This story has been updated.
Keith Parker, the man who led a revival at MARTA, has announced he is leaving his CEO post after five years.
Parker is leaving for a job at Goodwill of North Georgia where he will become president and CEO this fall.
MARTA will conduct a national search for his replacement. The MARTA board will name an interim general manager in an upcoming board meeting.
The transit system has grown by leaps and bounds under Parker’s leadership. Trains have begun to run more frequently and MARTA became a leader in creating Transit Oriented Developments that combine mixed-use developments with MARTA rail stations.
MARTA board member Jim Durrett said Parker contacted him with the news last week.
“It is the second largest Goodwill industries office in the country and it will allow him to stay in Atlanta which he wants to do,” Durrett said. “It was an offer he felt he couldn’t refuse.”
Durrett said Parker was recruited heavily by other transit agencies and the American Public Transportation Association, but he mission of Goodwill is “simply something he values greatly.”
Durrett noted that the American Public Transportation Association is holding an expo here in Atlanta. Parker asked attendees to bring a set of clothes, and by that he means good clothes, like suits and ties, things people can wear to job interviews.
“Reflecting on him saying that would be part of the APTA expo, I understand where he was coming from,” Durrett said.
When asked if MARTA tried to make Parker an offer to stay, Durrett said, “We have sweetened the pot several times over the past five years.”
MARTA board member Bill Floyd said Parker told him he has, “reached a point in his life where, if he’s going to do anything different from transit, that he needs to do it and now is the time and he feels like it’s a great opportunity for him.”
“I hate to see him go,” Floyd said. “Good lord, he’s made an incredible difference at MARTA over the last five years. I wish him the best.”
Here is the full announcement from MARTA:
ATLANTA— General Manager and CEO Keith Parker announced that he will step down after nearly five years of service, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) announced today. Parker will join Goodwill of North Georgia, which provides job training, employment placement services, and other community-based programs, as president and CEO this fall.
Led by MARTA Chairman Robbie Ashe, the Board will vote to approve an interim general manager in an upcoming session and will launch a national search for a permanent chief executive.
“We are deeply grateful for his stewardship and proud of the many strides we made as an agency during his tenure, said Chairman Ashe. “As chief executive, Parker helped to usher in a new day for MARTA’s customer service, fiscal responsibility, and service expansion. He leaves MARTA stronger and healthier than ever before.”
Separately, after a rigorous nationwide search, the Authority named veteran transit executive Arthur “Rob” Troupe—a former HNTB and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) executive— deputy general manager. Starting September 18, Troupe will report to the interim general manager, both of whom will work directly with Parker throughout his remaining tenure to ensure a seamless transition.
“With three decades of progressive experience, Troupe joins an exceptional executive leadership team,” said Parker. “This is an exciting new chapter for MARTA and I am confident that he will play an important role in the agency’s future.”
Parker joined the nation’s ninth largest transit system as its General Manager and Chief Executive Officer in December 2012. With an annual budget of nearly $1 billion, MARTA provides more than 400,000 passenger trips a day through heavy rail, bus and paratransit services. Since taking the helm, Parker has worked with MARTA’s Board of Directors to balance the Authority’s budget, improve efficiencies, increase bus and rail service, and enhance the overall customer experience. Once on a path to insolvency, the Authority now boasts cash reserves topping $240 million.
Then too, MARTA remains the safest mode of transportation across the region and ranks second among multi-modal transit agencies nationally. During his tenure, Parker spearheaded the Authority’s reinvigorated focus on transit oriented developments while enhancing the ridership experience through our partnership with Soccer in the Streets, as well as launching Fresh MARTA Markets and Artbound – the transit system’s newly launched program aimed at aesthetically enhancing the rail system.
“In the wake of the I-85 bridge collapse, the MARTA family stepped up,” Parker said. “From rail operators to customer service personnel, we could not have asked for a more capable, dedicated and passionate team of professionals.”
In 2016, City of Atlanta residents overwhelmingly supported a MARTA ballot measure that will generate an estimated $2.5 billion over the next 40 years for high-capacity rail improvements, new infill rail stations, expanded bus routes and other services. In 2015,MARTA extended service into Clayton County.
“MARTA’s future is bright, its leadership is strong and the Authority is devoted to delivering best-in-class multimodal transit services that connect communities, advance equity and promote prosperity across the region,” Chairman Ashe said. “What we have been able to achieve of the last four and a half years has been a collective effort reflective of the dedication of the entire MARTA family.”