2019 40 Under 40: Dave Walker

Sept. 13, 2019
Dave Walker, Director Revenue & Marketing, Keolis Commuter Services
  • Alma Mater: King’s College London
  • Favorite book: “King Lear” by Shakespeare (always loved Shakespeare)
  • Favorite TV show: “Game of Thrones”
  • Favorite movie: “Titanic”
  • Favorite hobby(s): Cycling
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): Shinjuku Station, Tokyo, Japan – it is the busiest station in the world and was incredible to see 3.6 million people a day using a single station.
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): Channel Tunnel route from London to Paris. I always find it a fascinating engineering achievement to travel under the sea by rail.

Dave Walker’s transit industry experience spans multiple modes and departments including operations, finance, stakeholder management and commercial affairs. This breadth of knowledge and the results he has delivered in his various roles have contributed to the success of those companies.

Walker led an initiative to make significant changes to timetables for Southern Railway in South London, which helped extend service to 10-car trains and increase capacity during peak times by 14 percent. While head of Revenue and Ticketing at Govia Thameslink Railway, Walker led the push to expand the use of the stored value “Oyster Card” at Gatwick airport, the second busiest airport by passenger volume in the UK. He also led the team that launched the first pay as you go smart card on national rail.

In his current position, Walker is applying his skillset towards the ground-up development and implementation of a revenue and ridership marketing initiative for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) commuter rail network. He leads a team of nine individuals recruited for their talents rather than their previous transportation experience. Walker and his team have developed brand-guidelines in partnership with the public transit agency and performed the initial market research and analysis without preexisting templates or examples for the industry in the greater Boston region. Successfully building this multidimensional program in a year was a huge challenge that Walker executed with precision. The commuter rail network is now advertised regularly and marketing efforts, such as a $10 all-weekend/unlimited travel fare, were not only well-received but made permanent by MBTA’s governing board. Forms of variable-pricing has been introduced and all conductors on the network are now equipped with handheld devices that accept credit/debit cards onboard -- a first for the network.

Walker’s immediate goals are to maximize fare recovery, enhance perception of the commuter rail as a network and increase ridership, but it should be noted that Boston’s commuter rail network is one of the few in the country bucking national trends through increased ridership. Walker’s hope is to extend those goals to all railroads and public transit systems by applying lessons learned in different disciplines (e.g. operational planning, compliance, marketing) and applying that knowledge in comprehensive ways.

“I worked in scheduling and service planning earlier in my career. That has helped me a lot since then in understanding how transit systems work and the constraints that drive service frequencies and the challenges of running additional services.”

“[I’m proud to have had a role in] helping roll out the Oyster card system to Gatwick Airport in London. While it was a challenging project, seeing the benefit since then in how quick and convenient it is for people to use Oyster to travel made it worthwhile.”

“Experience different parts of a transit organization, and work in different cities or countries to get a sense of how each deals with similar challenges. What I’ve found fascinating is that whether it is Europe, Japan or the U.S., the challenges in terms of performance or providing more capacity are very similar.”

“I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of working in systems that move so many people around cities and countries. I think that the impact a good transit system has on so many people’s lives is very worthwhile.”