July 3, 2019

The Sky’s the Limit for Kevin Desmond, CEO of North America’s Transit Ridership Leader

There’s no two ways about it — TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s transit authority, is #1 in North America for year-over-year transit ridership growth. Seattle’s King County Transit is #2. And Kevin Desmond has led them both.

Desmond, now in his 4th year at the TransLink helm, didn’t emerge as a transit planning professional as a result of education, nepotism, or some cultish, hippie-era, preternatural NUMTOT trip (though, thanks to Gord, he’s now officially hip to the ELMTOT jive).

No, Desmond came to transit by mistake. An upbringing in the Bronx — OK, technically Westchester County, but he could walk to the #5 Dyer Avenue train — was followed by various positions Mayor’s Office of Operations during the mayoralty of Ed Koch, working with New York City agencies implementing public policy.

You know, typical New York stuff, like counting trees (there were 800,000), and helping untangle a parking revenue corruption scandal (big money). Which eventually led to an invitation to join the Department of Customer Services at New York City Transit. And so began Desmond’s love affair with transit — as he credits it, a cloying mixture of public policy, public service, and running a business. His great challenge in ’80s and ’90s New York City? Trying to figure out how to drive transit ridership up in a mega-city of abundant transportation options. His focus was to paint transit as a desirable consumer product, and to do so with the support of “a lean mean, growth-oriented consumer product organization”. And it worked.

Desmond tells Gord all the stories…of how he tried to bring more attention, and money, to the bus system in New York, when the subway tended to suck up all the oxygen….what prompted him to swap coasts in what eventually became a 12-year stint as chief executive of King County Transit in Washington State…how his efforts in the Puget Sound region culminated in a successful $54 billion tax package ballot measure for transit that included a multi-phase plan for high-capacity light rail (jealous much?)…and what ultimately led him to Vancouver.

He also waxes on about Transport 2050, the largest public engagement in TransLink’s history. But what we really wanted to know was what Desmond thinks of ride-hailing players like Uber and Lyft, slagged by Price Talks guests (among many, many others) as malignant, transit-killing tumours on the rumps of cities across the continent.

“Not something to be feared,” he claims. Why? You’ll have to listen to find out.

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TransLink is hosting regional conversations on Transport 2050, the latest version of its strategic plan.  Last week at a packed Robson Square theatre, it began with “The Future of Mobility” – lots of thought nuggets from TL’s strategic planner, Andrew McCurran and a panel of those in what we used to call alternative transport (not any longer) – ride-hailing, car-sharing, bike-sharing, electric mobility, and scooters!

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Here are a few tasty items:

Say good-bye to the ‘bike lane’;  hail the ‘mobility lane.’  Since it’s illegal for electric scooters to use the sidewalk (yeah, right) and it’s obvious already that electrification is leading to new kinds of vehicles faster than self-powered two-wheelers, they will all use the bike lanes or demand their own right-of-way.  Expect conflict.

(By the way, in cities with both bike- and scooter-share, the latter outperforms the former.)

Will there be space available on a reconfigured road as the number of traditional vehicles (you know, cars) diminishes?  Assuming, of course, that the number of cars really does drop.  Data from the use of Uber and Lyft in American cities indicates just the opposite: more cars and more congestion.

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As TransLink prepares to update Metro Vancouver’s transportation plan through to 2050, it will be convening discussions with the public around the future of how we’ll move.

 

Technological advances in electrification, automation and the sharing economy are converging to reshape the transportation sector. Shared micromobility is already taking many cities by storm with the rise of electric scooters and dockless bikes. How will Metro Vancouver adopt these technologies in a way that supports our quality of life?

You’ll also have an opportunity to demo an electric scooter or e-assist bike following the event.

Reserve here.

 

Emcee: Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale and Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink

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Kudos to TransLink, for making some space for Indigenous art that doesn’t shy away from engaging people on social and even political themes.

Marianne Nicolson is a member of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations, an artist, and the creator of “The Sea Captain”, the new public installation at the recently upgraded Surrey Central Skytrain.

As she explains in the following short video, she’s interested in interactions between peoples, particularly related to colonial encounters, and bringing something different to the public realm.

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Vancouver is getting a major Skytrain extension, a rapid transit line through the second-largest employment corridor in the Province of BC.  It’s the Broadway corridor.

In preparation, the City of Vancouver is working on a plan for this corridor, and you can get in on the process. Remember, you’ll get your say, but not a veto.  Not, that is, until you elect Ken Sim (or his replacement) and the NPA into control of council, provided, of course, that you live somewhere in the vicinity of the area.

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A fixture in Port Coquitlam politics for the past 16 years — two terms as councillor, three as mayor — Greg Moore has also been a figurehead and ardent champion for the entire region.

As chair of the Metro Vancouver board for seven years, and chair of the Mayors Ten Year Vision Committee in the midst of his decade-long tenure on the TransLink Mayors Council, Moore rolled up his sleeves and left indelible marks of leadership and organizational effectiveness on both organizations, while helping steer his community through a time of change.

In this episode, Gordon Price and the newly-retired-from-politics (***so he says***) ex-mayor talk about the new culture of incivility in civic affairs, the concentric circles of influence that ebb out of Vancouver to the suburbs, what makes for a mayoral mandate, and why planners could perhaps be considered ideal political leaders.

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