BART directors appoint new general manager

August 31, 2011 8:21:43 PM PDT
BART has a new top-manager and she's stepping-in at a difficult time. It's been four months since the previous general manager was forced out with a million dollars in severance. Grace Crunican comes from Seattle, where she headed a transportation system that did not include a rail line. She does have experience getting federal funding and dealing with controversy, something that may come in handy at BART.

Crunican brings with her years of experience as a transportation manager in Seattle and an apparent willingness to tackle BART's recent controversies head on.

"Sounds fun to me," Crunican said.

But Crunican wouldn't say much more than that. Like, would she have cut off cell phone service to curb protestors?

"Let me get my feet on the ground, listen to both sides, or all sides of the issue and I'll be happy to sit down, to work with your after I get started," Crunican said.

"At this point in time, I don't think it's a job that I would want," BART Director Lynette Sweet said. "Right now, BART is mired in controversy, union contracts are going to come up soon. We still need $3.5 billion to replace our trains. She's walking into a big job and I think she can do it."

Crunican served for eight years as the director of Seattle's Department of Transportation. She also worked as a deputy in the federal transit administration.

At BART, the hope is she has the connections to secure billions in federal funding to replace BART's aging train cars.

"I've got good relations with folks in Washington D.C. and I'll work with the region and the BART board as well as the congressional delegation," Crunican said.

But one director takes issue with the decision to give the new general manager $320,000 in salary and lifetime benefits after just two years.

"Allowing her to vest for lifetime medical benefits and the pension in two years when everyone else at BART has to wait five years, I thought just wasn't fair," BART Director James Fang said.

In Seattle, Crunican received heavy criticism for a botched response to the December 2008 snowstorms that left much of the city crippled for days.

"I think a fair read of the situation was that we did as well, if not better, than the other providers in the area, but my team got a little tired by the end of it," Crunican said.

Crunican said Wednesday she learned from mistakes made in Seattle and would have done things differently. She would not say whether she's seen some things at BART that she would change or do differently. However, she did apparently share some thoughts along those lines with BART directors, in closed session.

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