New TransLink CEO salary is lowest in Canada

The next CEO of TransLink will earn an annual salary of almost $320,000, plus a generous benefits and bonus package.

(CBC: TransLink CEO job posting lists massive salary)

The new salary offer for TransLink’s next CEO is out and as expected, members of the public are complaining non-stop about a number that is being described by media as “massive” and “fat” as it is north of $300,000.

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post suggesting TransLink’s executive pay should be looked at in a different way, a post that was so well-received that it engaged the entire region and sent the page-view counts on this blog skyrocketing. When transportation professionals with the Victoria Transport Policy Institute quoted this blog post in a major study of theirs, I knew I had hit something right on the nail.

Now that the new CEO salary figures are out and everyone is once again relentlessly complaining, I decided to run the numbers again to see where TransLink is now against Canada’s major cities. The base salary is now in line with that of Toronto’s TTC and Montreal’s STM, but not when a bonus of up to 30% is considered:

“Greater Ottawa” in this chart counts both OC Transpo and Gatineau-Hull’s STO

But, when you consider all of the transit agencies servicing a metro area, the executive payment in this region is comparatively minuscule:

The “all” in the above chart represents all transit authorities servicing a given area. As an example, in addition to Toronto being serviced by the TTC, Mississauga is managed by Mi-Way; York Region is managed by York Regional Transit; GO Transit operates regional commuter rail and a TransLink-like regional authority called “MetroLinx” is required to tie them all together. Each of these operators has their own executives and CEOs.

Our region has 1 transit operator with 1 CEO; others have many different operators and multiple CEOs. It’s a concept that’s so simple and easy to understand, and it is absolutely crucial that we familiarize ourselves with it.

When TransLink’s context of a single, region-wide transportation authority is considered against what the region-wide setup is in Canada’s other metropolitan areas, Metro Vancouver actually has the lowest per-capita CEO salary of any major city in Canada. Even if our CEO receives a full 30% bonus.

We now pay about 17.5 cents per capita if the CEO earns a 30% bonus; whereas the people of greater Toronto pay between 1 and 12.5 more cents more for their executives (depending on what you would include as greater Toronto’s transit operators), and the people of greater Montreal each pay between 6 and 12.5 cents more.

We will also be paying our new CEO less for every revenue hour of transit service they manage, even if the CEO receives a full 30% bonus:

Top in-charge earnings per revenue hour of transit service 2015 NEW

I compiled the data for all to review here (LINK to this spreadsheet):

Outlook

Nickels for everybody! Yaaayy!

Nickels for everybody! Yaaayy!

The revised, lowered CEO salary will put a maximum of 5 cents back into people’s pockets and would not even pay for buying a single bus. Despite the relatively minimal benefits to Metro Vancouver’s citizens, attracting a new CEO will be a more difficult task with a lower offer, and TransLink should be commended considerably if and when they are able to do so.

The response a TransLink spokesperson offered in Jeff Nagel’s recent report for the Surrey Leader pretty much sums up why TransLink can’t be considered a “transit operator” in the usual vein:

“It needs to be a competitive salary,” Moore said, adding the challenge with comparing TransLink to other transit authorities is there is nothing similar in North America.

“The No side in the plebiscite wanted to compare the CEO of TransLink to one of nine CEOs in Seattle or one of eight CEOs in Toronto,” Moore said, referring to areas where multiple separate agencies do the work of TransLink. “Nobody else has an integrated rail-bus-road infrastructure.”

Pay offer for the next TransLink CEO under fire – Jeff Nagel, Surrey Leader

But, I don’t think most people are ready to understand this – it’s probably easier to think that our transit operator is a transit operator like any other, regardless of the serious differences in the way we are organized. It’s clear that much of the “NO” vote in the recent referendum was motivated by an unfavourable view of executive salaries, which were not being looked at in a proper context.

If anything, this should have an effect on how the provincial government interprets the “NO” vote altogether. At this point, the only way that the misinformation around executive salaries in this region can be offset is for someone to take leadership and recognize the serious flaws in how people have been informed on this matter.

SEE ALSO: Referendum Myths – TransLink and Executive Salary

Author’s note: This post was updated on July 27, 2015 to account for newly released numbers and other issues pointed out with the original post.

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3 thoughts on “New TransLink CEO salary is lowest in Canada

  1. Pingback: Referendum Myths: TransLink and Executive Pay | Daryl's take and more

  2. Daryl,

    It really doesn’t matter what the CEO of Translink gets in actual pay it is really about perception of public money being well spent. Unlike, virtually every other Transit Agency CEO in the country, the CEO at Translink operates at an arms length distance from those that partially control and fund the agency giving the perception that he or she is outside of government/taxpayer control. Whether it is politically right wing anti tax and spend groups like the CTF (anti any government spending including transit) or municipal politicians as well as provincial politicians, Translink was set up as wiping boy. I am not generally a big believer in conspiracies however, looking at the way Translink was set up to function it seems that great care was taken in making sure Translink operated outside the standard frame work for a regional transit agency in Canada, GO Transit in Ontario and AMT in Quebec really being the only ones that are truly regional operations. This makes them easy targets for everyone to complain about.

    Translink operates much like an American style super regional transit agency, the operating problems/issues that Translink suffers seems to be an exact copy of theirs as well. Translink has been forever the public’s scapegoat for every bad transit experience and like most American super sized transit agency examples like, the MBTA, SEPTA or New York City’s MTA as well as many others unfortunately is that, they are grossly underfunded for what they were actually created to do.
    Tell that to a group of people in Greater Vancouver and you get incredulous stares and comments immediately hurled at you! Yes, for what Translink has to do and maintain transit wise, it is in my professional opinion (as a transportation planning consultant) about 30-40% underfunded across all categories. Forget about new rapid transit lines, just maintaining what they have with their current budget and funding tools is going to be impossible.

    There are big bills coming with the Expo line’s aging above grade concrete right of way (up to 34 years old and counting), 20+ km of it. The worst part, Translink haven’t even begun a estimate for that repair. Fixing and increasing station platform size, yes that cost has been figured out. They don’t have the money but they know what it will cost. Really fixing the electrical system of the current Skytrain system so that more passenger carrying capacity can be added, some work has even started and yes it has been budgeted for. However, the really big cost of fixing the right of way, not even a estimate yet.

    Daryl, it doesn’t matter how much the CEO of Translink makes his or her agency has been purposely set up to be attacked from the outside. This way, you can be a critic but don’t have to offer any real answers. Kind of like the joke the CTF played on everyone during the plebiscite. The funding plan they offered up to fund transit showed that they have no idea really how Translink runs and truly functions. The Agency’s structure just makes it easy to attack and that’s what they did, safe in the knowledge they didn’t have to provide a real answer. The same criticism I also level at both the Municipal and Provincial levels government whom either acted with neglect or malice or both towards Translink during the plebiscite and before. Until the current situation with Translink becomes a real operational and or political liability nothing will really change. Everyone will still go after the Translink because they the public at large, know the real answer involves much more money for transit. More precisely, more taxes!

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