Open Thread: General Manager Grace Crunican Leaving BART

What will it mean for the Bay Area's rapid transit system?

BART GM Grace Crunican at the Hayward maintenance facility. Crunican leaves BART next month. Photo: BART
BART GM Grace Crunican at the Hayward maintenance facility. Crunican leaves BART next month. Photo: BART

Grace Crunican, BART’s General Manager, is retiring from her position. July 6 will be her last day. Her deputy, Robert Powers, will likely take over, pending a search for a new GM.

Crunican made the following statement yesterday to the BART Board of Directors:

It has been my honor to have served BART for nearly eight years. Today I am announcing my plans to retire from BART and to begin the next chapter in my life. This announcement has inspired many conflicted emotions–as you can imagine. Working closely with you, we have put in place essential elements which will help the Agency to thrive in the next decade. The entire rail car fleet is being replaced and expanded. The train control system, nearly 30 precent of the power system and billions in other infrastructure components are either scheduled or are being replaced. Under the leadership of Bob Powers, plans are developing to regularly measure ourselves against the best systems in the world.

“BART sometimes moves as nimbly as an aircraft carrier in molasses. Over the past eight years–with her focus, her tenacity, and a remarkable sense of humor under pressure–Grace has managed to move BART forward by leaps and bounds,” wrote MTC Commissioner and former BART Board member Nick Josefowitz.

“With major investments in capacity expansion and state of good repair, as well as an organizational transformation to make BART’s organization more efficient, more data-driven and more accountable, she has secured the future of the Bay Area’s transportation artery. ”

And Director Saltzman had this to say:

Former BART Board President Tom Radulovich had this to say in an email to Streetsblog:

I was on the BART board for twenty years, most of that time BG (Before Grace). Before Grace, my colleagues were mostly focused on shiny new things–suburban BART extensions–and mostly ignored some very important rusty old things–BART’s trains, tracks, stations, and structures. BART management largely followed suit. Grace was a pro who knew the mess she was getting into, and got down to business right away. She kept focused on renewing BART’s aging and inadequate infrastructure, and brought the board, the public, and funding agencies along.

She tackled BART’s infrastructure problems systematically,  bringing forward plans to renew each major system–rail cars, tracks, electrical power, the Transbay Tube, and so on. Some of her solutions created near-term pain–disrupting service to complete important track and systems work, and raising fares to fund system reinvestment – but she knew that the long-term benefits were worth it and was willing to put her neck out. Grace also helped clarify BART’s muddled thinking about land use at BART stations–creating denser, mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods–and about station access, replacing BART’s longstanding favoritism for driving and parking with a multimodal vision that embraced walking, cycling, and transit connections.

Crunican was appointed General Manager of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit by the BART Board of Directors in 2011. For more on her tenure, be sure to check out our coverage of SPUR’s extensive interview done earlier this year.

“Leadership changes are always challenging, but she has set up BART and her successor for success,” added Josefowitz.

Do you work for BART? What have you thought about Crunican’s leadership? Post your thoughts below.

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