BART announces Robert Powers as new general manager who is prioritizing 'customer satisfaction'

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The BART Board of Directors voted unanimously Thursday morning to promote Robert Powers to the position of General Manager. He has worked at BART for seven years and spent the last three years as the deputy general manager.

After the vote, Powers made a public statement saying he is humbled and excited about the job. He says his number one commitment is to the customers who come first and to make sure employees have the tools to do the job and do it safely.

"We have a problem. Our low customer satisfaction numbers are unacceptable. We can do better, we must do better, we will do better," Powers said.

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He also said he thinks it is important to have a fully staffed BART police department but also didn't rule out having unarmed ambassadors watching over the trains as well.

"I do think that having a staffed presence on the trains is important for our riders, whether they are sworn officers or whether they are some type of ambassador program or something like that. But having a presence during the nights and weekends is critical and I think our riders from our customer satisfaction surveys are asking for that," said Powers.

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He announced a listening tour as one of his first action items as general manager and also noted that he will soon be on the platforms and riding the trains to talk to passengers about the issues they have with BART directly. He also says he intends to carefully monitor social media.

"We are going to work hard to improve your customer experience and I am ready to listen with that I am announcing that I am launching a listening tour," he said. "I want to hear directly from our riders and our employees of their concerns. I will be in the stations, I will be in trains, I will be on the platforms, I will be at the yards and shops. I want to hear what they have to say and if we are taking the right steps. I will sit with social media and listen to what is being said in the digital space. We all have a stake in the success of BART and BART has such a great impact on the Bay Area."

BART union members were in the crowd to hear the announcement. When asked their reaction, union leadership said they do not know him and were Googling him to learn more about him.

Powers will be paid $385,000 a year.

His other priorities include:

  • Hiring more police. He said 33 new officers have been hired since January and there are more than 20 positions yet to fill.

  • Possibly expanding the pilot fare gate program. This summer Bart has been experimenting with new gates at Fruitvale and Richmond Stations. Preliminary data shows that fare evasion is down 55 percent to 60 percent with the new Richmond gates in place. A decision will be made in September.

  • Adding elevator attendants at the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations by October on the heels of success with elevator attendants at Powell and Civic Center in preventing the homeless from using the elevators as bathrooms.

  • Long closed and locked Bart bathrooms in San Francisco and the East Bay will be remodeled and opened. They will be reconfigured with an open floor plan and a sink in the middle and attendants on hand to monitor their use.

  • BART is dubbing 2020 "the year of the escalator" as they start to replace 40 aging escalators mostly in San Francisco stations.

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