Maryland Transit Administrator Kevin B. Quinn Jr., who has overseen construction of the beleaguered Purple Line, said Wednesday he will leave the state in June to become chief executive of Vancouver’s transit agency in British Columbia.
Quinn said he’s leaving the project with “incredibly stable leadership.”
“After a couple years of a bit of a roller-coaster with our prior design-build contractor, I think we’re on a real path to success,” he said. “I think the Purple Line is in very, very good and capable hands.”
As MTA administrator, Quinn also has overseen MARC commuter rail, state commuter buses and Baltimore’s bus, subway and light-rail systems.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Gregory I. Slater called him an “amazing professional” and “out-of-the-box thinker.”
“When you have good people doing great work,” Slater said, “the experts in our transportation industry take note and want to recruit them.”
State transit advocates say Quinn’s effectiveness was limited by the transportation priorities of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R). While Hogan agreed to build the Purple Line, he canceled the light-rail Red Line project in Baltimore and cut state funding for a Corridor Cities Transitway planned for upper Montgomery.
“He was a good administrator under a governor who prioritized highway expansion over improving public transportation,” said Brian O’Malley, president of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.
Asked whether he was a transit official in a more highway-oriented administration, Quinn said, “I think the governor has supported the Purple Line, and I think he’s made some good decisions as it relates to transit.”
He cited the state recently breaking ground on a new MARC maintenance facility, buying new MARC locomotives and renovating MARC trains. In Baltimore, he said, the state is replacing Metro subway cars, refurbishing the light-rail fleet and buying more zero-emission buses. “As it comes to vehicles, facilities and service, I think we’re making quite a good investment in transit,” he said.
Samuel Jordan, president of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition, said the MTA under Quinn should have done more to explore the links between mass transit and access to jobs, education, health care and food. He noted that most Baltimore transit riders are lower-income people of color.
Jordan said bus riders tell him the Baltimore bus system, which was revamped under Quinn in 2017 as BaltimoreLink, hasn’t become more dependable. After transit advocates asked for reliability data, he said, the MTA relaxed the definition of “on time” from a bus being less than one minute early or five minutes late to being less than two minutes early or seven minutes late. “If your bus is five minutes late, and your transfer bus is two minutes early, they’re both ‘on time,' but you’re 45 minutes late to work,” Jordan said. “Nothing has changed in favor of riders.”
Quinn said the state changed the definition of “on time” when it started BaltimoreLink to match the parameters for D.C.-area buses. The state also replaced the buses’ GPS tracking system that had previously provided falsely high on-time performance scores, he said.
He said Baltimore buses have remained on schedule about 75 percent of the time during the coronavirus pandemic, up from just under 60 percent before BaltimoreLink started.
Quinn’s last day at the MTA will be June 4, a spokeswoman said. Slater said Holly Arnold, MTA’s deputy administrator, will serve as acting administrator until Quinn’s replacement is named.