NYC has its first female and Asian chief of subway car maintenance

subway head in New York

Siu Ling Ko, a 34-year veteran of New York City Transit’s (NYCT) Department of Subway Car Equipment, will now head the department as vice president and chief mechanical officer, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced on Sunday.

Why this matters: Ko is the first-ever woman to hold the role at MTA, which remains overwhelmingly male at the rank-and-file and leadership levels. Current records show that of its 69,639 employees, only 12,513 — or 18% — are women.

  • The NYCT is owned by the MTA. It manages, maintains and runs subway and bus service in New York City.
  • With 47,733 employees, NYCT has MTA’s largest workforce. Of this total, 80% (37,985) are minorities, but there are still less Asian (5,848) than white employees (9,748). There are much fewer female (449) than male Asian (5,399) employees. As an Asian woman, Ko belongs to this 1% of NYCT’s workforce.

What she’ll do: Ko will provide executive oversight for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of NYCT’s 7,092-car subway fleet, as well as the 24/7 operations of maintenance, overhaul and locomotive shops. She will also oversee her department’s scheduled maintenance system and maintenance material forecasts, which have all contributed to “improved reliability and mean distance between failures,” according to MTA.

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  • “I am honored to accept this role,” said Ko, who started her career at NYCT as an associate engineering technician. “Riders are returning to the subway system and our team is as prepared as ever to deliver world class subway service for millions of New Yorkers.”
  • With a degree in electrical engineering from the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering (now the NYU Tandon School of Engineering), Ko has held multiple positions throughout her time at NYCT. “I’ve spent more than 30 years with New York City Transit working to improve maintenance and reliability and I am excited to continue that work,” she added.
Ko at the Smith-9th Streets Station on Sept. 17, 2021. Image via Marc A. Hermann / MTA (CC BY 2.0)

What her colleagues are saying: Ko’s colleagues have recognized her vast experience as a crucial asset to her new role. They have also praised her strategic thinking and ability to relate to all levels of the organization.

  • “Having worked with Siu, I know her to be a strategic and innovative thinker, broadening the responsibility of what the organization can achieve,” said Demetrius Crichlow, NYCT’s senior vice president of subways. “She knows first-hand the value of aspiring and working hard to achieve personal goals. She is rooted in Car Equipment and has worked to strengthen those around her through coaching, mentoring and professional development. She is adept at communicating and relating to all levels of the organization, allowing for more inclusive ideas and practices for meeting our goals.”
  • Craig Cipriano, NYCT’s interim president, said about Siu, “Having started with Siu in the 1980s as junior engineers in Car Equipment, I know firsthand her wealth of experience and knowledge makes her uniquely qualified for this leadership role.”  He added, “Her decades of experience will help move us towards our goal of making subways faster and more reliable, and her appointment as the first woman to serve in the role of Chief Mechanical Officer furthers our commitment to diversify our leadership ranks and create opportunities for all.”

Featured Image via Marc A. Hermann / MTA (CC BY 2.0)

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