By David Pendered
Keith Parker is ending his first year as MARTA’s general manager with glowing remarks from the chair of the state legislature’s committee that oversees MARTA.
“I really appreciate everything that is going on right now at MARTA and look forward to an excellent second year, as we have had an excellent first year under Mr. Parker,” said state Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven), who chairs the joint House-Senate committee known as MARTOC.
Jacobs delivered his remarks Friday, during MARTOC’s final meeting of the year. The meeting ended a full day for transit leaders, who hosted a “State of MARTA” breakfast at the agency’s headquarters.
“Everything we’re doing is about accountability,” Parker said in a statement about the breakfast. “Our customers, employees and taxpayers should know the transit system is being managed wisely so that their investment in MARTA will keep paying dividends.”
Parker and a few top administrators delivered three presentations to MARTOC, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Oversight Committee:
- An update on the 2013 KPMG Management Audit Implementation;
- A report MARTOC had requested on the use of consultants;
- MARTA’s 2014 legislative agenda.
Davis Allen, MARTA’s CFO, said MARTA is considering several possible ways to reduce costs and increase revenues.
Allowing advertisements on buses and trains for alcoholic beverages could bring in $300,000 a year, Allen said.
Parking fees now bring in more than $2 million a year, Allen said. But the net is closer to $130,000 after factoring the cost of 62 employees who work in the parking division.
Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), MARTOC’s vice chair, focused on the potential of automating collections. Millar led a chorus of folks who said they don’t like such automation, and Parker responded that MARTA intends to ask vendors to submit proposals that will show if a fully automated system or some sort of hybrid would be best for MARTA.
MARTA collects about $5 million a year in leases for transit oriented developments, Allen said. Parker has said previously that his goal is to advance the program, which got off to a big start more than a decade ago at the Lindbergh Station but has since dwindled.
Progress is underway with a planned development on four acres at the King Memorial Station. MARTA’s board on Monday authorized the staff to enter contract negotiations with a developer. MARTA has identified King Memorial as the first of five stations it intends to develop with a private partner within two years.
Paratransit is another area that is to be reviewed. KPMG is evaluating the potential of shifting some riders to the regular system, which would reduce costs. KPMG also is determining if MARTA could shift to smaller paratransit vehicles, possibly even sedans, Allen said.
MARTA breezed through the section on its use of consultants and lawmakers asked very few questions. In the past, this has been a very contentious issue.
Regarding MARTA’s legislative wish list, lobbyist Rhonda Ridley said the agency will again ask for the elimination of the 50/50 split, which requires MARTA to spend half its income on capital expenditures. The Legislature previously waived the provision and that waiver ended in June.
MARTA will ask permission to spend its interest income and ask to have criminal laws created to enforce its new code of conduct, Ridley said.
Finally, MARTA will ask for authority to enter contracts to provide rail service outside Fulton and DeKalb counties – if any such system is ever built. MARTA now has the authority to contract its bus service. MARTA will not operate the Atlanta Streetcar, Tom Weyandt, Atlanta’s senior transportation policy advisor, told WABE on Monday.