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TransLink names Maryland transit executive as its new CEO

·3 min read
Kevin Quinn, who has served as Maryland's top transit executive since 2017, will take over at TransLink on July 19, 2021. (TransLink - image credit)
Kevin Quinn, who has served as Maryland's top transit executive since 2017, will take over at TransLink on July 19, 2021. (TransLink - image credit)

TransLink named Kevin Quinn as its CEO on Tuesday, ending a months-long search for a replacement to Kevin Desmond, who stepped down earlier this year.

"We look forward to welcoming Kevin Quinn to the TransLink enterprise, which will benefit from his bold, innovative and customer-centred approach to leadership," said Tony Gugliotta, chair of the board of directors overseeing Metro Vancouver's public transit system, in a statement.

"As TransLink prepares to welcome back more customers to transit and launch a robust ridership recovery plan, we are thrilled to have Kevin lead TransLink into its next chapter."

Quinn has been CEO of Maryland's Transit Administration — which oversees bus and rail operations in the Baltimore area — since 2017, and was its planning and programing director before that.

He was not made available for an interview, but in a brief video clip released by TransLink, he outlined a couple of his priorities.

"Ridership has traditionally been the benchmark for transit systems and I think that's going to continue to be a benchmark. But during COVID, and as we're coming out of this, I think what's really going to be key is how TransLink is serving the needs of the region," he said.

People ride the Skytrain on the first day of Translink’s mandatory mask rule in Vancouver on Aug. 24, 2020.
People ride the Skytrain on the first day of Translink’s mandatory mask rule in Vancouver on Aug. 24, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"We need to focus on really speeding up bus service, we've got to make that bus service as competitive as we can relative to auto traffic. We've got to offer the right types of fare products, flexible fare products."

Quinn will take over the job on July 19, with interim CEO Gigi Chen-Kuo continuing until then.

From record ridership to COVID uncertainty

Quinn will lead a transit organization that was experiencing consistent growth before the pandemic, but since then has been stuck at ridership at less than half of its record numbers in 2019.

"It is an incredibly challenging time, not only for TransLink, but for transit agencies across the world," said New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté, who chairs the TransLink Mayor's Council that oversees the organization.

"But you know, Kevin really seems to have really good experience and the ability to help lead TransLink through this."

A TransLink employee at its bus depot in Vancouver in  April 2020 when hundreds of workers received layoff notices due to the pandemic.
A TransLink employee at its bus depot in Vancouver in April 2020 when hundreds of workers received layoff notices due to the pandemic.(Ben Nelms/CBC)

TransLink received $644 million in emergency funding from B.C. and Ottawa last year, allowing it to avoid service cuts, but it's unclear whether they will receive comparable relief in the future if ridership lags post-pandemic.

The organization is also in the middle of public consultation for its Transport 2050 strategy which will guide strategy over the next three decades. It's facing competing campaigns from different regions of Metro Vancouver for future transit investments from federal and provincial governments.

Coté is optimistic Quinn is the person for the job.

"Transportation patterns may be altered because of COVID-19, but largely things are going to start to settle and get themselves back," he said.

"The region is still anticipating significant growth into the future. And we need to have the transportation infrastructure to be able to accommodate that."

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