Braves in Cobb: Traffic, transit access to stadium near Cumberland Mall may be less a nightmare than some predict

By David Pendered

The notion offered by the Atlanta Braves that fans will find it easier to get to a ballgame in Cobb County than in downtown Atlanta ran into a buzz saw of criticism Monday.

The Atlanta Braves plan to build a ballfield that's in the midst of a grid of big roads that are served by three interstate highways. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

Click on the image for a larger version. The Atlanta Braves plan to build a ballfield that’s in the midst of a grid of big roads that are served by three interstate highways. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

“What a traffic nightmare!! I-75 and I-285 are already [troubled],” a writer identified as MayorDowning commented on ajc.com. “Now you’re adding to it.”

In reality, the Cobb site isn’t in the midst of a hopeless traffic nightmare. The planned ballpark is alongside Gov. Nathan Deal’s major highway initiative. It’s in the middle of a grid of big roads served by three interstate highways. And it’s about a mile from the transfer station of Cobb’s bus system and its linkage to MARTA.

Of course, in reality, no major destination in metro Atlanta is all that easy to get to on the region’s crowded highways. That’s one reason the governor has put his support for traffic relief behind a proposed system of managed lanes.

It just so happens that the first project in the new managed lane system is in the I-75 corridor alongside the planned Braves stadium.

If all goes as planned, the stretch of managed lanes serving the ballpark area should be open when the stadium opens, now planned for 2017. The entire $840 million managed lane system is to be complete in 2018, all the way along I-75 north from near I-285 through and beyond the I-575 interchange.

Another potential salve for game-day traffic congestion is that Cobb has the chance to include the planned stadium in the next update of its comprehensive transportation plan. Work on the update began earlier this year and is to be complete in 2014.

The Atlanta Braves released this map showing the site of the planned ballfield. Credit: Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves released this map showing the site of the planned ballfield. Credit: Atlanta Braves

The Cumberland CID also is in a position to help improve access to the planned stadium. The CID has helped create a network of roadways and sidewalks throughout the district that enable mobility without the need to get on major roads.

Both the current ballpark and the planned ballpark in Cobb’s Cumberland business district offer their share of access problems.

The current site presents challenges to transit riders. The stadium is more than a mile by bus from MARTA’s Five Points Station, which is the major transfer station for ballpark travelers. The Georgia State station is an option that’s not used by many fans.

Vehicular traffic to the Ted is challenged by a site that is easy to see from afar, but difficult to reach. Most vehicles passed through a bottleneck near the state Capitol. Parking is time-consuming.

The future site is likely to be a challenge for transit riders. Cobb has no heavy rail transit lines, though bus bridges to MARTA transfer sites are operated by MARTA and Cobb Community Transit. The future stadium near existing CCT routes and is more than a mile from CCT’s transfer center at the rear of Cumberland Mall. Parking is in short supply.

Vehicular access to the future stadium could be an easier commute for most fans than the existing stadium, especially in light of a map the Braves released Monday: The fan base is centered in the northern suburbs.

The future site offers more potential entry and exit points than Turner Field. The site is now mostly wooded, and the Braves indicated in their press statement that the site will provide ample parking. The Braves intend to provide a “circulator” bus to help fans get around the site of the planned stadium, Braves vice president Derek Schiller was quoted by espn.com.

The site is shaped like a rectangle, with the long sides running east to west.

The eastern border is near I-75. The western border is near Cobb Parkway (the name U.S. 41/Northside Drive assumes in Cobb County).

The northern boundary is Windy Ridge Parkway. The southern boundary is Circle 75 Parkway (just outside I-285).

