If you’re still wondering how the Atlanta Braves are going to get fans to their new stadium way out on the outskirts of town — no, not how to get fans from their cars to the ballpark across a forbidding highway, but how to get fans there who don’t use cars at all — a partial answer may come today, when the Cobb County Commission is set to vote on buying buses for a $1.2-million-a-year shuttle bus system that is totally not just for the Braves, how could you even think that?
One solution is what county officials call a circulator bus system. Rooted in the Cumberland Mall Area Transfer Station, buses would run routes connecting Cumberland area hotspots — and parking spots — and the new ballpark.
Critics say it’s plainly a taxpayer subsidy for the Braves. “And that’s not public transit. That’s a Braves shuttle. And we don’t feel the taxpayers should be paying for that,” said Kenneth Howell, a Cobb Community Transit bus driver and member of the Georgia Community Coalition. Howell says taxpayers are already likely to get hooked for the delayed pedestrian bridge across Interstate 285, connecting the ballpark and Cumberland.
But county officials say the bus circulator won’t just serve the Braves. It will also serve other major destinations in Cumberland, a dynamic and growing commercial area – at a reported operating cost of $1.2 million per year, paid by hotel taxes.
So should we count this new cost — present value of about $15 million, plus whatever it costs to buy the buses — as part of the county’s Braves subsidy? Probably, especially since the history of transit improvements built for stadiums being used by anybody else is not a long and gloried one. But at this point another $15 million or so is a relative drop in the bucket on top of the $300 million or so the county is already kicking in, so take your pick.