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.

  • Paul

    Board Member Rebecca Saltzman: “Grace has done so much for this agency over her eight years here – especially focusing us on system reinvestment.”

    Translation: Using a shell-game of accounting gimmicks, Grace and the board did a masterful job of tricking the taxpayers into a massive new tax increase to pay for new equipment they should have been saving up for, while at the same time, maintaining the overly-generous compensation packages for the union workers, who are also experts at holding the Bay Area hostage to get more and more.

  • LazyReader

    BART quality and ridership declines rest on the incompetent management; Now fleeing. BART blames ride hailing services for the loss in business, claiming that no one could have predicted the rise in such services when the agency planned these lines. Ride hailing is very predictable now, yet BART is still planning new lines, including an extension to Livermore, a second transbay crossing, and of course the line to downtown San Jose. Huge multi-billion dollar projects that will cost the taxpayers.

    BART itself has saw a 17 percent decline in ridership since 2015 -2018 despite a 15 percent increase in train service. Of course, BART’s solution to the decline isn’t more sensible transit spending. Instead it’s to spend even more. The train stations even refurbished still resemble post apocalyptic scenery where junkies shoot up in plain view of riders.

  • Daniel Carroll

    “At its May 24, 2018 Board meeting, the BART Board voted to certify the BART to Livermore Extension Project Final Environmental Impact Report, but to not advance the Proposed Conventional BART Extension to Livermore. The Board also voted to not advance the DMU/EMU Alternative, Express Bus/BRT Alternative or the Enhanced Bus Alternative. A video of the meeting can be found at http://www.bart.gov/about/bod/multimedia (go to the May 24, 2018 meeting and click on “Watch Now”). Continued planning for a rail connection between BART, ACE, and the San Joaquin Valley is being conducted by the Tri-Valley San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority. Their concept for an initial project is an EMU/DMU from West Tracy to BART. For more details, go to http://www.acetobart.org

    The above is from BART’s web site from almost a year ago. The added tubes across the bay are being planned by several transportation organizations as there is a need for tracks of both gauges. Adding more auto capacity into the city from the east is not useful as things back up now *in* The City with the existing bridge. Oh, and the line to San Jose is not being built by BART. They will use it, but they are not building it or paying for it.

    Relax. We’ll all be dead soon enough.

  • jcb100

    As a frequent BART user, I see the past 8 years as a period of managed decline – filthy stations and people bedding down in them, crazies jumping fare gates and getting on trains. Problems that are not expensive to fix. No wonder ride share has drawn passengers away. The GM may mean well but BART is by no stretch of the imagination efficiently run, it needs a disrupter to shake it up.

  • letsspendmore

    BART and the homeless situation caused by the law enforcement policy endorsed by the surrounding bay areas cities. As long as the cities allow the homeless free rein of their cities it is wrong to believe that BART can fix the problem on the trains. Even if they had terrific enforcement the judges and prosecutors in the surrounding cities would simply let the criminals go. The people get the government they vote for.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    In the time that this person was the GM, BART ridership increased by 20%. Is that a decline?

  • OaktownPRE

    What will it mean from her departure? Maybe the trains and stations will be less filthy and the rider experience might improve. It couldn’t get worse (I hope!)

  • OaktownPRE

    Well put. It’s incredible that anyone could characterize the past eight years of decline as any sort of “reinvestment”.

  • Bassoon Reedman

    The $2 BILLION BART extension to San Jose has sat unused for a year and a half because 1) BART doesn’t understand its train controls, and 2) BART doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to procure the added trains needed to operate the extension. It is obvious that BART won’t miss its “leadership” any more than the Titanic needed an extra anchor. P.S. Ask BART how it blew-out 100 thyristors (at $1000 each) in its East Bay trains. BART doesn’t know ….

  • crazyvag

    What’s wrong with line to San Jose? It’s better than to suburbs.
    Plus, since you didn’t read this, it’s VTA that’s building the extension to San Jose, not BART.

    Also, it’s VTA that is paying for operation, so your criticism at BART again makes no sense.

  • LazyReader

    The VTA is the worst run transit agency.
    Tom Rubin, an accountant who has audited many transit agencies in the past shows that VTA ranks among the bottom two or three transit operators by such performance criteria as farebox recovery (the percentae of costs paid by fares), average passenger loads, subsidy per rider, and subsidy
    per vehicle mile. Even if it builds this BART line, VTA admits it doesn’t have the money to operate it.

  • Andy Chow

    This is a VTA led and funded project. Blame VTA for trying to build a system they do not own, and essentially defunded its own transit system to pay for it.

  • crazyvag

    Again, you missed the point and went onto a tangent. Your assertion that BARtTis is spending money on building and operating the San Jose extension is incorrect.

  • Chuck Smith

    What’s the point of public transit if just anyone can use it?

  • William

    Grace Crunican was never qualified to be BART’s GM. It was a “politically correct” hire by the BART Board of Directors. And we know how inept the BART Board has been over the many years. BART is a train wreck…..

  • Malcolm Kettering

    Gee and how much did the region’s economy and/or number of jobs grow during that same time? The jobs growth in SF should have meant that BART ridership grew 50%, not just 20%.

  • Malcolm Kettering

    You forgot their other solution: raise ticket prices on the dwindling masses who still pay for their fares instead of jumping the gates.

  • Malcolm Kettering

    You really think BART has spent literally $0.00 on the Berryessa extension?

  • Malcolm Kettering

    Hear! Hear! Reinvestment = deferred maintenance and squandered billions on labor and perks.

  • crazyvag

    I think you misunderstood my comment . I wasn’t referring to the Fremont to SJ segment as unneeded, but the SJ to Santa Clara segment as unneeded.

    In transit, it doesn’t get better than a rail connection. If you have a billion dollars to spend, would you spend it building a rail connection between stations already connected or reach out the areas currently not served by rail?

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