NEW YORK (AP) — A longtime transit official who helped form the nation's second-busiest railroad said Thursday he would retire as its president at the end of the month following a year of problems including a derailment that caused the first passenger deaths in its history.
Howard Permut has served as head of the Metro-North Railroad since 2008 and is largely credited with expanding service and increasing ridership for the railroad, which was formed in 1983 and serves 281,000 riders a day in New York and Connecticut. But he came under increasing scrutiny after a speeding train heading into a turn derailed in the Bronx last month, killing four passengers and injuring more than 60 others.
That wreck, which is under federal investigation, followed the death of a track worker struck by a Metro-North train in Connecticut last May, a derailment that left more than 70 people injured that month, a derailment of a freight train full of garbage in July and a power problem that shut down service for commuters in September.
"The tragedies and challenges of the past year have deeply affected me as well as all Metro-North employees," Permut said in a statement issued by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees Metro-North and the nation's busiest railroad, the Long Island Rail Road.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Thomas Prendergast said in the statement that Metro-North's new president would be Joseph Giulietti, a former executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which operates the Tri-Rail commuter rail system through Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Giulietti started his career in New York as a brakeman and assistant conductor on the Penn Central Railroad, eventually working at Metro-North for 15 years. He said he hoped the railroad would remain safe, efficient and effective.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, who has been critical of the railroad in recent months, said he looked forward to working with Giulietti.
"I have indicated that I would like him to come here, that there are substantial issues that need to be discussed with respect to the operation of the rail line in our state," said Malloy, speaking after a meeting in Hartford, Conn.
The Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council, a passenger advocacy panel, said it looks forward to "this new chapter for Metro-North Railroad."
Associated Press writer Susan Haigh contributed to this report from Hartford, Conn.