While Governor Andrew Cuomo conducts a nationwide search for the new transit chief, Fernando Ferrer, the vice chairman of the authority's board, will serve as acting chairman, and Thomas Prendergast, president of New York City Transit, will run daily operations as interim executive director. Lhota's replacement will take over "the most important public transit job in the nation," serving the 15 million people who live in the New York City area. However, this crucial job also comes with "a big, unwieldy bureaucracy with a $12.6 billion annual budget and 65,400 employees, most of whom are union workers who have been laboring without a contract."
The new leader will need sharp political skills to navigate negotations. For example, the transit system faces large cuts in future operating budgets, and suburban legislators are pushing to cut a payroll tax that funds the MTA by $1.2 billion. It will be imperative for the new chief to stop this rollback and even convince the city for more funding to maintain subway stations. He or she will also be responsible for a $29 billion capital plan through 2014, including $4.76 billion for Hurricane Sandy recovery. Lhota was praised for overseeing the system during Hurricane Sandy, which means the new leader will undoubtedly have big shoes to fill.