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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

MARTA board taps Jim Durrett as new chairman

Say hello to Jim Durrett, your new MARTA board chairman, folks.

Durrett, who's served on the MARTA board since late 2009, is the executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, a public-private organization that helps plan and fund transportation and infrastructure projects in the posh part of town. (He's also an avid cyclist — he pedals to work most days of the week — who understands the need for more transportation alternatives.)

As chairman, Durrett won't just help set policy and make decisions for MARTA — he'll be its biggest cheerleader and advocate. Expect to hear much more from him if state lawmakers consider — or don't consider — revisiting transportation funding legislation that was inequitable toward the cash-strapped transit agency. (That legislation also trimmed the size of the board Durrett will chair from 18 members to 12.)

He'll also serve as MARTA's representative on the Regional Transit Committee, an important group chaired by Mayor Kasim Reed that's actually figuring out how metro Atlanta's myriad rail and bus agencies could work together and get us out of gridlock.

“I am honored by the position and look forward to using my many relationships with the business community, the transportation community and state and local government officials to the benefit of MARTA, the next generation of regional transit and the region,” Durrett said in a statement released by the Buckhead CID.

Prior to his current gig, Durrett was executive director of the Livable Communities Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for smart growth. He's also served in a leadership role with the Urban Land Institute's Atlanta office and helped oversee environmental issues at the Metro Chamber of Commerce.

The Atlanta native's one-year term as chairman begins Jan. 1. He succeeds Atlanta attorney Michael Tyler.

UPDATE, 5:00 p.m.: MARTA releases a statement by Durrett:

“We are at a tipping point in metro Atlanta when it comes to increasing our transportation options. MARTA’s value to the region is becoming better understood by those responsible for crafting a new, larger regional transit framework, and we are committed to being not only partners, but also the most effective and efficient transit agency we can possibly be.”

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