MARTA GM/CEO Jeffrey Parker dies

Jan. 15, 2022
Parker, 55, had led the agency since 2018; the MARTA Board has named Deputy General Manager Collie Greenwood as interim general manager and CEO.

Updated Jan. 29, 2022 to include memorial fund information.

Jeffrey Parker, 55, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) general manager and CEO died Jan. 14, 2022.

The news broke through Parker’s MARTA Twitter account with a statement posted that read in part:

“Please keep his family in your prayers and meditations. Jeff cared deeply about MARTA and his leadership gave us a strong foundation from which to carry forward.”

MARTA Board of Directors Chairwoman Rita Scott confirmed Parker died by suicide and called him “an outstanding leader and steward of MARTA whose passing leaves us all heartbroken.”

“As chairwoman and on behalf of my fellow MARTA board members, 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,” said Scott.

Parker was named as general manager and CEO of MARTA in March 2018. At the time of his appointment, then Chairman of the Board Robert Ashe said Parker’s “broad knowledge of transit and vision for MARTA” made him the “perfect fit.”

Parker’s original contract was set to expire in 2023 and the board extended it until 2026 with board members saying Parker had earned the extension for his steady leadership through the pandemic, work negotiating a collective bargaining agreement and passage of a penny sales tax extension in Atlanta, Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties that will provide funds to MARTA.

Parker began his transportation career in 1985 as in intern with Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority where he spent nearly 20 years and rose through the ranks to become the director of subway operations and rail vehicle engineering. He left MBTA briefly in 1998 to be systems engineer/project manager before returning to the Boston agency.

In November 2005, he was named senior director of transportation operations at MARTA. He returned to New England in July 2008 to serve as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation before moving back to the Atlanta area to be vice president at HNTB and, ultimately, was named general manager and CEO of MARTA.

Parker also served on the boards of several transportation organizations. He served on the board of the American Public Transit Association and chaired the association’s Rail Transit and Rail Transit CEO committees. MARTA was awarded the APTA Gold Award for Rail Safety in 2018 for its continuous safety progress.

In addition to APTA, Parker has served on the board of directors for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Bradley International Airport and the I-95 Corridor Coalition. In Georgia, Parker has been a member of the board of directors of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Transportation Alliance, Council for Quality Growth, Central Atlanta Progress, and Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

Industry reactions

Surprise, sadness and shock bubbled to the surface among Parker’s friends and transit industry colleagues as news of his passing spread.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted his condolences saying, “In addition to a remarkable professional career in the public/private sectors, Jeffrey was known for his civic engagement and support for the advancement of his communities. He had an incredible mind for transportation and logistics and a heart for people. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and his many colleagues.”

Mayor of Atlanta Andre Dickens, who worked with Parker when the mayor chaired the Transportation Committee on the Atlanta City Council, said, “Jeff understood that MARTA is more than just a transportation system, it represents connectivity for residents and visitors of our great city and region. My thoughts and prayers are with Jeff’s family and friends, and with the staff and board at MARTA, during this very difficult time.”

"APTA, and the entire public transportation industry, are shocked and saddened to hear the news of Jeffrey Parker's passing," APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas tweeted from the association’s account. “I had the privilege of knowing and working closely with Jeff over his decades in the industry, and he will be remembered for his outstanding leadership and dedication to advancing public transportation. Jeff was a kind, caring man. He will be greatly missed. The [APTA] family extends its sympathies to the Parker family, and to Jeff’s colleagues at [MARTA] and throughout the industry."

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732 President Britt Dunams issued a statement that read, “Parker understood the importance of MARTA and public transit for our city, our members and our citizens. Recently, we had been working with Parker to further strengthen the relationship between our union and management that recognized the critical role our members have played in keeping our communities moving through the challenging times of the pandemic. In his memory, we will continue that important work and strive to make MARTA safer, more accessible and more affordable for all Atlantans.”

Interim GM/CEO named

In a special board meeting called on Jan. 15, 2022, the MARTA Board of Directors voted to appoint Collie Greenwood, current deputy general manager – operations and urban planning, as interim general manager and CEO.

Greenwood joined MARTA in July 2019 as chief of bus operations and Urban Planning. He was promoted to deputy general manager in January 2021 where he was responsible for overseeing all bus and rail operations for the authority.

“Jeff Parker has built an incredible team of professionals to lead MARTA into its expansion phase with a renewed commitment to improving the customer experience. As the head of operations, Mr. Greenwood has been central to that work and his appointment ensures continuity of our shared vision,” the board said shortly after the unanimous vote.

Board members recognized MARTA staff will be greatly affected by the loss of Parker with Director Jim Durrett saying staff should give themselves permission to mourn and take care of themselves. Board Treasurer Robert Ashe noted those who had interacted with Parker recently may try to review those situations and ask themselves if there was something that could have been done; the answer he said was no and encouraged people to keep Parker’s staff in thoughts and prayers, as well.

Parker's wife, Erin and two daughters, Gabrielle and Isabella, have set up the Jeffrey Parker Memorial Fund through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

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Help is available:

NATIONAL: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255.

TEXT: Crisis Text Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.

GEORGIA: Individuals with suicidal thoughts, or those who notice signs in others, can call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1-800-715-4225, which is available around the clock. All calls are free and confidential. To find a mental health service provider, visit www.mygcal.com.

VERTERANS/MILITARY: The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line connect veterans and service members in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat or text.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.