BART has gone through the specific problems that were on the table and they are addressing those and overall, Crunican says she's trying to reach out into the community and listen to what they have to say.
"I think there's concern about a lot of things. The economy's really bad, people are really nervous about a lot of things, so it's good to listen." During her first two weeks she's been to four stations so far, covering about 20 people at each, really talking with them about what works, what doesn't, what they like, what they don't.
"We were in trouble with our customers, or I was told that, so I wanted to go out and meet with them and just once a week, it isn't anything fancy, I just pick a station and I stand there for an hour," says Crunican. "I'm out there with a big sign that says I'm the general manager and people can come up and yell at me – some of them do, someone did this morning – most are very polite and tell me what's bugging them. If they're not telling me, I'm asking them."
She says, "I think we need to reconnect with the customer and the community. It's not just the rider, it's the broader community, and make sure that we're responding to their needs and make sure that we're respectful of their needs."
The travels also take her to talk to the station agents. "What's interesting to me," she says, "is their observations are very similar to the customers in each station.
"If they're worried about lighting or if they're worried about escalators or the elevators, the station agents and the customers are all worried about the same things; some things that characterize the individual stations."
Regarding the customers' responses, she says, "No. 1, most people do like BART. Apart from the tragedies, they like the system, they think it works well, it's very reliable, it's very dependable. Reliability is the No. 1 thing they like about BART.
"Then they get to the cleanliness issue," she says. "What's interesting is, I talk to my operations folks and they prioritize reliability, safety and cleanliness and when they get to cleanliness, they prioritize trains, then stations, then the escalators and outside and the riders rank them in that order.
"The cleanliness of the cars is better than the cleanliness of the stations, is better than the cleanliness of the escalators. So what that tells me is, what gets measured gets done." She adds, "We need to hit a little more on the cleanliness side, so I have to talk to my operations department about that."
Looking to the Future
With the state of the economy, Crunican says they'll be right there with the mix of everybody else, "We're no better, we're no worse than everybody else.
"I think any community that wants to better itself should invest in education, so I would put them first. I certainly think there are some issues out there that are critical; health is critical."
She continues, "We're one of the important issues that are out there. We sometimes have user fees that can be used to invest in and certainly an investment in infrastructure is a long-term, good, solid investment. But people falling through the cracks immediately is also a worry." She adds, "I think we're all going to fair poorly over the next few years because we're in a recession/depression I think people don't want to talk about."
Crunican states, "We've been a terrific agency in the past and we will be a terrific agency again and we need to get out there and confront the issues that are in front of us and get to it and the sooner the better.
"I believe in the people that work here; public servants are very dedicated. When the world's addressing really tough issues, the public employees are there trying to serve folks well."
She states, "When the earthquake happened, BART employees, it's my understanding, really rose to the occasion. They really got out there letting people know BART was running, first of all they got BART back open." She continues, "I think public employees are great servants and they've come under a lot of fire, but working with them and inspiring them is part of what the job is.
"We're not going to turn this around right away but we have to try and we have to stay with it.