Keith Parker: Make It Cool to Ride MARTA

“We want to make it cool to ride MARTA,” says Keith Parker, CEO and general manager of MARTA. Tak-ing a cue from New York, Chicago and Paris, Parker said Atlanta could one day have a different vision to finally confront its traffic problems and become connected with rapid transit alternatives that are smart—and cool. In-deed, that goal is ideal for our metro area so plagued with traffic problems.

 

Parker is a breath of fresh air for MARTA that started showing negative image problems that deepened in the Great Recession. Parker, who assumed MARTA leadership in December 2012, came here from the San An-tonio transit system, where he was Texas CEO of the year in 2011 and 2012. Many locals are hoping he can bring his magic to ATL neighborhoods.

 

He chose to live with his family near a MARTA station and is a regular rider. He has initiated more se-curity cameras, visible agency police officers and a stated code of conduct to “Ride with Respect,” by which more than 1,000 disruptive passengers have been suspended.

 

MARTA under Parker has enacted impressive cost cutting practices in IT services, natural gas powered buses and common sense electronic paystubs instead of paper ones for personnel. Such changes allowed em-ployees a deserving pay raise while revising MARTA’s books from $20-30 million losses to a $9 million sur-plus.

 

Perhaps the most exciting recent prospect to surface for MARTA is capitalizing on consumer desires for “walkable neighborhoods” along its routes, existing and expanded. Parker wants to convert underperforming MARTA real estate potential into mixed-use developments adjacent or nearby local stations. Opportunities exist in areas around Avondale, Edgewood-Candler Park, Brookhaven, Chamblee and Arts Center stations.

 

–Dr. Paul Hudson