Reed said in a press conference this week that “Because of the transportation issues, if Cobb goes forward with this, they’re going to have to have rail, which would be the first introduction of light rail.”
The MDJ asked Lee whether Reed’s statement was accurate.
“No, absolutely not,” Lee said. “We’re not going to use that, we’re going to use bus rapid transit, if we do, it will be BRT.”
The county’s $1.8 million “Northwest Corridor Alternatives Analysis” study led by Marietta-based Croy Engineering has recommended building a $1.1 billion bus system connecting Kennesaw State University with Midtown, Atlanta. The county is now paying Cary, N.C.-based Kimley-Horn and Associates $3 million for an environmental study of that proposed bus route, which Lee expects to be finished this spring. That study will determine whether the system is economically and environmentally feasible, Lee said.
“That’s what the (first study) is recommending,” Lee said of bus rapid transit. “That’s the most efficient, effective transportation mechanism that allows flexibility and delivers bodies where they need to be on time and on budget.”
Lee said he didn’t know why Reed would say that rail would be required to lure the Braves.
“I can’t comment to why he says what he says,” Lee said.
Yet, Reed knows the controversial history of light rail in Cobb from his days campaigning to pass the failed $8.5 billion tax increase for the 10-county metro region known as TSPLOST that voters soundly defeated in 2012.
When Lee and Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews put together the draft list of projects Cobb would get under the proposed TSPLOST, the largest earmark on the list was an $856.5 million line item for a Cumberland Mall to Midtown light rail line. But after receiving public backlash from residents who asked how a rail line that was mostly in Fulton County would help the majority of Cobb County, Mathews and Lee scaled back that earmark to $689 million for “enhanced premium transit service,” from Acworth to the MARTA Arts Center Station in Midtown, which Lee said would have been used for bus rapid transit. Despite scaling back that TSPLOST project voters in Cobb and the 10-county metro region firmly rejected the tax.
Ehrhart: no MARTA rail to Cobb State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) who introduced Lee to Braves executives at the Marietta Country Club in July, which kicked off the deal, said he understands why Mayor Reed is frustrated at losing the Braves.
“But the idea that we have to have some kind of light rail public transit system is, hey, even the current stadium doesn’t have it, and he’s had, what, 20 years to get one to it?” Ehrhart said.
Ehrhart said he doesn’t oppose a transit option in Cobb’s future.
“But if we do, let’s have it the conservative, Republican, Cobb County way and make it fare dependent. In other words, if you get on, whether it’s a BRT or some type of people train or whatever you actually pay what it’s worth, it’s not some $2 dollar government subsidized concept,” Ehrhart said.
If the cost of the trip is $10 or $15, that’s what people who ride it pay.
“That way employees can utilize it, people who want to see traffic come down can utilize it, all kinds of good reasons, but let’s don’t accept this 20-year-old far-left ‘public transit is the only way to move people’ paradigm,” he said. “Let’s do it differently. Let’s do it right. I’d love to connect the three Braves’ stadiums, some way, wouldn’t that be cool? Maybe Rome to Cobb to Gwinnett.”
Ehrhart said despite Atlanta officials’ desire to see a MARTA rail line extend into Cobb, it’s not going to happen. He explained why Atlanta has pushed for it for so long.
“I guess if you’re a part of a failed public-transit experiment it’s kind of nice to have company,” Ehrhart said. “I don’t think the Cobb County taxpayers want to be any part of that and I think they made that clear in the TSPLOST vote.”
Braves: ticket buyers are drivers Lee said the majority of Braves ticket buyers live in the Cobb County area.
“The new stadium is going to be located near most of the fan base anyway, so the travel for their fan base will be cut down significantly, plus you reduce the congestion of you have to go through Midtown, that 75/85 corridor right by Georgia Tech in order to get to the stadium, and then there’s no direct access to the stadium once you get off the highway, so we’re providing access to and from the stadium directly from the highway that does exist now, we’re closer to the fan base, which shortens the commute, and we make it easier to get in and out.”
Derek Schiller, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Braves, said most ticket buyers are also drivers.
“We fully believe that access to the site will be greatly enhanced for our fans,” Schiller said. “That starts with roadways today. Most of our fans arrive via car and getting to this site via car from all different sorts of directions is easier with the amount of ingress points, egress points to and from that stadium site. You’re familiar with it. You have opportunities to have multiple exits off of 75 as well as even 285 and again there’s a number of surface streets.”