Cobb commissioners say no to funding buses to Braves stadium, still mum on funding highways

Cobb County officials still have no idea how much the highway upgrades needed for the new Atlanta Braves stadium will cost, but if there’s one thing they’re dead set on, it’s that they won’t spend a dime to extend an express bus service to the stadium:

Commissioners Bob Ott, Lisa Cupid and Helen Goreham say they do not support county Chairman Tim Lee’s proposal to use special purpose local option sales tax dollars to partially fund the transit system.

Lee has said $100 million of the $494 million cost of the bus-rapid transit system could be paid for out of a new special purpose local option sales tax, were voters to renew the tax in a November referendum.

The special purpose local option sales tax — which, yes, is known by the priceless acronym SPLOST — allows counties to raise local sales taxes by a percent or two and then use the proceeds for roads or other public projects. The current iteration expires in 2015, and Cobb County commissioners want it known that if it’s renewed, none of this cash should go toward those demon buses:

“What I’ve seen so far I can’t support, because I don’t think it solves the traffic problems, and I think it’s a huge sum of money,” Ott said. “I believe it’s more geared toward economic development than solving the traffic problems.”

Cupid also cited the large cost as the reason for her opposition.

“As of right now, I am not supportive of including BRT on the SPLOST project list due to its exorbitant cost and limited reach to persons who depend on transit,” Cupid said.

Bus rapid transit is a contentious idea in the transportation world, with some calling it a cheap way of providing mass transit, and others saying it’s just throwing a lot of money at fancy buses. In the case of a suburban area like Cobb County, it’s undeniably about economic development rather than easing traffic — the whole point is to let more people get in and out of your county — though half a billion dollars does seem pricey, depending on how many people it would actually serve. Maybe if it helped reduce the need to spend on more highway capacity to get fans to and from Braves games … but shh, we’re not allowed to talk about that.


7 comments on “Cobb commissioners say no to funding buses to Braves stadium, still mum on funding highways

  1. I never understand why communities don’t fund building roads and bus lines, but spend money on costly rail projects that no one uses. Then everyone wonders why there’s gridlock. People drive cars. Build roads. Buses are able to utilize exists infrastructure, but too often money is diverted from bus projects to say rail or baseball stadium.s

    So maddening.

  2. mdhenshaw,
    I just moved here to ATL from the Boston area this spring, and it amazes me that the folks here have such a negative attitude towards rail. The subway system here isn’t bad for what little it offers, but it has few routes and stations; if it was expanded and served more communities it could be fantastic. However, because people here 1.) would rather sit in 90 minutes of traffic than take a 60 minute subway ride, and 2.) believe that the subway brings in crime, the subway may never be expanded, which jusitifies the argument that the existing subway system isn’t worh using and shouldn’t be expanded.

  3. The problem with building roads to ease gridlock is the now well-established principle of “traffic generation”: The more roads you build, the more people drive, and the more traffic you end up with. It’s counterintuitive, I know, but it’s been seen again and again.

  4. “2.) believe that the subway brings in crime, the subway may never be expanded”

    To be fair it totally does. Since they built a light rail line from inner city Minneapolis to the Mall/Airport and large suburban retail hub crime in that area skyrocketed. That doesn’t mean the modest increase in crime should outweigh the other benefits, but it is a valid concern. Low income people unfortunately create a lot of crime, and low income people go where transit goes because it is the most efficient way to travel.

    “The problem with building roads to ease gridlock is the now well-established principle of “traffic generation”: The more roads you build, the more people drive, and the more traffic you end up with. It’s counterintuitive, I know, but it’s been seen again and again.”

    Its not actually well established at all. The way most people discus this is actually terrible. If you add a lane to a freeway you generally do see a pretty sizeable reduction in commute times both on that freeway and on nearby surface streets. The total traffic in the freeway does go up quite a bit because people change from a 40 minute commute on the surface roads to the freeway because it is now a 32 minute commute. Soon they are both 36 minute commutes. So building the freeway totally does reduce commute times.

    Now in the long run the increased transportation infrastructure in that area and comparatively lower commute times will encourage growth and development to disproportionately target that area until the overall metro equilibrium is restored and maybe the the commute times float back up to 40 minutes in 5 years, and 45 in 10.

    But the stupid liberal planning trope of the last decades that “its no use building roads because people will just fill them up” is frankly asinine. If you look at communities with higher road infrastructure to population ratios commute times are lower.

    No one in “transit” circles would think “if you build a train line development will just occur around it and the trains will fill up” should be accepted as a sane criticism of trains. In fact they use that exact argument when arguing for expansion.
    So I guess with roads people using the infrastructure is a bad thing, but with trains it is a good thing?

    Anyway be careful Neil you don’t make the same mistakes of accepting orthodoxy in transportation planning that you so revile in economic development. Roads are not the devil and sometimes they are perfectly appropriate.

  5. “If you look at communities with higher road infrastructure to population ratios commute times are lower.”

    Careful with your correlation and your causation there…

    Anyway, I never said that roads were the devil or that they shouldn’t be built. (Though I’m not exactly looking forward to owning the beachfront property that a few more decades of heavy car use will leave me with.) Just saying that reducing traffic by building more roads is not a simple linear equation, since more roads will often — not always, but often — encourage people to drive more.

  6. I am aware of the correlation and causation issues throughout this area. Certainly mass transit is more environmentally friendly. So is living in 1000sqft houses and not using AC in businesses.

    I don’t think the research is remotely clear that transit doesn’t have the exact same “if you build it they will come” *problems* that roads have.

    I just get really sick of the “don’t build more roads cause they will just fill up with cars” talking point because it is the “stadiums construction increases economic activity” of transit talking points.

  7. Shocker, Atlanta with their 7 lane highways is opposed to proper mass transit. They’ll never get it.

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