This morning (November 5), news broke that TransLink president Tom Prendergast will resign from his position as head of the regional transportation body and take a job in the United States, as president of New York City’s public-transit system.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is the largest public transportation system in North America, so the move is a big step up for Prendergast, and likely a highly lucrative one.
But Prendergast—who joined TransLink in July 2008—does not have a spotless record working in British Columbia.
TransLink is currently in need of an additional $260 million a year just to maintain current service levels.
In recent years, TransLink has also come under scrutiny for allegedly placing land developers’ concerns over those of public transit users.
And while construction of the Canada Line was approved long before Prendergast took the reins of TransLink, under his tenure, costs continued to balloon, Cambie Street merchants closed their doors one after another, and there remained serious questions about whether or not the Canada Line’s projected ridership numbers will ever be able to financially sustain the rapid transit line.
In addition, as any frequent user of Metro Vancouver’s buses will tell you, pass-ups are a greater problem than ever before.
With these issues in mind, I was curious about why the MTA—which is essentially at the top of the public transit game in North America—decided to bring Prendergast onboard to run MTA New York City Transit.
I put in an interview request for MTA chair and chief executive officer Jay H. Walder, hoping to hear him explain the decision. The request was denied, and the media release below was supplied to the Straight in lieu of any real information.
Note that not a single accomplishment related to Prendergast’s time at TransLink is mentioned. Here’s the release.
MTA Names Thomas F. Prendergast
As President of MTA New York City Transit
Former Head of Subways and LIRR Returns to NY
After Leading Vancouver’s Transit System
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder today announced the appointment of Thomas F. Prendergast as President of MTA New York City Transit (NYCT). Prendergast joins NYCT from Vancouver, where he is the CEO of the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, known as TransLink. A world-renowned transit expert, Prendergast is no stranger to the MTA, previously serving as President of MTA Long Island Rail Road and Senior Vice President of Subways at NYCT. Prendergast will assume his new role on December 1. He replaces Howard H. Roberts, who resigned yesterday.
“Tom is a leader who brings an extraordinary variety of experiences from around the world to a system that he already knows extremely well,” said Walder. “Tom’s work running one of the most technologically sophisticated systems in Vancouver will be invaluable as we take the MTA to the next level in performance and customer service.”
Prendergast, 57, brings more than 30 years of transportation experience to NYCT. He began his career at the Chicago Transit Authority and worked at the Federal Transit Administration before joining NYCT in 1982. He rose through the ranks, eventually running the subway system from 1990 to 1994. He then served as President of MTA Long Island Rail Road from 1994 to 2000. He joined TransLink in July 2008 after working in the private sector for eight years. During his time in the private sector, Prendergast worked in the engineering and construction management consultation sector and was directly involved in the delivery of transportation infrastructure and construction projects.
“It is a tremendous honor to return home to lead the outstanding men and women who run one of the world’s great transit systems,” said Prendergast. “I look forward to working with Jay Walder to implement the customer service improvements that New Yorkers deserve. Running New York City Transit is one of the great challenges and honors in the profession, and I will bring all of my energy and passion to the job.”
Prendergast holds a B.S. in Socio-Technological Systems Engineering from the University of Illinois and is a graduate of the Harvard Program for State and Local Government Executives.
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Deputy Press Secretary
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
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