Maryland Transit Administrator Kevin Quinn said he fell in love with Vancouver a couple years ago when he attended a conference there.
In July, he will take the reins of the sprawling TransLink system in the Canadian province.
“I was at a conference there a few years ago and I fell in love with the transit system and the city,” he said in an interview on Friday. “TransLink itself is very well-respected throughout the industry and known for having a good system and a great team.”
Quinn was appointed to the top post at MTA four years ago. During his tenure, he oversaw the deployment of MTA’s first mobile payment app, CharmPass, and the creation of a next-bus/next-train notification technology.
His departure comes at a key time for the agency.
The system is working through a multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog. Numerous studies are underway to determine how to improve transit service, particularly in the Baltimore metropolitan region. And all of MDOT’s “business units” are operating under strain due to severe drops in ridership.
TransLink has 8,000 employees, more than twice the number on the MTA payroll.
Brian O’Malley, the head of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, said it’s no surprise that Quinn would jump at the offer to run the Vancouver system.
“This was a great opportunity for him,” said O’Malley. “It’s more money. It’s a bigger system. It’s a place that’s been aggressively investing in its transportation system.”
In a statement, Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater called Quinn “an amazing professional.”
“As a fellow planner, Kevin used innovation, technology and his strong commitment to public transit to deliver great customer service for Marylanders in the Baltimore Region and across the entire state,” Slater said.
Quinn said he was drawn to the Vancouver job in part because of the way the city’s land-use policies mesh with its bus and rail systems.
“It’s really built for transit. So transit has the chance to succeed.”
O’Malley, an advocate for enhanced transit service, said that a relative lack of resources meant that Quinn “wasn’t able to do bold new things. He was working with cost-neutral changes to the system or — in 2020 — he was announcing major cuts to the system.”
Holly Arnold, MTA’s deputy administrator and chief planning, programming, and engineering officer, will serve as acting administrator when Quinn departs.
She brings “extensive working knowledge of both the agency and the industry and a strong collaborative relationship with all our partners as we move the agency forward,” Slater said.
O’Malley said he is “encouraged” that Slater chose to promote from within and that the leadership team appears to be staying intact. “That hasn’t always been the case at MTA. There’s been a lot of changeover in administrators and that can create a lot of disruption.”
Quinn’s last day at MTA is June 4. He takes over as CEO of the Vancouver system on July 19, giving him enough time to move his family and wait out the government-mandated quarantine.