No matter how you like to get around, New York’s got options. You can go by car, you can go by plane, you can go by bus, you can go by train. In New York City, you can travel mile after mile in a subway system that ranks among the world’s largest. Above ground on the city’s crowded streets, cars, buses, taxis, Ubers and Lyfts zip around alongside a rising mass of bicycles. Then there are the electric bikes, electric scooters and mopeds on offer from an array of micromobility startups, as well as the ferries, the helicopter taxis and countless other transportation innovations cropping up each year. And of course, there are the good old-fashioned – and in several cases newly refashioned – airports, highways, bridges and tunnels used to transport people and goods all across the state and beyond.
City & State’s Transportation Power 100 – researched and written in partnership with journalist Aaron Short – features the most important figures navigating this complex and complicated transportation ecosystem: the builders behind gleaming new airport terminals, revamped train stations and reconfigured roadways, the activists and advocates speaking out on behalf of cyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities, and the experts and officials reshaping transit and transportation policies for the next generation.
When it comes to massive infrastructure projects, few governmental entities are doing more than the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Under the leadership of Rick Cotton, who came on as executive director in 2017, the authority has been investing billions of dollars to transform New York’s airports from a national punchline to state-of-the-art gateways to the skies. Cotton’s Port Authority also partnered on the new Moynihan Train Hall and is a key player in the Gateway Program, a long-delayed project to expand commuter rail capacity under the Hudson River that’s now advancing. Among the other items on his to-do list are overhauling the Port Authority Bus Terminal and figuring out whether to move forward with a LaGuardia AirTrain project.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has two regional rail systems, a bus system, a collection of heavily traveled bridges and tunnels, and one of the largest subway systems in the world. It also has a $51.5 billion capital plan and a workforce of over 60,000 employees. It’s all under the purview of John Lieber – widely known as Janno – who has led the MTA for a year and was confirmed as its permanent chair and CEO in January. Among the MTA megaprojects underway or in the works are East Side Access, the Penn Station reconstruction and the next phase of the Second Avenue subway – not to mention the implementation of congestion pricing in Manhattan. Lieber, a former World Trade Center Properties LLC executive, also served in the Clinton administration in Washington, D.C., and the Koch administration in New York City.
As one of the key leaders overseeing the infrastructure that moves motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians throughout New York, Marie Therese Dominguez recently lent her support to a controversial $2.25 billion project to replace the Interstate 81 viaduct that runs through downtown Syracuse. Dominguez also played a key role in the completion of a $17 million rehabilitation of a bridge over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and is beginning work on plans for the reconstruction of a section of the Kensington Expressway in Buffalo.
Anthony Coscia was recently nominated by President Joe Biden to a third term on Amtrak’s board of directors, where he has served since 2009. He has long championed transportation projects such as the stalled Gateway tunnel, which will add badly needed commuter rail capacity under the Hudson River and is now moving forward. If he is confirmed, Coscia will manage the construction of new Amtrak routes – a $60 billion initiative that is part of the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill. A partner at the law firm Windels Marx, where he often deals with infrastructure development projects, Coscia has been called “the most influential person you’ve never heard of.”
This year promises to be the busiest one since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic for Catherine Rinaldi, as Metro-North passengers begin to return after a pandemic-driven lull in ridership. Rinaldi, who held leadership roles at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Long Island Rail Road before taking the helm at Metro-North in 2018, is also serving as interim president of the LIRR since the departure of Philip Eng earlier this year. In the interim role, she will oversee the biggest expansion in the railroad’s history – which is expected to boost LIRR service 41%.
Former New York City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez won the city’s top transportation job after vigorously supporting Eric Adams’ mayoral primary campaign and his commitment to making streets safer through New York City’s Vision Zero policy. Rodriguez, who announced plans to finish 100 street redesigns this year, won a crucial agreement with state lawmakers to turn on speed cameras 24/7. But traffic deaths shot up 35% in the first three months of this year compared to 2021, and Rodriguez pushed back against calls to manage the city’s public spaces more aggressively.
Matthew Driscoll is juggling an array of major infrastructure projects, including $84.2 million upgrade of Interstate 90 in Onondaga County, a $9.6 million highway project between Saugerties and Kingston, and a $17.8 million pavement improvement project for Interstate 87 and Interstate 287 in Rockland County. Driscoll was a former commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, leading an 8,300-person department with a $3.7 billion capital budget per year. Now, he oversees the New York State Thruway, which at 570 miles makes it one of the nation’s longest tolled highway systems.
State Sen. Timothy Kennedy, who one year ago had already collected $1.5 million in campaign donations for the 2022 midterm election – much of it from donors in the transportation industry – has been a fierce supporter of highway improvement, supporting safety measures for cyclists and penalties for reckless drivers. Earlier this year, he applauded a new $189.5 million redevelopment plan in Buffalo that promises to bring pedestrian-friendly parkways to the city’s waterfront.
Assembly Member William Magnarelli, who has represented the Syracuse area since he was elected to the Assembly in 1998, has pushed for the adoption of that city’s controversial Interstate 81 replacement project, arguing recently that the city should take advantage of the opportunity – as well as the federal and state funding – it now has to make the necessary upgrades. This year, he will try once more to convince lawmakers to eliminate tolls on the state Thruway near Syracuse.
