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MARTA CEO Jeff Parker has died

Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker, named CEO of MARTA in 2018. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

By Maria Saporta

MARTA General Manager Jeff Parker died Friday night in an apparent suicide, MARTA has confirmed.

Rita Scott, MARTA board chair, issued a statement on Parker’s death:

“The MARTA Board of Directors grieves the shocking death of our GM/CEO Jeff Parker who has died by suicide. He was an outstanding leader and steward of MARTA whose passing leaves us all heartbroken. As Chairwoman and on behalf of my fellow MARTA board members, we are devastated at this loss as we valued Jeff’s leadership and looked forward to him bringing his vision for transit to fruition. The entire metro Atlanta region owes him a debt of gratitude for his transformational efforts and we will not stop working to build on the foundation he created. As we struggle to understand the complexity of this tragedy, we grieve with and for his wife Erin, his daughters and all of Jeff’s family and friends as well as his MARTA family. As we continue to grieve, we want you to know that suicide is preventable and help is available to you.”

According to several people close to the transit agency, Parker was killed by a MARTA train at the East Lake MARTA station at about 10:30 p.m.

MARTA did send out a tweet at 10:39 p.m. Friday night notifying the public of an emergency at East Lake, saying there were going to be delays on the Blue Line.

At 2:41 a.m. Saturday morning, MARTA tweeted out an update: “In response to the emergency situation at East Lake, bus shuttle service & MARTAConnect has now ended. We thank you for your patience.”

Stephany Fisher, a MARTA  spokeswoman, sent out the following statement at 8:47 a.m.:

“With very heavy hearts, we share the official news of GM/CEO Jeffrey Parker’s tragic passing on Friday evening, January 14, 2022. Please keep his family in your prayers and meditations. In the coming days, we will share more information on the transition plan, including grief counseling for employees as we process this devastating news. Jeff cared deeply about MARTA and his leadership gave us a strong foundation from which to carry forward.”

Jim Durrett and Jeff Parker at a 40th anniversary MARTA celebration in 2019 (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens issued the following statement:

“I am shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic death of my colleague and friend Jeff Parker. As MARTA’s General Manager and CEO, Jeff and I worked closely together when I chaired the Transportation Committee on City Council. Jeff understood that MARTA is more than just a transportation system — it represents connectivity for residents and visitors of our great city and region. My thoughts and prayers are with Jeff’s family and friends, and with the staff and board at MARTA, during this very difficult time.”

Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, issued the following statement:

“All of us at ARC are terribly saddened to learn of Jeffrey Parker’s passing. He was an inspirational and driven leader who steered MARTA through one of the most challenging periods in the agency’s history. He championed a modernized, more equitable transit system that puts the customer first, a vision that will be lasting. He was our partner and we have cherished our working relationship with him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones at this difficult time.”

Chris Tomlinson, head of the ATL, and MARTA General Manager Jeff Parker talk about transit in metro Atlanta during October 2021 LINK trip to Chicago (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Earlier this morning, longtime MARTA board member Jim Durrett confirmed his death was an apparent suicide. “Nobody knows the WHY,” Durrett wrote in a text.

Durrett did dispel another rumor — that Parker had been fired from the agency.

“What I can tell you is that he was NOT fired,” Durrett wrote.

Board member Robbie Ashe confirmed that Parker was in great standing with the board.

Parker became general manager of MARTA nearly four years ago after a 35-year career in the transportation engineering and consulting industry.

On Wednesday, the Council for Quality Growth held the annual “State of MARTA” program, which was full of good news from the agency being able to weather the COVID pandemic with a balanced budget as well as its plans to expand the regional transit system.

At the State of MARTA, Parker unveiled the transit system’s newest rail cars with a sleek design that already had received accolades from the public.

Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker, named CEO and general manager of MARTA in 2018 (Photo by Maria Saporta)

According to his bio on the MARTA website, Parker’s transportation career began in 1985 with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) where he started as an intern and rose to oversee the agency’s extensive light and heavy rail lines. During his 20-year tenure at MBTA, he led various efforts to improve reliability, safety, security, and customer service for the nation’s oldest subway system.

Parker has been an active member of the American Public Transit Association (APTA), serving on its board and chairing its Rail Transit and Rail Transit CEO committees. He has served on the board of directors for several major transportation organizations, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Bradley International Airport, and the I-95 Corridor Coalition.

In Georgia, Parker has been a member of the board of directors of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Transportation Alliance, Council for Quality Growth, Central Atlanta Progress, and Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

Robbie Ashe Jeff Parker

MARTA Chairman Robbie Ashe and MARTA CEO Jeff Parker meet with reporters after historic “More MARTA” vote (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Parker is consistently recognized as one of Atlanta’s most influential leaders, most recently named among Atlanta Magazine’s Most Powerful People of 2020 and Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Power 100: Most Influential Atlantans of 2020. Parker was also recognized in 2019 by the Atlanta Chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS-Atlanta) as its “Man of the Year” for his strong record of hiring and promoting women in the transportation industry.

Parker graduated cum laude from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741”

For access to services and immediate crisis help, call the Georgia Crisis & Access Lines (GCAL) at 1-800-715-4225, available 24/7.

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Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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19 Comments

  1. Herman Lawrence January 15, 2022 12:55 pm

    Praying for him and his family.Report

    Reply
  2. Kenneth Gregor January 15, 2022 2:23 pm

    Maria,
    Having the opportunity of knowing and observing every Marta individual general manager, in my judgment Jeff was one of the most exceptional. He was devoted to public transit and truly cared for Marta employees and customers. Public transit is not only what Jeff did but also it was what he was.Report

    Reply
  3. Noel M January 15, 2022 4:21 pm

    I am so deeply saddened by this news. First, Jeff Parker seemed in every respect to be an amazing leader, following the tenure of another great Parker at the helm of MARTA and leading it and us as transit supporters to new heights.

    Then to process the pain involved in a leader taking his own life – and in this particularly devastating way – brings me grief.

    Finally, on a personal note, I love the MARTA transit system so much that in 2013 I wrote an opinion piece for this publication, Saporta Report, entitled “MARTA Changed My Life.” The transit system, and Parker’s leadership of it, remains a beacon for many of us who want to see more equity and opportunity in transportation.

    Praying for his family, and for any others considering self-harm – please get help, today.Report

    Reply
  4. Serafino Frank January 15, 2022 4:56 pm

    My Condolences to his family and Members of service with MARTA. May he Rest in Eternal Peace.Report

    Reply
  5. Anthony Ashley January 15, 2022 5:22 pm

    I am deeply saddened by this news.As a retiree, I felt that Jeff was committed to moving MARTA forward and helped improve it’s image. My sincere condolences to his family.Report

    Reply
  6. THOMAS JOSEPHINE January 15, 2022 6:24 pm

    MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF MR. PARKER. I AM A MARTA RETIREE AND THIS NEWS HITS HOME BECAUSE WE ARE FAMILY. REST IN PEACE. 😪😪🙏🙏Report

    Reply
  7. Jennifer Kelly January 15, 2022 9:24 pm

    My 🙏 condolences to his family. May God forgive and bless his soul that he may rest in peace.Report

    Reply
  8. Lee Reeder January 16, 2022 12:18 pm

    So hard to process this. Work-related or personal crisis? If it was a lashing out or sending a message, we’ll never know. This will reverberate for months. Was something overlooked that has to change?Report

    Reply
  9. Marvin Toliver January 16, 2022 1:03 pm

    My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Parker’s Family, love ones, the MARTA Family and the MARTA Train Operator involved.Report

    Reply

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