MARTA General Manager Keith Parker.
MARTA General Manager Keith Parker.

MARTA ridership is rising in the Perimeter area, the transit system’s general manager said.

From July 2013 to February 2014, average weekday rail entries increased over the same months the previous year, MARTA General Manager Keith Parker told the Sandy Springs/Perimeter and Dunwoody chambers of commerce during a luncheon on April 8.

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

He said State Farm, which recently announced plans to locate thousands of workers at a massive new development next to the Dunwoody MARTA station, 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.

Parker also said a budget surplus at MARTA this year will allow more frequent train service. “Because we’ve been able to find some fiscal relief, we’re investing some of those dollars back to customers,” he 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 arriving every 10 minutes will arrive every 5 to 7 minutes, Parker said.

The State Farm project isn’t the only development planned near a MARTA station, transit officials said. Other projects are planned at stations around Atlanta, including Brookhaven-Oglethorpe, Avondale, Edgewood-Candler Park and King Memorial.

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

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.