As head of the state Senate’s aptly named Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions Committee, state Sen. Leroy Comrie ensures Gov. Kathy Hochul does not have absolute control over the region’s transit system. The Queens politician held an oversight hearing that demanded more details regarding Hochul’s $7 billion plan to redesign Penn Station – and although he ultimately did not block it, he promised that he would oppose any further tax breaks. Comrie also backed a law expanding criminal charges for people who assault transit workers and pushed back against any toll exemptions to the city’s congestion pricing plan once the measure is implemented.
While they aren’t in the spotlight as often as their boss, Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO and Chair Janno Lieber, Richard Davey and Jamie Torres-Springer have immense responsibilities heading up major divisions of the MTA. Davey, the former Massachusetts transportation secretary and CEO, was appointed earlier this year to lead New York City Transit, which runs the city’s sprawling subway and bus networks. He’s gotten off to a quick start, with efforts to expand Wi-Fi and cell service subwaywide and to gather more rider feedback, but it won’t be easy to get ridership back to pre-pandemic levels. Jamie Torres-Springer, who previously served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction, last fall took the helm of MTA Construction & Development, where he manages the authority’s $55 billion capital plan. His spouse, Maria Torres-Springer, is a New York City deputy mayor.
A tireless advocate for New York City’s taxi drivers, Bhairavi Desai recently celebrated both the dismissal of a lawsuit against medallion owners who are struggling financially due to competition and pandemic-related challenges, and a 5.3% pay increase for Lyft and Uber drivers. Last year, she led the organization in a hunger strike aimed at pressuring lawmakers to offer relief to the city’s approximately 20,000 taxi drivers who are struggling under the weight of medallion-related debt.
It’s been a tumultuous year for the aviation industry, with airlines continuing to struggle to meet rising consumer demand amid staffing shortages, but Robin Hayes reached a long-sought agreement to acquire the low-cost Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion – a groundbreaking deal that will make the New York-based carrier the fifth-largest U.S. airline if it passes regulatory muster. Hayes, who took over as the CEO of Long Island City-based JetBlue in 2015, recently announced the airline is expanding its transatlantic flights between New York and the U.K. as well.
A former acting administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and former chair and CEO of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, Meera Joshi stepped into the role of New York City deputy mayor for operations in January. Since then, Joshi, a seasoned attorney, has been overseeing infrastructure initiatives in the city, such as the recently completed upgrades to the outdated underground water system in Southeast Queens.
After a spate of subway shootings and the stabbing of a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus driver, transportation labor leaders pressed for increased penalties on straphangers who assault transit workers. But TWU’s Tony Utano and John Samuelsen remain concerned that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking the city’s gun control law could make city subways and buses less safe. Their fears helped prompt the state Legislature to ban guns from the transit system in a special session. Samuelsen is also organizing flight attendants in an effort to reverse an increase in passenger violence in the skies.
Along with colleagues and fellow transportation policy experts Rachel Weinberger, Maulin Mehta and Jeff Zupan, Tom Wright has a finger on the pulse of the New York City area’s infrastructure and sustainability challenges – as well as the policy solutions to address them. An advocate of congestion pricing who continues to push for its implementation, Wright predicts that commuters will return to the city en masse, making the proposed $12.3 billion Gateway tunnel more crucial than ever.
LaGuardia Airport’s gleaming new Terminal B was built by LaGuardia Gateway Partners, a consortium of major construction contractors led by Frank Scremin. Scremin has been deeply involved in the $4 billion project since 2016, when he came on as a project director. He joined Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and other officials in January to mark the near-completion of the award-winning terminal, calling it “a crowning achievement for the people of New York, for the future of aviation, and for what a public-private partnership can accomplish.”
Ryan Marzullo was a driving force behind the other new $4 billion terminal at LaGuardia Airport – Delta’s Terminal C, which was also opened to much fanfare this summer. Marzullo’s oversight and attention to detail on the 1.3 million-square-foot, 37-gate terminal resulted in a final product that has won widespread praise. When Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled the terminal in June, she applauded Marzullo for “reaching out to the community” and filling 60% of the 9,000 construction jobs on the project with local workers from Queens.
Last fall, Gov. Kathy Hochul recruited Nivardo Lopez, who was serving as Bronx borough commissioner for the New York City Department of Transportation, to join her team in the role of deputy secretary for transportation. Along with several other new appointments, Lopez’s hire helped diversify Hochul’s staff and increase Latino representation, a point of concern among some elected officials. He’s also brought a deep understanding of the Bronx’s transportation needs to Albany, with local borough leaders hoping he’ll prioritize making further progress tackling projects that reduce car pollution.
When Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk resigned as head of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission in March after threatening her employees, New York City Mayor Eric Adams recruited David Do to take her place. Do will have his hands full regulating taxi fleets and ride-hailing companies after the pandemic decimated travel and a tight labor market led some drivers to change careers. Since taking over, Do has called for expanding the Access-A-Ride program and promised to provide debt relief for taxi medallion owners struggling with predatory loans.
Since Selvena Brooks-Powers became New York City Council majority whip in January, she has devoted much of her legislative agenda to making streets safer. She introduced a bill that would offer a $1,000 reward for people to report hit-and-run drivers amid 81 traffic deaths so far this year (her district is one of the city’s most dangerous for pedestrians). She has demanded cleaner streets and open spaces, and passed a home rule bill that got the state Legislature to expand the city’s speed camera program.
In a surprising move for a company once criticized for disrupting New York City’s taxi industry, Uber – which became the city’s biggest ride-hailing service in 2017 – recently entered into a partnership with the city Taxi & Limousine Commission that will allow riders to hail a yellow cab through its app. Josh Gold, who has worked for Uber in various roles since 2015, previously served as director of communications, political and strategic affairs for the influential Hotel Trades Council.
