Cobb County’s special bus to Braves games is costing taxpayers $82 per fan

Hey, remember when Cobb County announced that it was going to be spending $1.2 million on a special bus to the new Braves stadium, but insisted that it would be a great transit option for lots of other people too? Turns out not so much, and now the county is considering eliminating the bus service:

Chairman Mike Boyce said this week that all money-saving options — including curtailing the bus service or cutting it altogether — are on the table after the Board of Commissioners rejected his proposed tax hike by a 3-2 vote last month

The circulator began operating with three routes on March 31 — the same day as the first exhibition game at SunTrust Park. Since then, more than 11,000 people have used it. A study conducted by an outside firm estimated the service would eventually draw between 80,000 and 133,000 passengers per year.

We’re only about three-quarters of the way through the baseball season right now, but even if you pro-rate those 11,000 people to a full season, that’s still going to be about $82 per person that the county is spending on busing Braves fans to the games. For that kind of money, they could just rent them all cars.

The county’s transportation director still swears that eventually more people will be riding the bus, though from the sound of it the only people who use it now are Braves fans and people who work for the team. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s article on this includes an interview with a temp-worker dishwasher at the stadium whose knee trouble makes it hard for her to walk two miles to the stadium on days the bus doesn’t run, along with an accompanying photo showing her on the bus, all alone.) And then there’s this detail from an email Cobb County got from the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority when it asked about how Cleveland’s bus circulator went:

“Unfortunately, although people ‘loved’ the circulators not many of them actually ‘rode’ the circulators,’” an authority representative wrote. “Needless to say, we are out of the circulator business.”

The obvious solution would seem to be: Tell the Braves if they want a bus system to get fans and workers to their privately run stadium that they chose to put in the middle of nowhere, they are welcome to pay for one. Hopefully that’s one of the options being placed on the table.

9 comments on “Cobb County’s special bus to Braves games is costing taxpayers $82 per fan

  1. In the 03/31/17 article there was this “Operation of the bus service will be supported by a $3 hotel/motel fee in the Cumberland area.” Does this mean rooms will now be $3 cheaper.

  2. And that, boys and girls, is why you put your new ballpark in a site where there’s actual decent bus service! *Cough* Arlington, Texas *cough*

  3. Given that this is public transportation being used to shuttle fans back and forth to the ballpark, I’m wondering why the cost to taxpayers is $82 per person? Then again, people don’t seem to care that they’re paying the public sector through the nose for something that a private operator could’ve contracted out for a fraction of the cost, a situation hardly unique to Atlanta…got those bureaucracies (and attendant bureaucrats) to pay for.

    • The issue is that not enough people are riding which is why the cost per rider is so high. No matter if it is county or a private company running it there are plenty of fixed fees. Drivers get paid, you need gas, maintenance, insurance, etc. A private company would likely have demanded a certain minimum to avoid immediately going out of business which possibly could have driven up the cost per rider even higher than it is now.

    • The costs to run the circulator each year are fixed. If more people ride it, the costs per person will go down (because x/y > x/2y, where x = total costs and y = a given number of riders). The total cost will stay the same, however.

      So, no, it’s not like this service will cost $82 per person no matter how many people ride it, and therefore has nothing to do with the difference between private and public operators (which is a difference I have generally found to be much less clear-cut than a lot of people assume it is).

  4. I applaud the Braves for providing free transportation for their workers… I just wish they were paying the cost themselves.

    Let’s not lose sight of the real scandal here… it isn’t that the bus service is costing taxpayers $1.2M a year, it’s that taxpayers built them a stadium in the middle of nowhere at a cost of several hundred million dollars.

    Why does Liberty Media receive welfare when poor people can’t?

    • “I applaud the Braves for providing free transportation for their workers… I just wish they were paying the cost themselves.” It’s easy to provide “free” services to people when someone else is paying for it. That is exactly why they are doing it.