Iâ€™m still processing the announcement that the Braves are abandoning a 17 year-old ballpark for a new ballpark in the Atlanta suburbs. But in the meantime, here are my initial thoughts:
- If anyone sees what the Braves are doing and STILL argues for public funding of ballparks, they should have their head examined. Turner Field was built for the Olympics and converted for baseball at great cost â€” some private, some public â€” and remains a more or less new and near state-of-the-art ballpark. Now Cobb County is going to pay for a new park. At some point it should begin to dawn on governments and tax payers that professional sports teams are playing them, but Iâ€™m not sure when that point is.
- We live in a world where the Rays are stuck in Tropicana Field and the Aâ€™s are stuck in the Oakland Coliseum, yet we will soon have two perfectly wonderful ballparks in the Atlanta area, serving a team that rarely fills one. Thanks antitrust exemption. If baseball owners were forced to deal with the same competitive environment as most business this wouldnâ€™t happen. Someone would come take over Turner Field. Or move to New Jersey. Whatever the case, this is sorta perverse.
- That said, the impulse for the Braves to want to move makes some amount of sense. The Braves are a business and their goal is to make money. They have a crappy TV deal so stadium revenue is paramount for them. They are clearly making a calculation that they can make way more money in the new ballpark under new circumstances than they can hope to make in Turner Field. The Braves released a map today which shows how large a proportion of their ticket sales come from the northern suburbs, where the new ballpark will be. Theyâ€™re not idiots. The financial incentives in play are probably pretty compelling.
Population growth in the Bay Area doesnâ€™t have to mean more traffic and more suburban sprawl, if itâ€™sÂ planned for in a sustainable way. To that end, regional planners at the Metropolitan TransportationÂ Commission recently released a draft of Plan Bay Area, a state-mandated blueprint for focusing housingÂ growth over the next 25 years near transit hubs, where new residents are less likely to need a car to getÂ around.
Sustainable planning advocates say the plan is mostly headed in the right direction, but it still falls short inÂ some areas. One glaring mistake is that the plan calls for spending billions to widen highways to createÂ high-occupancy toll lanes â€” carpool lanes that single-occupancy drivers can pay to use. Those lanes shouldÂ instead be created by converting existing highway lanes, says TransForm, an Oakland-based group thatÂ advocates for better walking, biking, and transit policies on a regional and state level.
â€œMTCâ€™s plan follows a 1970s-era Caltrans practice that limits Express Lanes to new construction only,Â without even studying the option of optimizing existing lanes,â€ wrote TransForm Deputy Director JeffÂ Hobson in a blog post. â€œThis kind of outdated thinking is hardly the best approach to solving 21st centuryÂ transportation problems â€“ and would completely exclude some of the most congested stretches of highwayÂ from the plan.â€
Because most of the revenue from HOT lanes will be soaked up to pay for the highway widenings, insteadÂ of just charging single-occupancy drivers to alleviate congestion in existing lanes, SPUR has pointedÂ out that they will generate little money for transit improvements. Meanwhile, the new lanes will induceÂ more demand for driving and do nothing to reduce existing congestion.
A cool video on Comet Skateboards and how they moved from Oakland, California to Ithaca, New York and made the transition into their new city and neighborhood by making a commitment to being good neighbors and giving back to the community. Itâ€™s a lesson many organizations and some churches could learn.