Jeffrey Parker, who led the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority during a time of expansion and then during the pandemic when public transportation ridership plummeted, has died, the agency announced.
A spokesperson for the agency, Stephany Fisher, said that Parker died by suicide when he was struck by a train in the East Lake Station in DeKalb County at about 10:30 p.m. Friday.
"He was an outstanding leader and steward of MARTA whose passing leaves us all heartbroken," MARTA Chairwoman Rita Scott said in a statement posted on the agency's website. "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."
Others expressed their condolences, including Gov. Brian Kemp, who tweeted that Parker "had an incredible mind for transportation and logistics and a heart for people."
Parker was a nationally recognized transportation leader. On its website, MARTA said Parker had more than 35 years of experience in the transportation industry. During his career he served as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation and held leadership posts during his 20-year tenure at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
According to the website, Parker was 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 as its "Man of the Year" for his strong record of hiring and promoting women in the transportation industry.
In his nearly four years leading MARTA, the 55-year-old Parker oversaw expansion plans in Atlanta and Clayton County, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution. The paper also pointed to his "solid performance" during the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta, when hundreds of thousands rode trains on their way to and from the game and other Super Bowl-related events.
While he helped negotiate a new labor agreement that resulted in 3% annual raises for workers, he also helped guide MARTA during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most challenging times for MARTA and transportation agencies around the country as ridership plummeted and illnesses among staffers increased.
On Saturday, the MARTA Board of Directors voted unanimously to name Collie Greenwood as the agency's interim general manager and CEO. Greenwood joined MARTA in 2019 as head of bus operations and was promoted to deputy general manager of operations in January of last year, according to a press release from the agency.
If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, there is help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text a crisis counselor at 741741 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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