Thomas F. Prendergast, a 38-year public transit veteran who oversees New York City's subways and buses, was chosen by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Friday to take over as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Prendergast, 60, has presided over the city's network of subways and buses for the past three years, and in a previous stint with the MTA, he was the head of Long Island Rail Road for six years.
He has been serving as interim MTA executive director since January, when Chairman Joseph Lhota stepped down to a pursue a GOP run for New York City mayor, and has been sharing responsibility for leading the agency with Acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer.
"From the track bed to the budget, to modernizing our system for the 21st century, I can't imagine anyone having a better understanding of how the region's vast system operates and the challenges that it faces," Cuomo said in a statement.
His nomination still needs to be approved by the State Senate.
As head of the largest public transit agency in the country, Prendergast would oversee a $13 billion budget and 66,000 workers. The MTA, which also serves as Metro-North's parent agency, carries 8.5 million riders a day on subways, buses and commuter railroads.
"The MTA will improve the customer experience, operate more efficiently and build for the future. And we will aggressively rebuild smarter and better in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy," Prendergast said in a statement.
His promotion comes on the heels of Democratic mayoral candidate Christine Quinn calling for the city to take over more control from the MTA over the running of the subway and bus system. She argued that city residents "have little say in how that system is run."
"From expanding Select Bus Service routes to the extension of the Number 7 train, the city has worked collaboratively and successfully in the past with Tom, and we look forward to continuing the relationship," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Commuter advocates praised the appointment.
"It would be hard to come up with a better choice," said James Blair, the president of the Metro-North commuter council and a nonvoting member of the MTA Board. "He's got a resume that absolutely sings."
Throughout his career, Prendergast held a number of positions in the New York City transit system before he was named president of Long Island Rail Road in 1994. He left the MTA in 2000 to work as a transportation consultant on projects around the world. Before his return to the MTA to head New York City Transit in December 2009, the Chicago native had served as the CEO of the Vancouver mass transit system for about a year.
While Cuomo's office didn't release Prendergast's salary, Lhota had previously been paid about $300,000 a year.
With Thomas Zambito, Bloomberg News and The Associated Press