British Columbia

New TransLink boss Kevin Desmond pledges to restore confidence

After a long search TransLink has selected American Kevin Desmond as its new CEO.

After a long search TransLink picks new CEO with transit experience in Seattle and NYC

Kevin Desmond, centre, will assume the role of TransLink CEO March 21. (Lien Yeung/CBC)

New TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says he will work to restore public trust and confidence in the Lower Mainland mass transit system, especially in light of the troubled Compass card roll out and last summer's plebiscite defeat.

Desmond's hiring was announced at a news conference Wednesday morning, although he won't officially start until March 21 after wrapping up a 12 year career as general manager of King County Metro Transit in Seattle. He has also worked as the operations manager for New York City transit.

Kevin Desmond will earn $365,000-a-year plus a monthly $1,500 housing allowance as the new CEO of TransLink. (King County)

"I understand that TransLink has suffered a bruise to its brand. Losing a plebiscite is never easy," he said of last summer's 62 per cent No vote on a tax hike to support transit improvements.

Desmond also says his experience with the ORCA card transit pay system in King County will be valuable in understanding the problems in TransLink's Compass card rollout.

The King County transit system moves about 420,000 people a day. In comparison TransLink has more than a million riders per weekday. 

Zach Shaner, a staff writer with the Seattle Transit Blog, describes Desmond as a straight shooter in his time working for King County.

"I think the way he rode Metro through multiple recessions down here speaks well to his management skills," said Shaner. "And fundamentally he's an operations guy — he understands the bread and butter of transit. He's not a bureaucrat and I think those skills will serve him well."

Desmond told the news conference he believes ridership is the key to transit success. 

"During my 12 years at Metro all the different products that we operate saw a 44 per cent increase in ridership over that period of time," said Desmond. "I'm passionate about ridership."

"If we're focused on ridership, that means we're focused on the customer. If we're focused on the customers as an organization, then we're probably focused on the right things," he said.

Desmond will earn an annual salary of $365,000 with a monthly housing allowance of $1,500.

Former TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis was removed from the position a year ago, although he continues to work for the organization as an advisor.