An enthusiastic proponent of pedestrian- and bike-friendly urban spaces, and of speed cameras designed to minimize pedestrian fatalities, Danny Harris has renewed his pleas for a “car-free Broadway,” particularly in light of a recent taxi crash that injured four people in midtown Manhattan. Since joining Transportation Alternatives as executive director in 2019, Harris has successfully advocated for both the Open Streets program and a new bike lane over the Brooklyn Bridge.
With the Hudson River rail tunnel project a top priority for the Biden administration as well as the Federal Transit Administration, Stephen Goodman is poised to play a key role in a massive infrastructure upgrade that could significantly boost New York City’s economic recovery. The head of an office that controls about $2.5 billion in federal funding per year, Goodman previously served as director of the administration’s Lower Manhattan Recovery Office following 9/11.
With Richard Marquis’ approval of an environmental review of Manhattan’s central business district below 60th Street last year, congestion pricing could become a reality by the end of 2023. Meanwhile, Marquis – who joined the Federal Highway Administration in 1996 after working in its Massachusetts, Indiana and Pennsylvania divisions – is busy overseeing plans for a $2 billion project to rebuild and expand Interstate 81 in and around Syracuse.
Since joining the Tri-State Transportation Campaign last spring, Renae Reynolds has had a busy year advocating for a number of transit-related initiatives – including legislation that would give New Yorkers tax incentives for riding their bikes to work. Reynolds was previously at the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, where she was instrumental in passing congestion pricing legislation and persuading the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to transition to all-electric buses by 2040.
Under Mark J.F. Schroeder’s leadership, the state Department of Motor Vehicles has undergone a digital transformation in recent years and recently began offering drivers the option to select “X” as a gender marker on driver’s licenses, making the process of obtaining legal documents more inclusive for transgender and nonbinary drivers. Schroeder has been leading an initiative to combat the theft of catalytic converters, which are highly sought-after on the black market.
With more than three decades of experience as a lawmaker in Albany and Washington, House Transportation Committee Member Rep. Jerry Nadler has spent his career in public service advocating for urban transit, transportation and infrastructure projects – including $3 billion in aid to help the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recover from pandemic-related losses. Earlier this year, he played a key role in redirecting funding toward an environmental review aimed at reducing truck traffic by moving goods across New York Harbor. Yet, he faces a tough primary battle against fellow Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney thanks to redistricting.
As head of construction and development company Skanska’s U.S. operations, Richard Kennedy played a key part in the recent $4 billion transformation of Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport, including two new skybridges that, he said, “serve as an incredible first impression of New York.” Kennedy, who has held several leadership roles at Skanska since joining the firm in 2004, has also been instrumental in the construction of Moynihan Train Hall in Midtown and the renovation of the United Nations headquarters.
The construction management executive has tackled some of the biggest and most complex civil engineering projects in the region, including the reconstruction of ground zero and the Hudson Yards complex. That’s why the Metropolitan Transportation Authority awarded Jack Frost’s Tutor Perini Corp. two East Side Access projects worth three-quarters of a billion dollars to construct an eight-track four-platform Long Island Rail Road terminal station below Grand Central Terminal and a new tunnel approach and bridge in Sunnyside, Queens. The game-changing project should be finished this year.
The Gateway Program, a multipart, multibillion-dollar project to improve and expand commuter rail links under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, is moving – and Kris Kolluri has been tasked with keeping the major regional infrastructure initiative on track. Kolluri, a former New Jersey transportation commissioner, was nominated in May to lead the Gateway Development Commission, a nonprofit managing the project and coordinating with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Chris Larsen and Paul Atkins’ construction company scored one of the top design-build contracts in the Northeast when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority awarded Halmar International the $2.87 billion Penn Station Access project in December. Halmar and RailWorks will connect Metro-North commuter rail service through Westchester County and Connecticut to Manhattan’s West Side through Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line over a five-year period. They will also build four new stations in the East Bronx, cutting commute times to midtown Manhattan for residents by anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes.
Last December, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey signed off on a joint AECOM Tishman and Gensler venture to build a new 2.4 million-square-foot terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, making Jay Badame a key part of the $9.5 billion overhaul. Badame is intimately familiar with complex Port Authority projects: He worked on the One World Trade Center redevelopment and is currently working on redeveloping Terminal 6 on JFK’s north side. Construction on the Terminal One project was set to begin in July.
After 30 years working in New York City and state government, Patricia Reilly knew the New York policy sphere backward and forward when she joined Bolton-St. Johns in 2011. A former executive director of the Nassau County Traffic & Parking Violations Agency, Reilly’s expertise in traffic safety helped her successfully advocate for New York City’s Vision Zero initiative, school bus cameras and the “Green Light” legislation, which puts driver’s licenses within reach for undocumented immigrants.
Citi Bike set ridership records last year with 26 million total rides as the bike-share operator added docks in Queens and Upper Manhattan. Now, Laura Fox has revolutionized city cycling once again by vastly expanding Citi Bike’s electric bike fleet in May. Over the long term, Fox wants to connect her docking stations to the city’s electric grid to charge bikes more easily – but in the meantime, regular riders want to see more stations pop up to guarantee available docking spaces.
