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New TransLink CEO says he welcomes Uber as a complement to public transit, waves the optimism flag about the future

October 18th, 2016 · 8 Comments

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond has been on the job a little more than six months now. Things have been going mostly well, I’d say.

The volume of anti-TransLink stories has gone down — even though the agency is out doing a public consultation about a $3-a-house tax hike and five- to 10-cent fare hike to pay for some of its part of the 10-year plan.

Desmond, as he’s the first to say, has also benefitted by a change in the winds. The federal government announced its intention to fund 50 per cent of transit projects, in its first phase of infrastructure money, sometime in Desmond’s first week. The province has come on board with an agreement on funding that first phase.

The agency has reportedly sold the Oakridge bus barn for a huge whack of money (BIV has been reporting $450 million), which gives the agency a lot more money to put into the 10-year plan. Revenues are up, as the fare gates have closed.

Our new CEO also is stepping out a little bit in taking firm stands on issues. At a speech at the Vancouver Board of Trade (where I got to do a Q and A with him), he came out firmly supportive of Uber and ride-hailing systems as transportation alternatives that could actually help more people get to transit.

(When I asked him about fears some people have that Uber will set up van routes to skim customers off public-transit routes, Desmond said the local authorities would need to ensure that Uber-type services worked within a framework. Some might be skeptical, given Uber’s willingness to bend the rules and regulations as they expand.) My story on his talk is here.

I asked him about whether the agency risks missing some important deadlines this fall or early next year, if the province doesn’t come to an agreement with the feds about what will happen with second-phase transit funding. He said no worries about that.

I think a lot of Desmond’s positive attitude and good messaging comes from just who he is. I noticed he wrote his own speech for the VBOT talk — handwritten, too. (He also doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I’ve witnessed a couple of withering responses to what he thought were silly questions.)

But I note he’s getting help these days. The PR firm Fleishman-Hillard seems to be on board, prepping him before news conferences and the like.

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