Weeks in advance of the storm, the MARTA Police Department was making preparations based on existing inclement weather plans, readying our Emergency Operations Center at the Edgewood-Candler Park Station and making necessary provisions as the forecast worsened (including stocking up on sand and rock salt). Police coordinated MARTA’s activities with state officials and local jurisdictions, including the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency and our regional transit partners. Officers were dispatched in four-wheel-drive vehicles to shuttle snowbound MARTA personnel with mission-critical jobs who otherwise couldn’t get to work on their own.
In the storm’s aftermath, MARTA assisted in recovery efforts by offering the West Lake Station parking lot as a staging area for the Georgia National Guard to rendezvous with motorists trying to retrieve cars they had abandoned on the highways when the storm first hit.
As CEO, I’m deeply grateful for the commitment and professionalism many employees displayed last week, as they do every day, year after year. I also appreciate our customers who were patient about the weather-related delays and continue to support and encourage us. MARTA Board Chair Robbie Ashe also provided counsel as important operational decisions were being made.
While I’m proud of the work we did under such extraordinary circumstances, there were several areas where we need improvement.
For example, we heard complaints about the lack of adequate and timely information about weather-related changes to rail and bus schedules. We’re also implementing a major update of our public-address system to resolve concerns that rail customers couldn’t hear important announcements clearly. We need to re-treat ice-slicked sidewalks at our stations and facilities more quickly, and we must upgrade our customer service telephone system to handle large spikes in call volume.
Last week’s storm underscores how critical MARTA is to the Atlanta region, whether we’re providing service to workaday customers or offering a vital transportation link in critical situations. In other words, MARTA matters.
That’s why we’re determined to learn and grow from the lessons of the recent past so that we can continue to be vigilant in preparing for the challenges we’ll undoubtedly face in the years ahead.
Keith T. Parker is CEO/General Manager of MARTA.