As a key executive with the nation’s largest short-term bike rental operator, Caroline Samponaro has made Lyft’s bikes and scooters more accessible by launching an adaptive cycling pilot program to teach people with disabilities and seniors how to use their bikes. The Transportation Alternatives alum was behind a sleek new electric bike added to Citi Bike’s fleet in May and promoted reduced fare membership to SNAP recipients and New York City Housing Authority residents. Samponaro’s next challenge is that Citi Bike is so popular, lawmakers want the service available in more outer-borough neighborhoods.
In the last two decades, transportation industry veteran Jerry Jannetti has led some of the most significant projects in the Northeast, including recent repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel – a complex project that enabled the L train to continue service with minimal disruption. He is zeroing in on how to address the construction challenges of the future as New York works to adapt its transportation infrastructure to the changing needs of its residents.
A lobbyist who earlier in his career worked as first deputy commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, where he managed its annual highway capital development program, Fred Hiffa knows how to connect the dots between the construction, transportation, rail and transit issues affecting New York state. Hiffa, who is a consultant for the Rebuild New York Now coalition, recently asked lawmakers to push to increase funding to the state’s transportation system.
Michael Woloz heads up CMW Strategies, which consistently ranks among the top lobbying outfits in New York City. In the transportation sphere alone, Woloz and his team represent key players including trade associations like the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade and the Trucking Association of New York, and companies including the micromobility company Bird, the car-sharing company Getaround and tech companies American Traffic Solutions and Creative Mobile Technologies. Woloz, who’s also a board member of the New York League of Conservation Voters, also has strong ties to the Adams administration.
A fierce advocate for low-income New Yorkers, particularly when it comes to public transit, Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member David Jones has argued that enrolling more eligible residents into the MTA’s Fair Fares program for discounted MetroCards would go a long way toward helping the city’s recovery. Jones, who has led the Community Service Society since 1986, has criticized authorities’ crackdown on fare evasion, saying that it targets Black and Latino New Yorkers.
Editor’s note: David Jones is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
In recent years, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has completed its pivot away from rebuilding the World Trade Center to reinvesting in its transportation infrastructure – with a whopping $25 billion being spent on badly needed overhauls at its three major airports, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport. That makes a particularly exciting time for Charles Everett, who was promoted from deputy director of aviation to director of aviation at the Port Authority in May.
The 35-year police veteran knows his way around the subway, having supervised four transit districts in Manhattan, so it was no surprise the New York City Police Department named Jason K. Wilcox as its new transit chief in January. Reducing subway crime has been one of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ priorities, and Wilcox committed to increasing police visibility and more active police patrols at stations. After a spate of violent attacks and killings, Adams ordered police to begin solo patrols on the subway.
Mitchell Moss and Sarah Kaufman, two of New York City’s foremost experts on the intersection of transportation and public policy, are often asked to weigh in on the most effective strategies to drive the city’s economic recovery. Moss was recently appointed to the “New” New York blue-ribbon panel evaluating the future of the city’s economy. Meanwhile, Kaufman predicts that transit innovation in the city will include driverless vehicles and seamless integration of the OMNY system, according to the New York Post. Moss this summer stepped down as director of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, with Kaufman taking over as interim director.
After warning about the state’s deficient roads and bridges for years, Mike Elmendorf celebrated Congress’ passage of a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan that could bring in $900 million a year over the next five years. But Elmendorf also wants the state to step up its infrastructure funding, noting that the governor’s $1 billion road paving proposal wouldn’t be enough to fix all the potholes in the state. State officials did heed his calls for more speed cameras in work zones.
Robert Wessels brings three decades of experience in the construction industry to his advocacy efforts on behalf of major infrastructure contractors in New York. Wessels, who has led The General Contractors Association of New York since 2019, represents scores of contractors, including Skanska, Halmar International and Dragados USA, that collectively employ over 20,000 workers. Wessels’ organization has been out front pushing for the Gateway Program while also lobbying Albany to account for rising inflation and to increase investments in roads, bridges and transit.
For years, Long Island construction industry leader Marc Herbst called on state leaders to prioritize filling potholes on its expressways and refurbishing its bridges. Herbst’s prayers were finally answered when Long Island secured a $350 million allocation in the state budget for road repairs and another $22 million for sewer service for Huntington Station homes. Herbst also moderated the executive breakfast at the Hauppauge Industrial Association-Long Island’s annual trade show in May.
Sam Schwartz, a former New York City Department of Transportation traffic commissioner who coined the now-ubiquitous term “gridlock,” wants the city to give cyclists more road space on the northbound Henry Hudson Parkway while the Henry River Greenway undergoes repairs. The bicycle- and pedestrian-access advocate stepped down as head of his eponymous traffic engineering consulting and transportation firm last year, making way for Michael Shamma, a former chief engineer of the state Thruway Authority.
Gridlock has returned to city streets, and traffic deaths have climbed in each of the past two years. Betsy Plum’s ideas for fixing New York City’s traffic crisis start with revamping the city’s bus routes and implementing congestion pricing immediately. Plum praised the Adams administration’s $900 million plan to make streets safer, but she wants the city to speed up the slowest buses in America and the state to stop delaying tolls that will fund much-needed upgrades to the subway system.
John Corlett has been working behind the scenes to raise awareness about New York’s 45-cent gas tax, work zone safety laws and the state’s first public health campaign regarding marijuana and motor vehicle use. And with Independence Day holiday traffic topping pre-pandemic levels on the road, AAA’s Robert Sinclair Jr. made the media rounds, where he predicted 48 million people would travel during the holiday weekend – including 7.5 million by car in the Northeast – despite flight cancellations and gasoline prices temporarily topping $5 per gallon.
