Drive Me Out to the Ballgame

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you are aware that the Atlanta Braves have reached an agreement with Cobb County to move the team to a site just outside the perimeter at the 75/285 junction.  This was quite a shock to the region and it has huge implications.  

There are a number of reasons behind the move that have been analyzed ad nauseum in the local and national media.  The details are too meaty to dive into however there are some promising aspects and some very depressing aspects of this deal.  Ultimately, the Braves wanted either a new stadium or a renovated Turner Field and required a lot in return.  The City of Atlanta couldn’t (or wouldn’t depending on whom you ask) compete with Cobb at the moment. The Braves want to get closer to their fan base which is understandable and Cobb is attractive.

Renderings of the proposed stadium show a conceptual mixed use development to the west of the stadium that could work to engage the area and bring a walkable urban environment into the Cumberland area.

The biggest and most laudable piece of this entire deal is the Braves’ commitment to creating a mixed-use destination that can function 365 days a year rather than a single use stadium that operates 81 to 90 days a year.  They envision this being the anchor development for a ‘walkable’ destination.  I’m not sure they will ever achieve true walkability in that area as there are just far too many wide roads and long distances between destinations.  That said, I truly wish them success.  The more walkability in the burbs, the better our region will be.  Unfortunately, my prediction is that it ends up being an over-priced, half-baked “mixed-use” destination full of national brand retailers and chain restaurants.  

The real concern, however, are the traffic implications of this move.  Roswell & East Cobb, in just three short years, Santa Claus, in the form of Cobb County Commissioner Tim Lee (the man behind the curtains on this deal), will be dropping a HUGE lump of coal in your stocking.  You can look forward to 81 traffic inducing home games, 50+ of which are on weekdays, most of which are at 7pm, putting more cars on your already clogged highways and arterials.  Will it be traffic Armageddon?  No, because we already have that at the 75/285 and 400/285 interchanges.  Traffic on Braves game nights will be straight from the bowels of hell.

The map of 2013 Braves ticket sales provides clarity into why the move north makes sense. This will notably change traffic patterns.

Say you’re heading from North Fulton, South Forsyth or even parts of Gwinnett and you want to take in a night game at the new Cobb stadium.  How are you going to get there?  Today, the current debacle that is 400 south to 285 east will take you at least 45 minutes.  That’s before adding a few thousand more vehicles trying to make that trip.  You can probably bank on 75 minutes plus from Alpharetta to the new stadium.  As an alternative, you might try your luck heading through Roswell and East Cobb by taking surface streets over to Marietta.  Adding another 1,000 or so trips through some of the North Fulton and East Cobb intersections will do wonders for the collective psyche of drivers who live around those areas (that’s us). 

To their credit, the Braves and Cobb County (and I’m sure GDOT now that they’ve been informed of the move) will get to work on solutions to get Braves fans to the new stadium.  They’ve talked about a tram or streetcar from the Cumberland area to the game as well as new ramps from the interstates into the parking area for the stadium.  That will be accommodative and will mitigate some of the problems but it’s a drop in the bucket.  The one thing that is missing is real transit access.  Your only option will be to drive and that’s something that Cobb GOB chariman Joe Dendy is determined to maintain.  After the announcement he was quoted as saying; “It’s absolutely necessary the solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding areas from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.”

There you have it.  The solutions proposed will look at adding more capacity to already choking highways.  If we haven’t learned by now that more lanes induce more driving and solutions solely focused on cars have yet to rid us of congestion, then I’m not sure we will.  But, I never expected Cobb to understand this.  Maybe once the nightmare begins, we will finally wake up to our 1 mode solutions and start making better transportation decisions.  But for now, the baseball mantra in Atlanta is.. 

“Build it and they will (only) come (by car).”


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