By now you may have heard, there’s a new boss in the driver’s seat at TransLink.
Kevin Desmond, who is currently general manager at King County Metro Transit in Seattle, will take the CEO position this March.
It’s a job fraught with challenges – from hashing out a new funding source, to easing gridlock, to rebuilding shattered confidence in the agency.
As it turns out, they’re eerily similar to some of the problems Seattle has faced in the last few years.
Jason Rantz hosts the Jason Rantz Show on Seattle’s Kiro Radio and says unlike in Metro Vancouver, most Seattleites don’t actually know who the boss of their transit company is.
And he says while Desmond has seen his share of battles, he hasn’t been in the hot seat quite the way TransLink’s CEOs have been.
“The controversies we’ve had here generally have to do less with Kevin Desmond and more with the sort of political apparatus around it.”
READ MORE: New TransLink CEO starts next month
Seattle’s version of the transportation plebiscite
King County, as it turns out, went through its very own version of our transportation plebiscite.
Rantz says Desmond was on the yes side of a ballot initiative calling for new tax to fund King Metro Bus lines. He says it was a contentious campaign in which political leaders warned there would be big cuts to routes if the initiative failed.
“It didn’t work. The doomsday complaints didn’t register, the tax did not pass – and lo and behold, the cuts never really came.”
Bus lane battles
Rantz describes another battle Metro Vancouverites might find familiar.
He says the region has been wracked with conflict over alternative transportation versus gridlock.
“We just live in a city where a lot of people in city leadership are essentially trying to get people to stop driving. And they’re trying to force you out of your cars by instituting Metro only lanes or bike lanes.”
He says Desmond has been successful when it comes to getting people into those alternative forms of transportation; speedy express bus routes that are synced to traffic lights have seen a 43% jump in ridership.
“Metrobus just in general works pretty well. Like Vancouver we have a lot of people who are choosing more and more to take alternative transportation outside of driving. So, under Kevin Desmond we’ve seen a lot of Metro only lanes… I’m not a fan of them because they end up making transit much worse for the drivers. But people who ride the bus-only lanes they of course love them.”