Gridlock Guy: Opening Day at SunTrust Park presents many challenges

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Gridlock Guy: Opening Day at SunTrust Park presents many challenges

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Hyosub Shin/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Braves’ first regular-season game in SunTrust Park is on April 14 against San Diego. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

The prospect of the horrible traffic to and from SunTrust Park in the Cobb Galleria/Cumberland area has hung over the heads of commuters for the three and a half years since the Braves announced moving there. In just under a month, the Atlanta Braves regular season home opener commences on a Friday evening. Near the Interstate 75/Interstate 285 interchange in Cobb County, it could (or will) be a nightmare. Traffic plans put in place by Cobb County and Braves officials should soften some of the blow.

The WSB Traffic Team will have expanded coverage during home games in the opening stretch of the season. This past Tuesday, Braves VP of Stadium Operations Larry Bowman, Braves traffic consultant Rob Ross and Cobb PD Lt. J.D. Lorens all joined host Mark Arum, WSB Skycopter reporter Smilin’ Mark McKay, WSB Sports Director Jay Black and me for a Braves traffic-themed roundtable on News 95.5/AM750 WSB answering questions about navigating the Braves property and parking there. We have covered the Braves traffic plan before in this space, so here are some additional facts that surfaced Tuesday.

How can fans park most efficiently and how will they pay?

Braves officials say that the best way to buy parking is to do so when purchasing a game ticket beforehand, even up to an hour or two before the game. Each parking lot has its own address, so fans can plug that into the traffic feature on the new MLB Ballpark app and it will direct them to that lot.

If someone is traveling to SunTrust Park at the spur of the moment, they can buy spaces in Braves-sanctioned lots, if available. Attendants only take credit cards for game day parking. Most lots on the property will open only two hours before game time and only one lot will be open before that for tailgating. Each lot will have security and be integrated into the traffic plan.

On non-game days, what will parking at The Battery cost money?

The Braves are still discussing how and where people will be able to park for The Battery, which is the complex adjacent to SunTrust Park that will have restaurants, stores and entertainment. They are still trying to formulate if businesses will validate parking, how long people could park for free or how much parking for extended times will cost.

What public transit and shuttle options are there?

MARTA runs a bus between the Arts Center and Cumberland Mall, but that is not designed for high volume and frequency. Cobb Linc buses can get Cobb residents close to the park, but there is no plan in place to beef up service in other areas on game days. The Cumberland Circulator is a paid shuttle that can transport fans in a very localized area around the property. And the Braves are providing a free shuttle to transport fans from outer-lying lots closer to the property. They will not necessarily take fans directly to the gates.

Where do rideshare services, limos and shuttle buses pickup and drop off fans?

The Braves have a partnership with Uber, but any ridesharing service can pickup and drop off fans on Windy Ridge Parkway on one side of the road. Shuttle and van pools, charter buses and limos will also drop off in a different section of the same road, just outside of the park. The Uber partnership is unique, because now Uber users will be sent a pin and can wait for the next vehicle in line, instead of being matched ahead of time to a specific vehicle and driver.

Will GDOT plan construction closures around game days?

Short answer: no. With major construction underway on I-75, I-575, and I-285 for the reversible toll lanes and the big I-285/GA-400 project just getting underway, GDOT still plans to begin closures after 9 p.m. on weeknights. GDOT has told me that they will work with Cobb County to get the word out.

The biggest question for this whole experience will be how much worse will the traffic get? The only way we will know for sure, is to put it to the test. On marquee games (like Opening Weekend), try and work out ways to telecommute or carpool. That is the best way to avoid the delays. Stay tuned.

Hear WSB’s entire Braves traffic show here.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com

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