A new shuttle service to move people around Cobb County’s major business district is expected to cost county taxpayers $1.2 million in annual operations, plus another $700,000 for vehicles and shelters.
And the cost will go up on some game days at SunTrust Park, when those special events begin and end outside of the shuttle’s normal operating hours, which will typically end at 7 p.m.
The county’s share for the six 30-foot clean diesel buses, three shelters and 30 bus stops assume the federal government will cover 80 percent of those costs, or $2.7 million.
Faye DiMassimo, director of Cobb’s Department of Transportation, could not be interviewed for this story because Cobb officials require The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to submit all questions in writing.
But DiMassimo wrote in an email that the cost for service to “special events” at SunTrust Park has not yet been determined. But the AJC reported in May that the county was estimating those costs at $355,000 a year at that time.
The cost of $1,196,000 … would cover game days when the circulator is already regularly operating,” DiMassimo wrote in an email. “That said, the special event day service, which would include the circulator as well as day trippers and park and ride lot service, has not yet been determined.”
The core shuttle route will operate from the Cumberland Transfer Center to hotels, the Galleria area, SunTrust Park, Cobb Chamber of Commerce, The Weather Channel and the Cobb Energy Center. The buses are likely to use the pedestrian-transit bridge, connecting the Galleria with SunTrust Park, which is expected to open in September 2017.
That means the shuttle will be mixed with game-day traffic for the Braves opening season. The county’s bridge consultant told commissioners last month that having the circulator buses in game day traffic around SunTrust Park would make it difficult to keep them on schedule.
Other routes will hit the Home Depot facilities, Kaiser-Permanente and commercial office parks.
Cobb Commissioners will receive a presentation on the Cumberland circulator Tuesday afternoon. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received nearly 600 pages of documents, reports and emails related to the circulator last week under Georiga’s Open Records law.
Commissioner Bob Ott said the circulator will make Cumberland “a little more accessible.” Ott said he supports the circulator because it has a funding source: the county will use a portion of the $3 per night hotel room fee to cover operational costs.
The Town Center Community Improvement District would also like circulator bus service, he said.
Commissioner Bob Weatherford did not return a phone message left with his secretary Monday. But Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said the circulator is “necessary for a traffic reliever, if nothing else.”
The shuttles will not stop at the Cumberland Mall, which has resisted all efforts by the county to have them participate in surveys or include them in the planning process. Mall officials are concerned that Braves fans will park at the mall and ride the shuttle to the baseball stadium.
Commissioners will be asked to approve an implementation plan for the circulator in October. Vehicle delivery is expected in January 2017, with service beginning in March 2017.
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