Potential access points include:

  • From the east: From I-285, exit at New Northside Drive and access Windy Ridge Parkway from Powers Ferry Road or Interstate North Parkway;
  • From the south: From I-285, exit at Cobb Parkway, by Cumberland Mall; or exit at Paces Ferry Road and use Spring Hill Parkway to reach Cobb Parkway;
  • From Atlanta: Northside Drive or I-75, exiting as far north as Windy Hill Road and doubling back on U.S. 41 south to reach the ballfield.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

29 replies
  1. PaysonSchwin says:

    “In
    reality, the Cobb site isn’t in the midst of a hopeless traffic
    nightmare.” I think what you meant to write was, “In reality, if, I repeat IF, the County and State agrees to spend around $1 billion to improve traffic flow in the area, it might not be as hopeless a traffic nightmare as it is today.”
    On a second note, suburban county government is now in the business of laying off teachers, but spending tons of cash to improve the game day experience for Braves fans 80 days a year. Good governance at its finest.Report

    Reply
  2. esa says:

    The article makes the argument that the Cobb County location is a mile from the Galleria transit location and the Ted is a mile from the Five Points transit location so the move is a wash.  That’s misleading because there are other factors about those transit locations that need to be considered.  Cobb residents can take CCT to MARTA to Five Points to utilized mass transit.  None of those people will be using mass transit to access the new facility.  North Fulton residents can take MARTA to Five Points to walk a mile to access the Ted but they will have to take MARTA to Midtown then CCT to the Galleria to walk a mile to access the Cobb Facility.  Gwinnett residents can take MARTA to Five Points but they too will have to take MARTA to Midtown to transfer to CCT to reach the Cobb location.  Both sites have the same last mile problems but the mass transit solutions for the Ted are much, much better.Report

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  3. Bree says:

    According to a 2011 report: “The MARTA Braves shuttle transports an average of 2,000 – 5,000 patrons to and from Braves games”
    So that’s about 2,000 extra cars that will be on the road at game time, since MARTA doesn’t run to Cobb. I think you’re underestimating the traffic.Report

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  4. Rick Z says:

    @Bree The article says there will be a circulator bus service to the new stadium. Because there will be many more places to park and board such a bus, it has the potential to carry considerably more riders than the current point-to-point shuttle from Five Points. And it’s likely that fans will prefer being able to drive as far as this final-mile access bus to having to wait for a MARTA train to/from Five Points. And if fans in Cobb don’t want to tangle with the traffic at all, they can take a CCT bus from the Marietta Transfer Station or the Kennesaw Park and Ride down to the Cumberland Transfer Station and then catch the circulator bus.Report

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  5. Native Atlanta Boy says:

    I think that people are not considering  the following:
    The new stadium will be surrounded by restaurants, bars, shopping, entertainment, etc. This will allow fans a “one stop shop” as opposed to the Ted.  A fan will now be able to drive to the area say at 5:00 or 6:00, park once, have dinner, drinks and then walk to the game.  Afterwards the same group might remain in the area for desert and to watch the late games and then leave for home at 11:00.  The point is fans will arrive and leave the area at different times and have less of a drive home.  All good!Report

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  6. Bree says:

    @Rick Z”
    “Because there will be many more places to park and board such a bus”
    You’re missing the point. People taking the MARTA shuttle are coming in from the MARTA train. Not by car. What you’re talking about here is people DRIVING to the Cobb parking lot and then taking a shuttle. In the current location, 2,000 fewer people are driving to downtown Atlanta. Get on a MARTA train on the north/south line before game time and you’ll see. All those people on the train wearing Braves hats, they’re going to be on the roads instead of on a train in 2017.Report

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  7. Rick Z says:

    @Bree As a Cobb County resident, the MARTA North/South line is pretty much useless to me, being all the way over by Ga. 400. When I do take MARTA into the city, I have to go by Hamilton Holmes, which is also a very long drive, though not quite as long. But to your point, if you’re going to the current stadium from north of the perimeter, where the map released yesterday shows the vast majority of Braves tickets are sold, you still have to DRIVE before you can get on any MARTA train, which takes all those people wearing Braves hats to that MARTA shuttle bus. By the way, in 2017 the people coming north from the city still have a public transit alternative to traffic congestion around the new stadium. Take MARTA rail to the Midtown station and transfer to a No. 12 bus that goes all the way up to the Cumberland bus transfer station, then onto the new shuttle.Report

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  8. WolfandRhys says:

