2015 “State of MARTA” Breakfast: Transformation: Good to Great
MARTA recently celebrated its successes and highlighted upcoming programs with regional thought leaders at its 2015 State of MARTA breakfast. Transformation: Good to Great was the theme of the event which kicked off with opening remarks from Therese McMillan, Acting Administrator for the Federal Transit Administrator.
In her speech, McMillan congratulated MARTA and the City of Atlanta on the opening of the Atlanta Streetcar and also urged metro Atlanta residents to publicly voice their support for MARTA to state and federal elected officials.
Erin Coleman, WSB-TV news anchor, emceed the breakfast and Ed Baker, publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, moderated the conversation on MARTA’s role in metro Atlanta’s future growth and development.
In a keynote address, MARTA GM/CEO Keith T. Parker shared the vision for the Authority’s future and encouraged the audience to take a S-E-A-T.
“We’ve created an easy acronym that we will use to engage with the community,” Parker said. “Each letter represents a powerful new way for MARTA to connect with our friends, partners and supporters.
The “S” stands for Service. From this point forward, MARTA is going to constantly be on the lookout for new ways of delivering our service to customers. The “E” stands for Economy. Economic empowerment and economic development are important to MARTA and to the future of the metro Atlanta. The relationship between workforce development and economic competitiveness cannot be overstated and it has been key to selecting the agency’s Transit Oriented Development stations.
The “A” stands for Arts. Many transit agencies have built in wonderful art programs by dedicating a portion of their capital projects budgets to transit art. The “T” stands for Technology. The agency is moving forward with mobile payment technology that will allow customers to use their cell phone rather than a Breeze machine. In addition, MARTA is planning Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity on buses and trains.
In addition to S-E-A-T, Parker highlighted the agency’s positive news including adding more rail and bus service, launching five TOD projects and perhaps the largest story of 2014 – the successful Clayton County referendum to join MARTA.
MARTA Board Chairman Robert L. Ashe III announced that the board of directors would vote to extend Parker’s contract for an additional two years through 2019. The board voted unanimously in support of the extension at its Jan. 8, 2014, board meeting.
“Routine excellence” has become the daily mantra of the General Manager and MARTA staff. One of MARTA’s biggest media stories last year was success of Ride with Respect, the customer code of conduct policy that we launched in 2013 to curtail uncivil behavior, including playing loud music, bad language and again, fare evasion which has been Public Enemy Number One. A year after Ride with Respect went into effect, the agency has suspended more than 2,000 people for an assortment of violations.
In a recent Ride with Respect arrest that attracted national media attention, two MARTA Police plainclothes officers – La-Shi Smith and James Williams –noticed an individual trying to sneak past the faregates at the Georgia State Station behind a paying customer. Because these officers were being vigilant and doing their jobs, they wound up apprehending a suspect in a string of unsolved murders.
Another MARTA Police Officer, Sgt. Oliver Delgado, a ballistics expert, also became suspicious and acted on his instincts when he saw the unusual gun and bullets the suspect was carrying at the time. Sgt. Delgado notified the Atlanta Police Department who had broadcast an alert about the weapon that was linked to four homicides.
Thanks to their outstanding police work, a very dangerous and extremely violent murder suspect was taken into custody and taken off of the streets.
The event came to a close with a roundtable discussion featuring Dana Lemon, Georgia Department of Transportation Board Member for the 13th Congressional District; the Hon. Jeffrey E. Turner, Chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners and Douglas R. Hooker, Executive Director of the Atlanta Regional Commission. The Hon. Ceasar C. Mitchell, President of the Atlanta City Council providing closing remarks.