TransLink CEO to depart in February

Kevin Desmond | Photo: Chung Chow, BIV

What happened: CEO Kevin Desmond set to leave TransLink

Why it matters: The job move comes as the transit authority still grapples with impacts of COVID-19

The head of TransLink is planning to make a departure from the regional transit authority in early in 2021.

Kevin Desmond, who joined TransLink as CEO in March 2016, says he will be returning to the U.S. in February to pursue other job opportunities.

TransLink revealed Tuesday (October 20) it will tap an executive search firm to help it recruit its next CEO from a global pool of candidates.

Desmond originally hails from New York and had served as general manager for King County Metro Transit in Washington state before he was recruited to lead TransLink.

He had previously served as chief of operations planning for New York City Transit.

“It’s been an honour to serve this great region,” Desmond said in a statement.

“When I arrived in 2016, I knew we already had a world-class transit system and I’m proud to have helped expand the breadth and depth of our services with a relentless commitment to our customers and public accountability.”

His planned departures comes as TransLink is still grappling with sharp declines in ridership and revenue brought on by the pandemic.

But Desmond told BIV during the summer that the transit authority has since moved beyond the “intense crisis management” common at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s been a huge shift in priorities. But then again, they’re still the bedrock. We’re still operating buses, we’re still operating our trains and SeaBus, and HandyDART, but we’re operating in unusual and very extreme circumstances,” he said in September.

“You have large numbers of people like me at the moment working from home. So clearly a large number of people are still not going to their jobs, still not going to school. We’re going to see depressed ridership. That’s just simply a reality. We don’t think that’s going to largely change until the vaccine is widely available.”

So far the provincial and federal governments have committed $644 million to assisting TransLink during the pandemic by March 31, 2021.

The transit authority also plans to reduce its own 2020-21 fiscal costs by $135 million to further close funding gaps.

While planned service expansion for next year has been cancelled, TransLink aims to have 100% of all its pre-pandemic service operating in 2021.