    Is this any more convenient for the NE suburbs? Seems like it’s a nightmare trying to go east-west up there. So they are all going to come to 285 and cross over?Report

    Reply
  9. Bo says:

    Native Atlanta Boy If this actually happens you may be right.  But none of those restaurants, bars, shopping or entertainment destinations currently exist, and there’s no guarantee that they ever will. There may be a better chance of it in Cobb than at Turner, but that the team says it does not make it so.Report

    Reply
  10. War Eagle '77 says:

    This has little to do with traffic and more to do with a business sick of being “HELD UP” by the corrupt politicians in Atlanta.
    Remember Ted Turner had to buy land along I-85 & GA-316 to get the Ted built. Ted Turner was heavily invested in downtown / midtown Atlanta.  The current owners of the Braves are not!
    If 80% of  your sales come from an area north of I-285 (Norcross – Smyrna), why stay where you are.
    HEAR THIS HAWKS!!!!Report

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  11. War Eagle '77 says:

    @Bree The Braves Shuttle was so unsuccessful that it was suspended for a couple years. Don’t put to much faith in what MARTA reports. They have a tendancy to exaggerate!!Report

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  12. Bree says:

    @Rick Z  
    That’s a good point, Rick in that people using MARTA north of the service area are still driving to MARTA stations. So it doesn’t completely take cars off the road even in the stadium’s current location. 
    Nonetheless, the cars driving to MARTA park-and-ride lots are not getting on the interstates and arterial roads that come close to the stadium. They don’t add to bottleneck traffic at that convergence point near Turner Field. 
    Those cars will, however be doing just that with the new stadium location. About 2,000 cars that currently don’t come within an 8 (or so) mile radius of Turner Field will be driving directly to the Galleria. It’s something to prepare for.Report

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  13. War Eagle '77 says:

    WolfandRhys While that is so true (I live in North Fulton north of the river), my guess is the Braves believe there is more potential customers from Cherokee, Forsyth, west Cobb, east Cobb, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and North Fulton that will come to a game than those turned off having to drive I-285.
    Again, mass transit has nothing to do with the move. Or maybe the fact that MARTA is poorly run and people are not using it – was a reason to get as far away from a MARTA station as possible.
    Just a thought!Report

    Reply
  14. GeorgeChidi says:

    Traffic counts on I-75 Northbound inside the perimeter between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. are between 7,000 and 8,200 an hour on most days. They’re about 1000 fewer cars heading south at the same time, because the commuting suburbs are really to the north.
    Where the games will be now. 
    I suppose some people who live in Cobb County will simply delay leaving work for an hour or so before heading to a game — they won’t add to traffic. But the fans who live in Gwinnett County and would normally take I-85 North will be shifting to I-75 after work. Let’s call that 15 percent of the fans. And the fans that live south and east of the stadium — call it another 15 percent of ticket sales, or about 6,000 people — will also have to get into a car and drive north on I-75, or perhaps on I-285, Let’s be generous and say the average car carries two people to the game. 
    My thumbnail guess is that this adds about 6,000 cars heading on I-75 North and I-285 in the middle of rush hour. If half of that is on I-75 … that’s an increase in rush hour traffic count of about 50 percent on game days during the week with a 7:10 p.m. first pitch., never mind what it does to the outer loop.
    Perhaps my assumptions are wrong. Maybe people will learn to drive all the way home to their exurban villas before turning around to go back to the game. Perhaps assuming that 15 percent of Braves ticket buyers are Gwinnett residents who work ITP is an overstatement. But I doubt it. I may be understating things. 
    I suspect the fan map is going to shift a bit. If it really is a pain in the ass to get to from in town, more people who both live and work outside the perimeter will buy tickets.
    But never mind that: what about all the other people who AREN’T going to a game stuck in maddening traffic on I-75 because of this? The 80 percent of the public in Cobb who never go to a game? The congestion I suspect will occur is an insane burden to impose on them, which will almost certainly come at an economic cost to the county. No one credible actually believes the county will see a positive ROI from spending $450 million on a stadium. 
    Unless light rail is bundled into this plan, building a stadium at one of the most congested intersections in Georgia is a costly mistake. And using public money to support this private business, given the history of financial misfortune associated with public stadium projects, is an obscenity.Report

