Jeffrey Parker suicide: Marta CEO kills self after jumping in front of Atlanta train. No known motive as illustrious 35 year career is examined.
The CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has killed himself after stepping in front of an oncoming train in the outskirts of the city.
Jeffrey Parker, 55, who headed up the Atlanta’s public transit was struck at the East Lake station in Atlanta, Friday night at 10.30pm.
Authorities declined to say what led to Parker committing suicide.
MARTA Board of Directors Chairwoman Rita Scott in a statement described him as ‘an outstanding leader and steward of MARTA whose passing leaves us all heartbroken.
‘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,’ she added.
Man of the Year
Parker was named general manager and CEO of the agency in March 2018. Since then, he had overseen transit expansion plans, helped negotiate a three percent annual raises for workers and led the agency through a Super Bowl and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
In 2020, Parker won a three-year contract extension, securing his job until 2026.
His salary at the time was $366,575, according to the AJC. He was also eligible for a bonus of up to 10 percent of his base salary – or $36,657.
He reportedly told the board that ‘any bonus or base salary pay raise was inappropriate this year,’ according to MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher.
The nationally recognized transportation leader graduated cum laude from Northeastern University with a degree in computer science, according to his MARTA biography.
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.
Marta CEO widely lauded (well almost)
In his nearly four years leading MARTA, the 55-year-old Parker oversaw expansion plans in Atlanta and Clayton County, according to AJC. 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.
Parker helped lead MARTA expansion plans, such as a bus rapid transit line in Clayton County, one of the counties that make up the Atlanta metro area, according to the AJC.
He requested funding for the $300 million project through the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts Program.
In 2019, Parker called for a $100 billion ‘moonshot for transit’ investment, as the region’s population was set to grow by 2.5 million people by 2040, the AJC reported. The ambitious project which would have vastly shadowed a $2.7 billion, 40-year plan approved by Atlanta voters in 2016 – didn’t go well with some lawmakers.
‘That’s about 50 years of current GDOT spending,’ state Rep. Brett Harrell said at the time. ‘Not an ROI [return on investment] that sounds appealing to me.’
The project was eventually nixed.
For those at risk, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255.