Hamilton’s public transit director David Dixon is leaving the City in mid-June. Dixon was recruited by another public transit agency and will be leaving on June 18.
The news spread among bus drivers and at City Hall this morning. City employees – who are not authorized to speak on the record – informed The Public Record this morning.
City of Hamilton director of communications Andrea McKinney confirmed the information and says city manager Chris Murray issued a statement saying “Dave has played a significant role in his two years here … working with staff and our ATU partners, Dave and team have made a lot of positive progress.”
Dixon was hired in October 2014, following a serious sexual harassment scandal which saw his predecessor moved out of the position and made a “special advisor” to the City Manager.
During this less than two years in the position, Dixon made significant changes to the HSR. He significantly improved morale of HSR employees, improved on time performance, brought forth a ten-year transit plan, and recently pushed to improve HSR customer service and communications.
Dixon marked a significant departure from his predecessor. He became known as the transit director who believed in public transit.
His highest profile proposal, a $300-million Ten Year Transit Plan, was approved by Council on the condition that the province fund the $200-million capital cost of a new bus garage facilities and buses. The province did not fund the request, as conventional local transit is funded by the gas tax and the responsibility of the municipal level.
Council did not commit to the tax levy funding of the plan either.
Eric Tuck, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 representing HSR employees, calls the news “devastating”.
“He’s made a major impact on improving relations between the union and management”, Tuck says. “It’s unfortunate he fells it is time to leave.”
“I believe a lot of it has to do with his frustration dealing with a divided council”, Tuck says citing the “inability of council to remain focused on deliving on the 10 year plan”.
“I encourage Council to find a way for him to stay”.
The ATU says city manager Chris Murray must address some of the problems Dixon faced including dealing with the human resources department. When Dixon began as director, Tuck says he encountered “Frustration with having very little control or ability to negotiate” with the union during contract talks.
Tuck says Murray must hire a replacement who “must continue along the same path” improving transit and morale of transit employees. Murray must give the next director “the reins, the new director must have full control of the HSR and be able to implement their plans”
HSR operations manager Murray Hill, who Dixon hired from Toronto with experience at the Toronto Transit Commission, remains in his position. This gives HSR drivers and employees confidence there will be continuity of the positive changes started by Dixon, Tuck says.
Ward 3 City Councillor Matthew Green says the City should hire a transit director who “believes in LRT and the massive opportunity it represents for Hamilton”.
No information has been released about how Dixon’s departure may impact proposed service improvements for September or who will be acting transit director.
A search for Dixon’s replacement is underway.
City Manager Chris Murray’s statement
Dear Mayor and Members of Council,
I would like to announce Dave Dixon, Director of Transit has decided to leave the City of Hamilton effective June 18th.
Dave has played a significant role in his two years here. He was instrumental in the development of the 10 Year Transit Strategy, Accessible Transit Delivery Strategy and the LRT project. On behalf of everyone at the City of Hamilton, I would like to acknowledge and thank him for his efforts, his commitment and the leadership he has brought to his team. Working with staff and our ATU partners, Dave and team have made a lot of positive progress.
Please join me in wishing Dave all the best.