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MARTA to curb ‘knucklehead’ behavior, cut jobs, open restrooms
by Noreen Cochran
July 30, 2013 04:45 PM | 5822 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha M. Shal<br>
MARTA CEO and General Manager Keith Parker speaks during the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce Executive Speaker Luncheon on Jan. 23.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal
MARTA CEO and General Manager Keith Parker speaks during the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce Executive Speaker Luncheon on Jan. 23.
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MARTA General Manager Keith Parker said to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners earlier this month the agency, which will earn $400 million this year and spend $438 million, will turn itself around financially in five years.

Its strategies include “customer relief” to regain thousands of riders lost since 2009 when one-way fares rose to $2.00.

“One of these main initiatives is our Ride With Respect campaign,” he said. “I have called it the Anti-Knucklehead Behavior campaign.”

Loud music and rude behavior will get perpetrators “suspended” from using the system, Parker said.

In addition, “a whole host of things” to court customers includes restoring “many” of the restrooms closed in 2010, he said, which left facilities open at nine out of 38 rail stations.

Improved customer service may open the door to investment like transit-oriented development at 10 rail stations starting with King Memorial in Atlanta and potentially including Lakewood/Fort McPherson in south Fulton, Lindbergh Center in Buckhead and Avondale in DeKalb County.

“Fiscal relief,” Parker said, will offset a $25 million shortfall by downsizing 150 jobs at the executive level and, although fare increases are on the horizon, the 25-cent jump to a $2.75 one-way fare expected this year will be avoided.

“Every two years, we’ll be raising fares an average of about a dime,” he said.

“Employee relief” will take the shape of Christmas bonuses this year and 3 percent merit increases by mid-2015, “to get people feeling good about working for MARTA again,” Parker said.

Commissioner Emma Darnell said she needed more financial details for her Aug. 11 town hall meeting, including plans to address next year’s anticipated $10 million deficit.

“They accept the narrative,” she said about constituents, “but they want to see some numbers. If you send them to me, they show me specifically how MARTA is going to be able to stop operating on the edge without any funding from any other county that uses the system.”

Commissioner Liz Hausmann asked about the state Senate’s metro Atlanta public transportation committee, chaired by District 21 State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta.

“I understand there’s a study committee that’s actually going to look at the system in the metro area that are currently in place to see if there’s a way we can communicate better, maybe work with Cobb and Gwinnett [counties],” she said.

Parker said the agency is a participant in the study, which is slated to present its findings in December.

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