Tough Road Ahead, MARTA Selects New Chief

Oct 4, 2012

Keith Parker is MARTA's next general manager and CEO.
Credit MARTA

In a near unanimous vote, the MARTA board has selected Keith Parker, the current head of San Antonio’s transit agency, as its new general manager and CEO.

By a vote of 9-0, with one absent and another abstaining, the MARTA board chose Parker over the other finalist, Stephen Bland, current head of Pittsburgh’s transit agency.

Board Chair Frederick Daniels says Parker is an excellent fit.

“MARTA faces many challenges: financially, politically and operationally. In those three key areas, Mr. Parker has proven himself to be a stand-out in the transit industry."

Parker is known as a rider-friendly and politically adept chief executive. One Atlanta-based transit advocate called him a “visionary” leader.

MARTA will need it. It’s currently more than $30 million in the red. A recently-released audit calls for big cuts to employee benefits (setting up a potential union fight) and privatization of some services. In addition, MARTA remains at odds with conservatives at the legislature over a state-imposed requirement on its spending.

Daniels says he's confident Parker will be able to form productive relationships with Georgia lawmakers.

"Be it the fact that he has a very conservative base in the San Antonio area, and he’s been able to work with both the business community and the legislative community," Daniels said, "we believe if given the chance by this legislature, we believe that he will definitely be successful.”

Parker is expected to begin in December.

Daniels says contract details are still being finalized. Outgoing MARTA chief Beverly Scott, who will take over Boston’s transit agency at the beginning of 2013, was paid $370,000 last year.