NEW YORK — As New York City continues to grapple with a subway crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo must now look for a new leader to turn around the system.
Three days after Cuomo was elected to a third term, he announced that the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was stepping down. The chairman, Joseph J. Lhota, had returned to the agency just last year to help improve the subway amid rising delays and a series of derailments.
Subway officials have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into repairs, and there are some signs of improvement. But the subway is still regularly upended by disruptions, and service is far from reliable.
Now the governor has to pick a new leader to fix the system and modernize its aging infrastructure — an enormous undertaking that could cost more than $40 billion. For Cuomo, the ability to deliver better service will be a major test of his leadership.
“The chairman’s job is important, but the person who will really determine the future of public transit was just re-elected on Tuesday,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance, an advocacy group.
Cuomo, a Democrat who faced criticism over his management of the subway as he ran for re-election, named Lhota to run the authority last June. Lhota had previously run the agency and won praise for helping the subway rebound after it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
But during his second stint as chairman, Lhota repeatedly faced questions over potential conflicts of interests and outside jobs.
The news of Lhota’s departure came as a surprise because Lhota told reporters last month that he had not considered resigning.
The authority’s vice chairman, Fernando Ferrer, will serve as acting chairman until Cuomo names a replacement. The state Senate, which will return to Albany in January, must confirm his pick.
Lhota did not respond to requests for comment about why he was leaving. In a statement, Lhota said that he had returned to the agency to halt the decline in service and argued that it had improved, pointing to a drop in train delays.
“There is still a long way to go to achieve the performance that New Yorkers demand and deserve,” Lhota said in a statement.
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