BART General Manager Grace Crunican speaks before a ribbon cutting for one of the new Market Street canopy entrances over the Powell Street BART Station on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. Crunican announced she will step down as general manager in July at a BART Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

BART’s top official, Grace Crunican, announces ‘surprise’ departure

The general manager led the agency through a strike that crippled the Bay Area and also helped secured a $3.5 million bond

BART’s top staffer is headed out the door.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican announced her departure Thursday at the BART Board of Directors meeting, which directors called a “surprise.”

“Despite my challenges and ups and downs at BART I am proud,” Crunican said.

She added that her top staff are “customer-focused and have made operational changes,” and are prepared to take over for her when she leaves.

“All of the above make me proud and very sad to announce that July 6 will be my last day here,” Crunican said.

Crunican served the district as general manager for just shy of eight years. The BART board appointed her in August 2011 after a nationwide search.

Crunican brought 32 years of experience in the public transportation agency. She served as a deputy director for transportation in Portland, Oregon, and served as a Federal Transit Administration deputy administrator, among other positions.

Her time at BART wasn’t without controversy. Crunican led the agency during tough negotiations that led to two worker deaths in 2013, after agency management tried to train replacement train operators to supplant strikers. BART was ultimately fined for those workers deaths.

But Crunican also led BART on a path to fiscal solvency — during her tenure, BART proposed a $3.5 billion bond to voters in 2016, which they ultimately approved. The funding will propel BART into the future with a new fleet of train cars long after Crunican’s departure.

At the meeting Thursday, her announcement seemingly shocked directors.

“This is a big surprise to us,” said BART Board of Directors President Bevan Dufty, who represents San Francisco.

“You’ve served this district with tremendous distinction and worked incredibly hard,” he said.

The directors praised Crunican for her tough demeanor and willingness to push back on BART board ideas she disagreed with.

“I’m going to miss the confrontations,” BART board member John McPartland said. McPartland represents Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore and other counties.

BART board member Lateefah Simon, who represents San Francisco, among other counties, also praised Crunican’s “tenacity.”

“You are tough,” she said. “That toughness, you gain it from years and years of muscle and not letting anyone railroad you.”

Simon added, “I’m gonna buy Grace a T-shirt that says, ‘Fight like a girl.’”

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