After being forced to cancel the New York International Auto Show the previous two years due to COVID-19 concerns, Mark Schienberg brought the weeklong exhibition back to New York City’s Javits Center in April to throngs of delighted gearheads. Schienberg was particularly excited about a 250,000-square-foot area on the first floor for electric vehicle and scooter tracks for customers to try out new multimodal merchandise. Gov. Kathy Hochul even dropped by and pledged to install more electric vehicle charging stations at LaGuardia Airport.
A yearslong labor shortage of truck drivers so concerned Kendra Hems that she lobbied for changes to state law that would allow 18- to 20-year-olds to get commercial driver’s licenses and sought to change the public mindset toward the job’s importance. While the increased demand for truck drivers to keep store shelves full during the pandemic drove up salaries in the short term, Hems noted that rising diesel prices have been hurting smaller carriers and could put some out of business.
Ken Thorpe’s trucking and delivery companies grappled with labor shortages even before the pandemic as demand for household goods and grocery products continued to increase. Carriers are boosting truck driver pay this year in response, and some grocers are even training their own drivers amid the shortages. Thorpe, who has also been battling curbside enforcement penalties and other regulations for his members, once won a $14 million settlement from New York City for improper parking tickets.
The head of New York City’s oldest and largest taxi fleet helped broker a deal with Uber that would allow Uber users to hail yellow cabs through their app, bringing in new customers at a time when both services are struggling. Ron Sherman understood the threat that ride-hailing companies posed to his industry for years, but Uber’s driver shortage, compounded by higher gas prices, made the arrangement beneficial for both parties. Taxi medallion values have been improving as more drivers return to the roads.
There are few journalists working today who have had as lasting an effect on New York street safety as Gersh Kuntzman. The longtime tabloid editor steered public discourse on transportation to emphasize the dangers of America’s addiction to cars on the environment, public safety and systemic racism. Streetsblog’s coverage of Vision Zero’s failures, oversized SUVs, placard abuse and ineffective bus transit have put pressure on city officials to make streets more pedestrian-friendly, while Kuntzman’s stories on protected bike lanes, busways and scooters have illustrated what such successes look like.
Say goodbye to the swipe, thanks to Cubic Transportation Systems. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is replacing MetroCards with OMNY’s cardless tap-and-go system, although the full rollout of Cubic’s contactless payment program in commuter rail lines got pushed back to early 2024. Cubic’s Christian Henry, who oversees the OMNY program, has the technology in every city bus and each of the city’s 472 subway stations. And in February, the MTA launched a fare-capping pilot program granting free rides to OMNY users after they pay for 12 rides during a seven-day period.
Even though a carbon tax ran into opposition among Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress last year, economists like Charles Komanoff have long argued that pricing emissions is the only way to reduce greenhouse gases by 50% by the end of the decade. Komanoff has also lambasted the long-delayed environmental review process for congestion pricing and the idea of a New York gas tax holiday for Streetsblog while coming around to supporting the use of nuclear power in an op-ed for The Nation.
As a nationally known transit advocate, David Bragdon keeps his eye on the effects of innovative developments like using federal infrastructure funding for complete streets projects and free bus service in Kansas City (he’s not a fan). Back home, Bragdon has fervently argued for Gov. Kathy Hochul to implement congestion pricing as traffic levels rise above pre-pandemic levels and for Metropolitan Transportation Authority leaders to adopt all-door bus boarding across its routes to speed up some of the slowest buses in North America.
Nicole Gelinas is one of the must-read columnists at the New York Post, known for her tart and prescient observations about mayors’ maladies and bumbling bureaucracies. Her latest columns have tackled New York City’s bloated $105 billion budget and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s fumbling efforts to make its points about how to fight fare evasion, and she’s demanding better policing and prosecution practices to reduce violent crime on city subways amid a recent spate of attacks.
In April, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced a “Fareness” Blue Ribbon Panel, tasking its 16 members with addressing fare evasion through “education, equity, and enforcement.” The panel is co-chaired by Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, the executive director of New York University’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, and Roger Maldonado, a partner at the law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell. The move comes as the MTA is grappling with stubbornly low ridership as well as unpaid fares that the authority says costs it $500 million per year.
Now that the state is flush with federal infrastructure cash, the meticulous work of repairing deficient bridges falls on longtime civil contractors like Jeff DiStefano. His company, Harrison & Burrowes Bridge Constructors, is already working on $16.3 million in bridge maintenance projects in four upstate counties. Among his firm’s other high-profile projects: replacing the state Department of Transportation’s Adirondacks Welcome Center in 2018 without closing the site to the public.
Under José Luis Méndez Sánchez’s leadership, Dragados USA has had a hand in some of the most consequential rail projects along the Northeast Corridor. The civil construction firm was awarded two East Side Access projects, including boring the tunnels that will ultimately connect Long Island Rail Road commuters with the east side of Manhattan. Dragados has since been working on the LIRR’s third track and was selected to resume construction of Maryland’s $2.2 billion Purple Line rail project.
Unlike the short-lived tenures of some downstate transit officials, Bill Carpenter’s stint at the Regional Transit Service has lasted over a decade – and he’s not slowing down. As CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, or RGRTA, Carpenter manages the RTS in Rochester. In recent months, he has called for increased transit funding in Albany and reimposed a mask requirement for local bus riders. Carpenter also serves as president of the New York Public Transit Association and is on the board of the American Public Transportation Association.
