TransLink board chairwoman Marcella Szel announced the removal of Ian Jarvis as chief executive officer on Wednesday, ahead of the vote by residents on a tax to fund $7.5 billion in upgrades.
Doug Allen, who will serve in the post until a replacement is found, was most recently president and CEO of the company that built the rapid-transit Canada Line.
Allen said he intends to take a fresh look at the entire transit authority.
"Once you've decided where you can make improvements, you make them. And in fact you try and ensure that your service is extremely good — reliable, quality service that's clean and safe," he said in an interview.
"It's not one person who will do that. It has to be the whole team at TransLink."
Starting March 16, residents will receive ballots in the mail and will be asked to adopt a new 0.5 per cent tax to fund more buses, an extended subway line, light rail and a bridge replacement.
Jarvis has worked for TransLink since 1999 and was appointed CEO in 2009. He has recently grappled with criticism about executive pay and system-wide SkyTrain shutdowns.
"The Board of Directors is listening to customers and the public regarding the need for change and has taken action," Szel said in a statement. "TransLink must restore public confidence, and new leadership is the first step."
Allen said he plans to ensure that TransLink implements recommendations from an independent review of the SkyTrain shutdowns. He will also help the board recruit a new CEO, a process that is expected to take about six months.
Jarvis will continue to be paid his salary while in an advisory role until his contract expires in June 2016. He made more than $422,000, including bonuses, in 2013.
TransLink spokesperson Cheryl Ziola said Allen will be paid $35,000 a month with no car allowance or other benefits. She said Jarvis opted to stay on in an advisory role, rather than take a severance payout.
"This transitional support provides good value for taxpayers," she said in an email.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson recently joined the TransLink board along with Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner. Robertson said he made it clear that he wanted to see new leadership.
"A Yes vote is critical to the future of the region," he said at a news conference. "We've heard lots of concerns from people throughout Metro Vancouver about TransLink's performance and the need for improvement."
Transportation Minister Todd Stone said he agreed TransLink needed a new boss, in part because the authority's "distractions" had become too much a part of the referendum.
Stone said he had offered his perspective to mayors in the region but had no input in the board's final decision.
"The message here to the people of Metro Vancouver is, if you vote Yes, not only will there be hundreds of millions of dollars of additional investment ... but the individual at the top who will be overseeing the expenditure of those dollars is a new person," he said.
— With files from Dirk Meissner in Victoria