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‘It’s about trust’: To TransLink’s new CEO, the devil is in the details

Click to play video: 'TransLink’s new CEO says system faces challenges as ridership starts to recover from pandemic' TransLink’s new CEO says system faces challenges as ridership starts to recover from pandemic
TransLink's new CEO Kevin Quinn says while ridership is rebounding, the system still faces a number of pandemic-related challenges. Jordan Armstrong reports. – Aug 10, 2021

If you recently saw a grown man waving at a passing SkyTrain, it may have been TransLink‘s new CEO.

It’s a habit Kevin Quinn picked as head of the Maryland Transit Administration.

“In Maryland, and in most places in the U.S., there are drivers for the trains, so I’m so used to waving at the employees driving the trains,” Quinn said. “So as I’ve gotten here, for a couple of days, I was waving at the trains, later on realizing that they were autonomous and that there are no drivers. So I’m sure a lot of passengers saw the new CEO of TransLink waving at them and saying ‘Hi.’”

Click to play video: 'TransLink gears up for robust ridership recovery in September' TransLink gears up for robust ridership recovery in September
TransLink gears up for robust ridership recovery in September – May 27, 2021

Part of Quinn’s transition to his new role is learning about TransLink from the ground up. He uses the SkyTrain daily and he says he’s always observing. He says the devil is in the details.

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“I’m looking for signage, I’m looking for cleanliness,” he said. “The experience kind of starts with the floor.”

“Something that’s really surprised me is the robustness of the system.”

Quinn notes that buses remain the workhouse of the transit system.

“We need to take a look at our bus frequencies, being sure that we’re meeting those travel patterns that are emerging today,” he said. “Quite frankly, people just aren’t traveling the way they were before COVID.”

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TransLink launches public consultation for 2050 priorities – Apr 19, 2021

Quinn wants Translink to be transparent with its customers, which includes giving an explanation for why schedules are changed.

“It’s about trust,” he said. “That trust is formed by having a contract with our customer — it’s called a schedule.”

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So what lured Quinn to TransLink, an organization that has experienced labour unrest, a pandemic, and a massive cyberattack in less than two years?

Read more: New TransLink service aims to predict empty seats on Vancouver buses

“The thing that I know is that transit always bounces back,” he said. “Transit is going to be around. We’re fully optimistic. I’m fully optimistic that we’re going to get that ridership back.”

Ridership dipped as low as 17 per cent of normal last April amid COVID-19’s first wave and is now back up to around 50 per cent.

Quinn says making passengers feel comfortable is critical.

“If they want to wait for the next bus because it’s less crowded, they have that information at their fingertips,” he said. “It’s that kind of power and information that we’re giving to our riders that I think is going to bring them back.”

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