Last year marked Carm Basile’s 40th anniversary at the Capital District Transportation Authority, and the transit leader is still strategizing about the capital region’s future. He worked with state lawmakers to bring bus service back to Montgomery County which will feature four new routes and cost $6.5 million to run annually. The CDTA is also building a $5 million gateway mobility hub for multiple transit modes in Schenectady, and Basile is currently seeking a merger with Greater Glens Falls Transit to expand bus service into Warren County that both parties believe is likely to happen.
The Kansas City-based infrastructure design firm HNTB has established a significant presence in New York, thanks to the hiring of transit management professionals like Ronnie Hakim and cultivation of internal talent like Michael Sweeney. Hakim, who once led New York City Transit and ran the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $32.5 billion capital plan, is responsible for HNTB’s strategic planning and business development nationwide. Sweeney oversees more than 2,000 staffers in the northeast and southeastern U.S. and serves on the boards of the Regional Plan Association and New York Building Congress.
New York City’s ferry system launched its latest new route last year, as Scott Thornton and his team added a faster link between Staten Island and Manhattan in addition to its ports in the other four boroughs. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has committed to making the popular ferry system financially sustainable as well, recently announcing higher fares along with discounts for low-income New Yorkers after an audit revealed the city underreported $224 million in ferry-related costs over a six-year period – raising questions just as the city’s contract is set to expire in 2023.
Joseph K. Posillico’s civil construction firm got a little larger when it acquired Martins Construction, a Virginia-based highway and bridge builder, in June after eight months of negotiations. The family-owned firm is responsible for replacing the Belt Parkway bridges in Brooklyn and rehabilitating three Highbridge bridges in the Bronx. The Long Island-based company, which also has offices in New Jersey, Virginia and Texas, is also a pioneer in design-build construction in New York.
John T. Evers heads up the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York, which represents nearly 300 companies in the engineering sector, including civil engineering firms.
Among the policy goals the century-old ACEC New York is advocating for are increased infrastructure investment, expanding design-build project delivery and qualifications-based procurement. Evers, who took the post a little over a year ago, had previous leadership positions at The Business Council of New York State, Albany County government, the Food Bank Association of New York State and in state government.
New York City wasn’t the first place to embrace electric micromobility devices, but the five boroughs have become a major market for them – and Phil Jones has helped ensure Lime was one of three companies chosen for a scooter share pilot program that deployed 1,000 scooters from each company in the East Bronx last year. Residents took more than 480,000 trips in less than a year, so the city announced in June it would double its fleet to 6,000 devices and expand the pilot to more neighborhoods.
The female-founded micromobility company has distinguished itself in a crowded field by minimizing risk and developing products appealing to a diverse base of customers. For Los Angeles-based Candice Xie, that meant making comfortable electric scooters that let users sit down – a design favored by women, people with disabilities and those making longer trips – and joining New York City’s scooter pilot program in the Bronx.
After participating in New York City’s electric scooter sharing pilot program, in which more than 650,000 trips were taken in the Bronx since its launch last August, Bird will expand its scooter fleet in the second phase of the pilot that includes more East Bronx neighborhoods. California-based executive Brian Buccella has shared e-scooter expansions in the works in Nashville, Reno, Long Beach, California, a bike rental program in Madrid and even introduced a foldable e-scooter as well as a kids model for sale at Target.
Melinda White’s Transit Wireless has had a busy summer. In July, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a $600 million plan to have the communications company install cell phone service in New York City’s subway tunnels and expand Wi-Fi service at stations above the ground over the next decade. The same month, Transit Wireless’ parent company, BAI Communications, purchased ZenFi Networks, which maintains the city’s LinkNYC’s kiosks, amid a bid to position itself for growth in the 5G market. White has led Transit Wireless since 2018.
When Amtrak officials needed a design for an expanded Penn Station as part of the game-changing Gateway Program that’s finally moving ahead, they awarded a $73 million contract to Arup. Gillian Blake leads the New York infrastructure team at the civil engineering firm, which had already completed the first phase of the Second Avenue subway extension on schedule and the 10-acre platform enabling the development of Hudson Yards. Blake called the project “one of the most ambitious, technically challenging, and necessary proposals'' in New York City history but is unfazed about completing it.
Described by The New York Times as “stunning” and a “lofty, light-filled steel, glass and marble cathedral,” the Moynihan Train Hall in Manhattan is one of the most aesthetically pleasing of the spate of recent infrastructure megaprojects in New York – and that’s thanks to the guiding hand of Marla Gayle. Gayle was the project manager overseeing the transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office into something approximating the architectural beauty of the old Penn Station. The veteran transportation expert heads up the transportation practice at Skidmore Owings & Merrill, or SOM.
A key industry for Siemens, the German multinational conglomerate, is rail and road infrastructure – and its point person for mobility in North America is Marc Buncher. He has overseen Siemens Mobility’s work on key New York City infrastructure projects, including the subway’s communication-based train control system and automation and control systems technology for the massive East Side Access project. Buncher, who was previously a senior vice president with Caterpillar, also manages some 4,000 employees across 30 facilities in the U.S. and Canada.
The New York School Bus Contractors Association, which represents nearly 100 school transportation service companies, elected a new board president in November: Nick Vallone, who’s also the executive vice president of Rolling V Bus Corp. in the Catskills. In carrying out its mission of “promoting safe, reliable and cost-effective student transportation” across New York, the association has been dealing with everything from ever-evolving COVID-19 policies to the transition to cleaner, electric-powered school buses.
