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Toilets, Wifi & Schedules: Is MARTA Finally on the Right Track?

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Lately there has been a lot of talk about how well things are going over at MARTA. And while the recent successes are due in part to hard-working MARTA employees — many of whom have gone seven years without a raise — much of the credit should really go to one man: CEO Keith Parker. Parker took the wheel two years ago and started making some sweeping changes that are making for a better system overall: Payroll has been streamlined, new mixed-use developments will replace parking lots at several stations and trains are running like Atlanta is fascist Italy. But beyond the big-ticket items, Parker is also building the oft-bashed transit system's success with smaller, more subtle changes.

Decaturish reports that while Parker has focused on important big-picture issues, he has also kept his eye on smaller details that improve rider comfort and have a big impact. Recently, for example, MARTA has stepped up its toilet game, using technology to remotely control access to toilets in many stations so that they can be reopened to commuters without leaving them available for, ahem, "misuse." Soon, some of the network will be wi-fi enabled, allowing commuters to benefit from the fact that they don't have to keep their eyes on the road. The successful Ride With Respect campaign — which Parker more accurately refers to as the "no knucklehead behavior" campaign — also helps create a cleaner, more user-friendly MARTA that might just entice a new pool of riders.

In fairness to his predecessors, Parker has based many of his decisions on an audit compiled before his tenure began, and his success has been a matter of timing, economics and an overall demographic shift in Atlanta. Nonetheless, even those outside of Atlanta have noticed; Governing.com, a national website that discusses state and local governance issues (a shocker, surely) ran an article about the sheer awesomeness of Keith Parker. With national attention, happier riders and expanding amenities, let's hope MARTA continues getting smarta and smarta.

· MARTA making progress on projects big and small [Decaturish]
· The Driver Behind Public Transit's Transformation in Atlanta [Governing.com]