Many of us believe a traffic tsunami is coming our way, and we don’t think we’re ready for it.

The Atlanta Braves play their official Opening Day game in new SunTrust Park in Cobb County on April 14, and respondents to a recent Reporter Newspapers survey think local roads will be choked by cars filled with fans.

“Our streets and our neighborhoods cannot handle the volume of cars that it’s going to take to move the people to the games,” a resident of the Buckhead/Sandy Springs border area commented. “We must develop a better and more efficient system of public transportation that covers a wider range of ‘home bases.’”

The cellphone survey of 200 residents of the Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta INtown communities was conducted about a week before the stadium’s first event, a March 31 limited-attendance exhibition game between the Braves and New York Yankees. The question: Do you think the Atlanta Braves and local governments have done enough to prepare for the traffic that will go to the new Cobb County stadium?

More than half – about 52 percent – of the respondents said that the Braves and local officials had poorly prepared for the coming waves of traffic headed to and from the stadium near the intersection of I-285 and I-75. Only about 4 percent thought they’d done enough.

“What I know is they should’ve done a lot more than what they have done,” a 50-year-old man from the Sandy Springs/Buckhead area commented. “I’ve driven around the new stadium and there is no way the area is going to be able to handle all the traffic as currently configured.”

But a 43-year-old resident of the same area felt things were going swimmingly. “The Braves traffic plan has been well stated and they have done a great job. I have been using to figure out my best options,” he wrote. “Uber will be my first choice.”

Survey respondents selected their responses from among five choices, including that local officials “could have done more” (about 10 percent) and “I haven’t heard enough details to know” (14 percent). About 22 percent said they’d wait until Opening Day to decide.

Fears of game-day traffic jams have raised protests from Sandy Springs residents and members of Sandy Springs City Council for months.

The Braves have argued that the road network around SunTrust Park is better able to handle game traffic than the one around their old home, Turner Field in downtown Atlanta. The team is offering advance sales of reserved parking and has made changes to try to stagger fans’ arrivals and departures in order to avoid massive traffic tie-ups. Games will start later, at 7:30 p.m., in an attempt to avoid rush-hour traffic, and the team believes many fans will delay their departure from the new park after the game to check out restaurants and other businesses in the surrounding mixed-use development.

But many responding to the survey said nothing would be better than more and better mass transit to the stadium. “I cannot believe the lack of public transportation to the stadium. The roads aren’t even ready,” a 31-year-old Brookhaven woman wrote.

And a 27-year-old Dunwoody woman’s comment was simply, “MARTA.” MARTA, of course, doesn’t go into Cobb, where voters in the past rejected plans to make the county part of the transit system.

Other proposals for improving transportation to the stadium ranged from better pedestrian access, to more shuttle buses and parking decks, to never having built the new ballpark in the first place. “Move the stadium,” one 26-year-old Atlanta man said.

Whatever is needed to handle traffic around the stadiums, many respondents sounded frustrated that it hasn’t been done yet.

“Prepare for the worst,” a 29-year-old Buckhead woman said.

I want to move! They should have taken time to plan the stadium, they threw it together so quickly. There needs to be more public transportation. I saw in the AJC that they recommend people coming from Alpharetta should cut through Sandy Springs streets, which will make things worse where I live, too. –Lisa Graffagnino
I think there should be more media about the new stadium, like make more people aware of the peak hours for I-285, parking information … and some of the lanes created aren’t open yet. People don’t really know what’s going to happen and the local community will also suffer. –Javier Pascual
[The Braves and governments are] probably not [prepared], but there’s really no way around Atlanta traffic. I don’t think they have a devoted exit for the stadium. That would be nice. It doesn’t matter to me. I just have to plan. I’ll still go to the games. –Marty Hutchinson

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.