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Restoring public confidence in TransLink could be new CEO's biggest challenge

Last Updated Feb 10, 2016 at 4:55 pm PDT

(Anita Bathe, NEWS 1130 Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s no secret, people in Metro Vancouver do not trust TransLink and that could be the biggest challenge for the transit authority’s new CEO.

Kevin Desmond is currently the general manager of King County Metro Transit and he spent a lot of time at Wednesday’s news conference pointing out similarities between the two systems.

Officially assuming the role on March 21, Desmond admits he doesn’t have an action plan yet.

“Get out in the system, get out amongst our employees, the employees know a lot about our system and I need to hear from them. The people at the ground level, the people that clean the stations, the people at the ground level, the people that answer the telephones, the people that clean the stations, the people that drive the trains and buses,” he explains. “I need to listen to them, I need to hear from the customers because that’s who is paying the bill. I need to find out how we can improve the reliability and the convenience of the system.”

He will be paid $365,000 annually, with a housing allowance of $1,500 every month for his first year on the job. The salary is $60,000 less than the previous CEO and Desmond won’t be getting a bonus or a vehicle allowance.

Desmond says he has been a part of four referendums, three of which he says were successful. “Restoring public trust and confidence in the transit system, I understand that to be job number one, and I am delighted to be working with, what I believe is a fine organization to pull that brand up.”

TransLink says he grew ridership in the King County region by 44 per cent during his tenure.

There has been a lot of criticism of TransLink in the past over high pay for its executives but Professor Kai Li with the Sauder School of Business at UBC says this is a big improvement.

Li says in order to attract the top talent, an organization like Metro Vancouver’s transit authority still needs to pay at a higher level. Some would call it, market price.

At the end of the news conference Desmond was asked if he has a Compass card, and, to everyone’s surprise, he reached into his pocket and pulled one out.

Anita Bathe joined our afternoon drive show to discuss the announcement.