    Reply
  15. mariasaporta says:

    War Eagle ’77 John Hutcheson Readers, I love spirited debates among SaportaReport readers, but let’s try to keep it civil between us.  We can have different views of events in the region without having to attack each other personally.  Thanks for caring. MariaReport

    Reply
  16. John Hutcheson says:

    mariasaporta War Eagle ’77 John Hutcheson Thanks Maria — sometimes the truth is not pretty — in the future, I’ll try to sugar-coat facts.
    JohnReport

    Reply
  17. NamesJames says:

    Umm.. Yes they do. Cumberland Mall, PF Changs, Ted’s Montana Grill, Magiannos, Stoney River, Jason’s Deli, Fresh 2 Order, Tilted Kilt, Hooters, Chipotle, Longhorns, Corner Bakery, Zoe’s Kitchen, Big Chow Grill, Buckhead Pizza, Maddios, Sports Bar in Galleria, Cheesecake Factory, Copelands, And many smaller places like Schlotskys, Philly, Fast food,Etc. Thats just off the top of my head. There are quite a few bars too and this is all by the mall. You then have 10 large hotels with restaraunts too. Also, AMC Theaters.Report

    Reply
  18. ScottNAtlanta says:

    There is another point to address and it is sort of misleading in the article.  The new managed I-75 lanes will come online about the same time as the stadium is completed.  The problem is during the evening rush these lanes (which originate at 75/285) will be headed north…AWAY from the stadium, so they will be of no use really as far as traffic to the stadium goesReport

    Reply
  19. StevenCee says:

    Native Atlanta Boy I think you’re not considering that “being able to drive to the area at 5 or 6pm” is going to be pure fantasy! That area is already gridlocked daily from late afternoon to at least 7pm. And trying to get there going west on 285 is already jammed up by as early as 2PM daily! The closest MARTA train station is in Midtown, and there’s an occasional bus that will take people as far as Cumberland Mall. They’re going to need an awful lot of “shuttle buses” to ferry people from there, the Galleria, Akers Mill, etc.  And as I said, even the arterial streets in that area are jammed up by 4pm, so the buses will be going nowhere fast.

    I was on Cobb Parkway, one afternoon, and I could look over and the see how quickly the stadium is rising, especially since I had plenty of time, sitting there, going nowhere, and having it take a half an hour just to go around the block (and this wasn’t rush hour)….
    This is going to be, as a 20 year veteran traffic reporter said on the radio, the other day, this will be “gridlock of epic proportion”!  I live less than two miles from the stadium, and this area was a pretty convenient place to live, soon, for at least a quarter to half the year, it will be traffic hell….. I still can’t believe they were able to ram this through, with zero citizen input!  I’ve seen the county hold several open meetings just to decide if a church can expand their parking lot, this is not “representative government” at all…Report

    Reply
  20. StevenCee says:

    @Rick Z What MARTA train from Five Points are you talking about? There’s no train that goes anywhere close to where the stadium is!  And a “circulator bus” is going to ferry thousands of fans around the immediate area, before game time, really?  Well good luck with that, cause they still haven’t secured near enough parking spaces, and driving around in that area, without a game happening, is near impossible as it is….. I think the Braves execs are going to be blasted with complaints, I live in the area, and the streets are already at more than capacity, without any additional people or cars. They’ll need a fleet of helicopters, cause like Woodstock, this is going to be a huge mess…Report

    Reply
  21. StevenCee says:

    @Rick Z Do you realize how many additional buses will have to be put in service on the #12 line to come anywhere close to shuttling fans to the stadium?  And what shuttle buses they’ll have from Cumberland to the stadium, will themselves be hopelessly bogged down in the massive gridlock the entire area will experience! I live right there, and even now I try my best to avoid being on the streets anytime after 4pm, due to the bogged down mess on the roads…Report

    Reply

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