MARTA General Manager Keith Parker

A budget surplus at MARTA this year will allow for more frequent train service, MARTA General Manager Keith Parker said at a joint luncheon of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter and Dunwoody chambers of commerce on April 8.

“Because we’ve been able to find some fiscal relief, we’re investing some of those dollars back to customers,” Parker said. “We’re practically doubling train frequency during the day.”

The change will take place in May. Trains that now arrive every 15 minutes will arrive every 10 to 12 minutes. Trains that now arrive every 10 minutes will arrive every 5 to 7 minutes, Parker said.

Parker also reported that ridership at stations in the Perimeter area is up. From July 2013 to February 2014, average weekday rail entries increased over the same months the previous year, he said.

The bump in ridership was 1.2 percent at Medical Center, 2.3 percent at North Springs, 3.9 percent at Sandy Springs and 7.3 percent at Dunwoody.

He said State Farm, which recently announced plans to locate its headquarters in Dunwoody, is “using our Dunwoody station as a catalyst.”

“They’re working with us to make that station as free-flowing and friendly to their campus as possible,” Parker said.

Development is also planned at other MARTA stations around Atlanta, including Brookhaven-Oglethorpe, Avondale, Edgewood-Candler Park and King Memorial.  Parker said the goal is for these transit-oriented developments to include housing and shops that will also generate revenue for MARTA.

“MARTA is open for business. We are looking for opportunities to partner with the private and public sector,” Parker said.

Parker, who has been widely praised for leadership of the transit agency, painted a bright picture of MARTA’s progress over the past few years. But he said there is still a lot to accomplish.

Unlike other large transit systems around the country, MARTA gets no state funding.  And sales tax revenue comes only from Fulton and DeKalb counties and the city of Atlanta. MARTA is still recovering from the recession, when routes were decreased and fares were raised in an effort to combat financial challenges and falling ridership.

“We are in the midst of a lot going on at MARTA,” Parker said. “We’re an agency that’s undergoing some enormous challenges.”

MARTA is the ninth largest transit system in the country. It was established 35 years ago, in 1979, at roughly the same time as transit agencies in other major cities, such as San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

But those cities have more than 100 miles of rail, compared with just 48 in Atlanta, Parker said.

“I want to see our transit system go from good to great to expanding,” he said.