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UPDATE: MARTA CEO takes his own life, dies at East Lake station in Decatur

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UPDATE: MARTA CEO takes his own life, dies at East Lake station in Decatur

Jeffrey Parker. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
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If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Normally, Decaturish does not report on suicides or the methods someone uses to take their own life, but we are providing those details here because Jeff Parker is a public figure in charge of public transit in Atlanta and his death occurred in a public place. 

This story has been updated and the headline has been changed in response to feedback from our community. 

By Zoe Seiler and Dan Whisenhunt

Atlanta, GA — MARTA has announced that the agency’s General Manager and CEO Jeff Parker died on Friday, Jan. 14.

The cause of death was suicide, the transit agency confirmed. Bill Floyd, a member of the MARTA board of directors and former Decatur Mayor, confirmed that Parker died after stepping in front of a train at the East Lake MARTA station in Decatur.

At 11:27 p.m. on Jan. 14, MARTA’s Twitter account noted there was a “rail service disruption” at the East Lake station.

“Jeff cared deeply about MARTA and his leadership gave us a strong foundation from which to carry forward,” a spokesperson for MARTA said.

During an emergency meeting, the MARTA board of directors named Collie Greenwood MARTA’s interim CEO. Greenwood currently serves as MARTA’s Deputy General Manager.

The chair of the MARTA board of directors said board members are shocked by the news of Parker’s passing.

“The MARTA Board of Directors grieves the shocking death of our GM/CEO Jeff Parker who has died by suicide,” MARTA Board of Directors Chairwoman Rita Scott said. “He was 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. As we struggle to understand the complexity of this tragedy, we grieve with and for his wife Erin, his daughters and all of Jeff’s family and friends as well as his MARTA family. As we continue to grieve, we want you to know that suicide is preventable and help is available to you. For access to services and immediate crisis help, call the Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL) at 1-800-715-4225, available 24/7.”

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports Parker was 55. He was named CEO of the transit agency in 2018.

The agency will share more information in the coming days on its transition plan. Local leaders expressed their shock and grief upon hearing the news.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my friend MARTA CEO Jeff Parker,” DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said. “Jeff was a thoughtful and dedicated leader and will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, colleagues at MARTA, and all those who loved him.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said he was shocked and saddened to learn of the “sudden and tragic” death of Parker.

“As MARTA’s General Manager and CEO, Jeff and I worked closely together when I chaired the Transportation Committee on City Council,” Dickens said in a statement. “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.”

According to his biography on MARTA’s website, Parker had more than 35 years of experience in the public and private sectors of the transportation industry.

“Under his leadership, MARTA is undertaking its most ambitious transit expansion and modernization program since its founding forty years ago,” his biography says. “Prior to joining MARTA, he was Vice President of one of the country’s leading architecture and engineering consulting firms.”

Here’s more information about Parker’s career published on MARTA’s website:

Parker has held a wide range of leadership positions in transportation during his career, including serving as the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation under then-Governor Jodi Rell after serving as Deputy Commissioner for two years. In these roles, Parker led the state’s monumental efforts to overhaul and expand its transportation network, including roadway, transit, and aviation projects. Parker was previously employed at MARTA from 2005 to 2008 as the Senior Director of Transportation Operations.

Parker began his transportation career in 1985 with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) where he started as an intern and rose to oversee the agency’s extensive light and heavy rail lines. During his 20-year tenure at MBTA, he led various efforts to improve reliability, safety, security, and customer service for the nation’s oldest subway system.

Parker is an active member of the American Public Transit Association (APTA), serving on its board and chairing its Rail Transit and Rail Transit CEO committees. He has served on the board of directors for several major transportation organizations, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the 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.

Parker is 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 (WTS-Atlanta) as its “Man of the Year” for his strong record of hiring and promoting women in the transportation industry.

Parker graduated cum laude from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.