Transportation advocates rely on Eric McClure’s election guides to inform them which candidates walk the walk when it comes to livable streets. McClure is not shy about criticizing officials for being “in full climate change denial mode.” He blasted the state Department of Transportation for widening the Van Wyck Expressway, while offering praise to city leaders for enhancing traffic calming measures on Broadway and turning speed cameras on 24/7. He also has a word of advice for anti-SUV activists deflating tires on the Upper East Side – maybe don’t.
The wireless company Boingo is bringing 5G to New York’s transportation hubs, whether in the revamped terminals at LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport or the Long Island Rail Road’s bustling Atlantic Terminal. “When we build, we build future-proof builds,” Mike Finley, who has served as CEO of the Los Angeles-based company since 2019, told City & State last year. The company is also working with Tishman Speyer to add Wi-Fi at Rockefeller Center after completing similar work for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at the World Trade Center.
Janette Sadik-Khan stepped down as New York City’s transportation commissioner in 2013 after transforming the city’s streets during the Bloomberg years, but she’s continued to be a force in transportation policy in the city and beyond ever since. Last fall, Gov. Kathy Hochul recruited her and two other transportation experts to review alternatives to the controversial AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport after it was put on hold. And this summer, New York City Mayor Eric Adams appointed her to his “New” New York Panel to bolster the city’s economy.
Michael Carrube, who leads some 4,000 subway and bus supervisors, had a front-row seat to how the pandemic affected essential workers. Carrube has led campaigns to improve workplace safety by using health data monitoring to identify areas with poor ventilation and patterns of infection. Carrube, who is also president of the National Association of Transportation Supervisors, was pivotal in advocating for the state to pass a law stiffening penalties for people who attack any of the 11,000 transit workers on the job.
Since raising $1.1 million to launch 68 shared mopeds in Brooklyn four years ago, Frank Reig has adopted more expansive goals to shift New York’s transportation network away from fossil fuels. He put more than 3,000 electric mopeds on city streets, launched a $99-per-month electric bike subscription service and a fleet of 50 Revel-branded ride-share Teslas, and hauled in $126 million in investments earlier this year. Reig shut down Revel’s e-bike subscription service, but aims to install 200 electric vehicle charging stations across the city by the end of the year.
A few weeks after raising $130 million in Series G funding, which pushed Via’s valuation to $3.3 billion in November, Daniel Ramot filed paperwork to take the transit tech and software startup public in early 2022. The move compelled Via to discontinue its on-demand ride-hailing services in New York City in December, offering its drivers alternative work in Jersey City. While the initial public offering hasn’t happened yet, an Israeli supermarket chain has begun using Via for its distribution system.
For a municipal government serving the largest city in the country, keeping all the government cars on the road isn’t easy – but Keith Todd Kerman’s been doing it for over a decade. As a deputy commissioner of fleet management and chief fleet officer at the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services, Kerman runs a fleet of 30,000 vehicles. He’s also been closely involved in the city’s Vision Zero safety efforts and an ongoing transition to electric vehicles, with over 3,100 such municipal vehicles already on the streets.
Ellen Melchionni is one of the state’s foremost insurance experts, having led the New York Insurance Association for nearly a decade and a half. The association represents insurers in the shaping of policies affecting the property and casualty industry – which includes auto insurance – and Melchionni has specifically targeted auto insurance fraud during her tenure. This past session, the association backed legislation that passed both houses that would make it easier for New Yorkers to get collision coverage for their vehicles.
The New York Aviation Management Association represents more than 120 airports in the state, including LaGuardia Airport, Long Island MacArthur Airport and airports in Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton. The association, which advocates for greater investment in New York airports, is led by Mike Hall, who’s serving a two-year term as board president. Hall is also a principal at PFA Consulting and previously served as commissioner of the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
Ira Goldstein’s Black Car Fund serves some 70,000 for-hire drivers in New York, providing safety and health care programs and workers’ compensation insurance. In response to COVID-19, the nonprofit distributed 20,000 personal protective equipment kits to black car and livery drivers, and got the state to pass a surcharge to help the independent contractors access health benefits. Last year, Goldstein partnered with Nexar to install vehicle cameras to protect drivers from attacks. He also lobbied for a three-year extension of benefits like vision coverage and dental exams in Albany this year.
New York City has an outspoken advocacy community pushing for safer streets, and one of the most vocal among them is Debbie Marks Kahn. Kahn, who co-founded Families for Safe Streets after her son was killed in a bus collision in 2009, has lobbied for improved street designs and a crackdown on speeding. In testimony before the New York City Council this year, she noted that last year was the deadliest year on the city’s streets since 2013 and called for funding for the NYC Streets Plan and Vision Zero.
New York City’s taxi industry has been slowly recovering since drivers won an agreement last fall to restructure their medallion debt and pandemic lockdowns led to taxi shortages. Matthew Daus, who has been encouraged by the rise of medallion values for the first time since 2014, had to “pinch (him)self” when he heard Uber would partner with the industry and allow Uber riders to request taxicabs through their app. He also gave his imprimatur to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ selection of David Do as commissioner of the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission.
The trillion-dollar infrastructure bill of 2021 was a mixed bag for transportation experts like Corinne Kisner who want the feds to stop funding state-level projects that expand new highways – but she did praise the Biden administration’s approach tying funding to increased oversight to encourage safer streets. Kisner also criticized President Joe Biden’s embrace of gas tax holidays and demanded the federal government overhaul its auto rating system as traffic deaths continue to soar. Her Manhattan-based organization represents 91 transit agencies and cities across North America, including New York City.
