TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis is stepping down, the corporation announced at a hastily-called news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Chair Marcella Szel said the board had been looking at public confidence for some time and decided it was time to make a change.

Szel said TransLink needed stronger leadership heading into a funding plebiscite next month, in which it will ask Metro Vancouver residents to add 0.5 per cent to the provincial sales tax to fund transportation improvements.

Recent polls have shown the "Yes" side softening considerably.

Jarvis was criticized last year for claiming more than $83,000 in bonuses. Despite his resignation, Szel announced Jarvis would continue to stay on as an adviser and collect his full salary until his contract expires in 2016.

TransLink's ability to manage its large budget has come under fire in recent months in the wake of several system-wide SkyTrain shutdowns that caused commuter chaos ending in an independent review that recommended $71 million in improvements to reduce delays and improve communications.

Concerns over TransLink leadership

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said TransLink needed a change at the top, adding it was increasingly apparent over the last number of weeks there were concerns about TransLink's leadership.

Stone said he is in regular contact with Metro Vancouver mayors and told them it was important for TransLink to show it was tightening its belt and get rid of the distractions that have plagued the corporation.

He also said the decision to remove Jarvis from his duties was not his; instead it came from the TransLink board.

Still, he said, the provincial government is committed to the upcoming referendum and Jarvis's departure should send a strong message to voters that TransLink is under new management.

Paying 2 CEOs' salaries

Jarvis's duties will be assumed by interim CEO Doug Allen, who had run the division operating the Canada Line.

Szel admits she's not happy to be paying two CEOs' salaries. Allen will make $35,000 a month and will also participate in the hunt for a replacement.

Szel says she will meet with the Metro Vancouver Mayor's Council on Thursday morning.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson, who is in favour of the new transit tax, says he believes the changes could help the 'Yes' side in the upcoming vote.

"We've heard lots of concerns from people throughout Metro Vancouver about TransLink's performance and the need for improvement," he said.

"I've certainly felt strongly about the need for a leadership change and improvements at TransLink and I'm very pleased to see the board take action."

With files from Jesse Johnston and Richard Zussman