.T.A., chief among them hard-charging Thomas Prendergast, head of New York City Transit, and Helena Williams, the L.I.R.R. president who has served as interim chair in the past. Mr. Kabak points out that a dark horse is always possible. “Jay was pretty firmly ensconced in London when they picked him, so you never know,” he said.

Meanwhile, State Senator Lee Zeldin of Long Island laid out a 10-point to-do list in The Post on Monday, which included capping agency managers’ compensation, selling real estate and pursuing public-private partnerships. Other reform agendas have begun to emerge, as well. The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Will Conductor Cuomo Put the M.T.A. On Track?