New MARTA CEO lays out plans for the future

by: Erin Coleman Updated:

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ATLANTA - Monday was the first day on the job MARTA's new CEO and Channel 2 Action News was the only station to talk to him one-on-one.

Keith Parker told Channel 2's Erin Coleman he knows he faces challenges. Among them is MARTA's $30 million deficit this year.

Just a few hours into the job, Parker met with passengers and employees at the Five Points MARTA station. Parker was already making some promises, like actually riding the buses and trains he's in charge of.

"So you will ride MARTA every day to work?" Coleman asked.

"The thing is, I'll ride MARTA almost every day to work," Parker responded.

It's something he said he did when he headed the transit agency in Charlotte and most recently in San Antonio.

Parker said some of the enhancements he implemented there may work well in Atlanta.

"Things that allowed you from your cellphone to be able to text when your next bus would be arriving. We put Wifi on the vehicles," Parker said.

While Parker talked about what could be, he was also very candid about the challenges he faces, from governance issues to financial issues.

A recent audit found MARTA spends $50 million more than the national average for employee benefits.

"It's my job to help work with the board to come up with an action plan of how we implement the best ideas from that report to make the agency overall more stable and make sure that we are spending taxpayer dollars as wisely as we can," Parker told Coleman.

At the same time, he said he'll be working every day to change the overall perception of MARTA.

"(We'll address) getting rid of the stigma of people like me. People saying people like me don't use the bus or don't use the train is one of the things we need to overcome," Parker said.

Parker said he has a lot of ideas he will present, but his primary goal right now is to listen to everyone, especially riders.

In the coming months, Parker said he will outline a specific plan about where the agency is going over the next five years.

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