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New TransLink CEO faces questions over HandyDART

New TransLink CEO faces the public about system concerns
WATCH: After just over a week on the job, the new head of TransLink has faced the public to answer concerns about the system. As Ted Chernecki reports, Kevin Desmond is not committing to any major changes just yet.

The new head of TransLink has a big challenge ahead of him. Kevin Desmond has only been on the job for a week-and-a-half and he faced the first round of questions from the public on Wednesday.

Desmond heard from users of HandyDART, a door-to-door, shared ride service for passengers with physical or cognitive disabilities who are unable to use public transit without assistance. They are angry that TransLink farmed out services for the disabled to a private company seven years ago.

After his first full week on the job he admitted it’s all a little overwhelming.

“My head is swimming with lots of information,” Desmond said.

The HandyDART contract with an American company expires this year and the new CEO isn’t committing one way or another.

“We’ll take a very close look from all the comments we’ve gotten from our HandyDART customers,” Desmond said. “It’s not just, I think, who is providing the service, it’s also our standards.”

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The issue surrounding HandyDART is just one of several issues the new CEO will have to face.

There’s the estimated $1-billion-plus cost of replacing the Pattullo Bridge; $2 billion for a transit line to Langley and $3 billion to burrow a tunnel under Broadway towards UBC.

When asked Wednesday about a study due the next day that would estimate costs to UBC, TransLink said it is not ready.

“Every time you do a study, things change and our costs are also getting refined,” TransLink CFO Cathy McLay said.

– With files from Ted Chernecki and Yuliya Talmazan