William DeCarlo has come a long way since starting out as a Long Island Rail Road station cleaner in the late 1970s. Today, after working his way up the ranks through the Transportation Communications Union, he’s the national legislative leader for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, a national labor union with over half a million members in the airline, rail and auto industries. The IAM lobbies in Washington, D.C., for such legislation as the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and Buy American measures.
Anthony Simon leads the transportation division at SMART, which represents some 200,000 transportation and rail worker members. Simon, who represents a variety of Long Island Rail Road employees, worked with the governor’s office to ensure LIRR expansion occurs on schedule and with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on infrastructure funding. His union mulled whether to authorize a strike – and nearly did in July before President Joe Biden appointed an emergency board to resolve a labor dispute with freight rail companies.
Bike traffic spiked when New York City was suffering through the coronavirus pandemic, but city streets became deadlier, spurring bike advocates like Kenneth Podziba to demand new safety measures from public officials. Podziba cheered Gov. Kathy Hochul when she signed new legislation that forces the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to consider bike access at its bridges and stations, and requires new drivers to learn about bike and pedestrian safety before getting their license. He also welcomed the return of the TD Five Boro Bike Tour in which 32,000 cyclists participated.
Paul T. Weinstein is the New York commissioner for the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, a bistate agency created in the 1950s to root out corruption in the shipping industry. In recent months, the commission has been in the news as New Jersey sought to exit the commission – while its New York partners waged a successful court battle to prevent the move. Weinstein, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is also co-chair of the litigation department at the law firm Emmet.
In February, Henry Greenidge took on a new role co-leading the transportation and infrastructure innovation practice at Tusk Strategies, a politically connected consulting firm. The job entails working with clients all across the country on everything from micromobility and autonomous vehicles to electric cars. Greenidge, who’s sharing the leadership role with Seth Webb, previously served in the Obama administration and as a fellow-in-residence at New York University’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research.
In a Medium post three years ago, Paul Steely White explained that he was leaving the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives to promote electric scooters at Bird and reduce the nation’s dependence on cars. When COVID-19 hit, White then jumped to Superpedestrian, a similar startup that prioritizes micromobility safety. This year, Superpedestrian snared $125 million to expand its technology that resolves scooter safety issues in real time and even stops if you speed. White is also the board president of Institute for Transportation & Development Policy.
Spend much time in New York City, and you might wish you could hop on a helicopter to get around. That’s the idea behind Blade Urban Air Mobility, a “technology-powered air mobility company” that transports deep-pocketed customers in crowded urban areas like Manhattan. Its founder, Robert S. Wiesenthal, has relied on traditional helicopters but is looking ahead to the use of electric aircraft. Blade, which also offers flights via seaplane and jet, provides service to the Hamptons.
The electric scooter and electric bike explosion has fueled startups making it easier for commuters to get around, getting meals to customers at any hour – and, in the case of URB-E, handling medium-sized deliveries via cargo e-bikes. The Los Angeles-based company is driven by the technological innovations of Porsche veteran Sven Etzelsberger and has been praised for its potential to reduce traffic congestion. It already has a presence on the crowded streets of New York City and has partnered with both UPS and the Brooklyn-headquartered indoor farming operation Square Roots.
Having your bike stolen is an expensive inconvenience for most people, but for Shabazz Stuart it launched a new career. In 2017, the Brooklyn native created a company that made modular parking pods that could store scores of bikes and protect them from theft. So far this year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority added six Oonee pods near Grand Central, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey put Oonee bike enclosures at three sites and New York City installed “Mini” modules at five locations. One of the modules outside Essex Market was struck by a car, but Stuart made the repairs.
The former Lyft and Metropolitan Transportation Authority official joined Zoomo in April as the Australian electric bike startup secured $80 million in Series B funding, thanks in part to New York-based Collaborative Fund, a venture capital fund. Jules Flynn is overseeing the growth of last mile delivery services as the global market for package shipping could reach $123 billion by 2030. Zoomo’s e-bikes are already helping food and grocery distribution in some urban areas and aims to put 30,000 bikes on the road by the end of the year.
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering professor Kaan Özbay founded C2SMART to analyze big data and develop disruptive technologies that make mobility safer and more efficient. This year, Özbay and his researchers applied an AI tool used to monitor the effectiveness of social distancing to calculate pedestrian and traffic densities, and track congestion. Özbay was also part of a panel that made recommendations on how to repair and replace the cantilevered section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, although there’s still no consensus about what to do.
Disability advocates won a victory when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to make at least 95% of its subways accessible by 2055 and carve out about 14% of its capital plans for station accessibility. But Joe Rappaport, who has led the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled for nearly six years, isn’t done. He’s pushing to make New York City’s emergency evacuation centers reachable by people with disabilities, wants improved Access-A-Ride service and is demanding remote evaluations for MTA paratransit use qualification instead of having to show up in person.
In 2018, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Partnership Fund for New York City teamed up on the Transit Innovation Partnership, a public-private collaboration aimed at modernizing the commuter experience. Since the Transit Innovation Partnership’s first director, Natalia Quintero, took on a different role, the Partnership Fund for New York City’s Stacey Matlen has taken the reins. Matlen, who previously worked on mobility for the city of Detroit, has served as director of innovation programs at the Partnership Fund for New York City for over a year.
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