"Oscar Grant, Young Father and Peacemaker, Executed by BART Police"
"Johannes Mehserle, White Cop Who Shot Unarmed Black Man Oscar Grant Gets Two Years in Prison"
"Justice for Charles Hill BART Action Shuts Three Stations in San Francisco"
"BART Board Asks Dorothy Dugger to Resign"
"BART Cellphone Blocking Raises Uproar"
"Anonymous Hackers Attack BART"
Those are just a few of the headlines the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) has been facing over the past few years. And while the media coverage has us so focused on these topics, there are many other positive things that have been happening at BART.
Two weeks after she started, I sat down with BART's new general manager, Grace Crunican, to learn what they are working on, how they are moving forward and also, why she came to BART.
"BART is a good facility," Crunican says. "I understand that they've had some troubles and we had two very sad tragedies on our hands with the shootings. Those tragedies have set a tone here that everyone's very sorry for what happened and we're trying to figure out how we move forward and I thought it would be a good challenge to work with them."
She continues, "I enjoy problem solving. I enjoy a challenge and this is a challenge so that's why I'm having a good time."
A Background in Transportation
Crunican was born and raised in Portland and attended Gonzaga University for political science and criminal justice. While there, she started working for Neil Goldschmidt, the mayor of Portland at the time.
"One of my jobs was taking in complaints in the transit mall construction," Crunican explains. "They were building a new mall – it was a big idea at the time, hadn't been done – and I listened to all the businesses."
After getting her degree, she continued to work for the mayor and felt public service was a good fit for her, so she then went on to get her business administration degree and was also accepted in to the Presidential Management Intern (PMI) program, which was a program developed to attract and develop the federal sector's future managers.
During her time in the PMI, she had a rotation at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in D.C. "I did a cost-benefit analysis of three jurisdictions ... where the service was, who raised what revenue, who got what for it and that sort of thing.
"From there I worked in the secretary's office. Mort Downey was the deputy of budget at the time and I worked with him and Sarah Campbell and Anne Canby."
After that Crunican went to the Senate's Committee on Appropriations and was the staffer for the transportation subcommittee for a couple of years before going back to Portland as the capital projects manager. After working her way up to deputy, she went back to D.C. and ran a surface transportation policy project, which was a group of people interested in implementing the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA).
She then served as the deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration for three years and one of the projects she worked on was the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) extension.
She then went to Oregon to run the Oregon Department of Transportation, looking at all forms of transportation and how the system fits together. From there she went to the Seattle Department of Transportation and was the director for eight years. "We worked on transit there in terms of putting in a streetcar line for the city and then we tried to change our policies to be friendlier toward transit, bikes, walking, make the car kind of fit in," she says. "No one objects to having cars around, but they need to be planned for and they need to be respectful of transit, walkers and bikers."
Of coming to BART she says, "If you're in to transportation management, you're in to transportation management.