Did Cobb County’s failure to embrace its transportation future result in a big fail?

The Atlanta Journal Constitution conducted some analysis on the labor market impact from the construction of a new Atlanta Braves stadium in Cobb County, concluding that low pay jobs would come with the team’s move to the county.  Here is some of the analysis:

  • More than 8,300, or 61 percent, of the direct jobs created by the stadium and mixed-use development will be temporary construction jobs, with projected wages of about $45,000 per job;.
  • The stadium, mixed-use development and tourism spending will generate a combined 5,287 direct permanent jobs with average earnings of $17,791;
  •  Of the permanent jobs, 3,141 will be at the stadium, with pay averaging $11,398 per job.
  •  The planned mixed-use development will create 1,273 jobs, a higher percentage of which will be full-time. Projected wages are about $26,100 per job.

The irony is that while low paying jobs would matriculate to Cobb, there will be no affordable transportation alternative for low paid employees to matriculate on to Cobb County.

According to a 2012 study conducted by the Scarborough Research Corporation, just over 46% of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) bus ridership have household incomes less than $50,000 a year.  It appears from the AJC’s analysis that the majority of jobs created by the stadium project will be held by people who fall into MARTA’s ridership.

In her graduate work at Emory University, Julia Thayne conducted an analysis of public transportation usage concluding that “demographic factors, such as race and income, play significant roles in determining public transit usage in Atlanta.”  Ms. Thayne also observed that rising fuel costs contributed to increased MARTA usage.

Race has been a factor for Cobb County resident’s rejection of extending the MARTA bus and rapid rail system into the area.  As whites moved out of the city of Atlanta for more comfortable suburban confines, they wanted to make sure that the black they left behind did not follow them.  Erecting barriers to entry into Cobb and Gwinnett County includes keeping MARTA out.  Although these feelings are dissipating, some of the tensions still remain.  Consider this quote cited in Dilemma X:

Nick Holman, 34, who works in Roswell, said he drove to the nearest MARTA station and rode the subway downtown to Georgia State University while he was a student. He said taking public transit was easier than driving on crowded highways and cost less than city parking.

Still, Holman said some suburban — and largely white — communities view the system as primarily serving minorities.

“A lot of the northern suburbs don’t want MARTA because they think it could bring an undesirable element,” Holman said. “But that’s stupid.”

The Braves probably passed up on the opportunity to address issues of traffic congestion that will likely occur during their 81 home games and access to affordable transportation by lower wage earning workers in fear of blowing the deal to build a new stadium.  In my opinion they would have had nothing to lose by insisting that Cobb County break from bad public policy and embrace MARTA.  As pressure to maintain a low wage force and reduced traffic congestion mount, the Braves may be forced to play catalyst for change in Cobb County.

About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.
This entry was posted in Atlanta, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta politics, Cobb County, MARTA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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