Parking Madness Kicks Off With Milwaukee vs. Jersey City – Cast Your Vote!

Earlier this month we asked you: What is the worst parking crater in America? What is the ugliest parking scar draining the life from a downtown?

And Streetsblog readers answered. In all we received 23 submissions from nearly as many states, from the blazing blacktop of San Bernardino, California, to the asphalt expanses of Philadelphia — and a lot of pockmarked places in between. We received so many, we had to break it down into a March Madness-style tournament, matching up 16 finalists in a single-elimination bracket.

Who will take home the championship? That’s up to you. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be matching up city versus asphalt-maimed city and asking for your vote to determine who will advance. Ladies and gentlemen, the bracket:

We’re kicking off the competition today with a matchup between two proud metros. One gave us the Champagne of Beers, the other gave us Frank Sinatra. It’s Milwaukee versus Jersey City.

Remember to vote at the bottom.

Milwaukee

This submission comes courtesy of reader Aaron from Milwaukee:

Aaron writes:

I nominate Milwaukee’s Third Ward, which is fantastically redeveloped until you get east of Milwaukee Street. Then it’s acres of parking over the former bustling wholesale food warehouse district, mostly serving eight or nine weekends and 10 full days each year associated with Summerfest and Milwaukee’s various ethnic “-fests.” The desert covers about a half mile south of I-794 to the Milwaukee River, and east of Milwaukee Street.

Certainly impressive. One wonders, is this parking field visible from space, like the Great Wall of China?

Jersey City

Thanks to reader Will Wittenberg for sending in this bird’s-eye-view:

Will writes of his submission:

Once an industrial area, it has been redeveloped over the last 10 years with high end residential and only one stop outside downtown/financial district NYC. Jersey City as a whole very much resembles Brooklyn with parks and brownstones. This area, however, is very sterile, lacks pedestrian activity and street life.

Choose who will move on to the round of eight:

What city has the worst parking crater?

  • Milwaukee (91%, 346 Votes)
  • Jersey City (12%, 45 Votes)

Total Voters: 382

Winner: Milwaukee!

UPDATE: We forgot to mention, the person who submitted the “winning” city will receive a free Streetsblog t-shirt.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue our tournament, matching up Philadelphia vs. Tulsa. Stay tuned!

  • I work across the street from one of these parking lots. While I agree that the street life immediately surrounding these lots is rather dead, it is actually quite alive just a few blocks away. These empty lots are hopefully just a temporary vestige of the old JC and, now that most of the surrounding office space and condos have filled up, are just begging for development. The building in the bottom right, FYI, is the Goldman Sachs tower, tallest building in NJ. It is rather shameful that it rises from a sea of flat asphalt. Also note (somewhat visible in pic) that floors 2 thru 5 or 10 of most surrounding buildings are devoted to indoor parking. Transit connectivity to this very dense area is decent, but not great. From NY, it can only be reached via the highly congested and under construction WTC site.

  • thielges

    This pair of entries is a little hard to judge because the Milwaukee example lacks context. What makes a parking crater particularly sad is knowing that the people who live and work nearby in the “rim” of the crater must traverse the dead zone of parking. It is hard to tell whether that parking is on the fringe of the city or in the center of downtown. So if whomever submitted that photo can also follow up with a link to see more, that would be nice.

    Kudos to the person who coined the term “parking crater”! And thanks for putting this fun contest together.

  • Great idea!

  • The picture of Jersey City looks like a SimCity screenshot.

  • Anonymous

    Some street level photos might help with the judging– bird’s eye view doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Also, showing what existed there before the “bomb” went off would affect my vote.

  • WInative

    Just want to point out that the highway in the Milwaukee shot is the Marquette Interchange, an insane elevated highway intersection that cost $800 million — the same price as the high speed rail project governor Scott Walker torpedoed for being too expensive

  • Miles Bader

    I agree with thielges that this is an awkward comparison, simply because the two choices are so different.

    The Milwaukee example seems like a vast wasteland. The quantity of parking is indeed bizarre, and horrible, but … if it’s in the middle of a wasteland, then… maybe who cares. It’s probably a lost cause, but you can just write it off, nuke it from orbit, whatever; nobody will even notice.

    The New Jersey example, on the other hand, is (apparently) in the middle of a dense city-center area. The surface lots are unfortunate, but judging from the number of new-looking tall buildings around there, they could probably sell them off and develop some better use fairly easily. It may be a bit dead now, but if it’s got the density and infrastructure, there’s hope (especially if this area is adjacent to a more thriving area, as another commenter noted).

  • The Jersey City example can be fixed; even the current floors of nasty parking can be converted to offices or condos eventually. Just about every pixel of the Milwaukee example will be have to be ripped out and made into something else. In the future we will call this “converting stranded assets.”

  • It seems to me that the Milwaukee parking field is in line with nearby development and not really a “crater” or a “hole in the physical fabric” of the city – rather it looks like a stretched open section of a already ripped apart fabric.

    The Jersey city parking street blocks cause a much larger “crater” effect – the impact of the “hole” of the urban fabric is very pronounced.

  • Alan

    Jersey City has been in the middle of a redevelopment boom for about 10 years. Most of those tall buildings probably were parking lots before. It’s not so much a parking crater as an area in transition. You can’t expect to go from abandoned warehouses to dense walkable urban fabric overnight.

  • matthew

    The Milwaukee crater is situated between the Third Ward, and Milwaukee’s lakefront, with the lake interchange cutting off the neighborhood from the lake.

  • Avocado

    From these photos I’d certainly vote for Milwaukee. In the future I suggest having photos from the same vantage points for more of a fair competition.

  • The Marquette Interchange is actually west of there. This is where I-794 curves and splits from Lincoln Drive, near the Festival Grounds.

  • I agree with many of the previous posters and don’t think these are really comparable. I’ve been to the Milwaukee one plenty of times and it’s not a “crater” in the city, it’s on the edge, next to the Festival Grounds by the lake. I certainly would love to see it developed and built up, but as it stands, it doesn’t affect the surrounding areas. The only time you’d have to walk across it is to get to the Festival Grounds from the west. Something a typical Milwaukeean would only do a few times a year, if ever.

  • Louisvanderwright

    This is not the Marquette Interchange. The Marquette Interchange is one or two miles west of there. This is the Lakefront interchange which Scott Walker actually just agreed to commit state funding to rebuild in a more urban, pedestrian friendly, way that would also open up these parking lots to redevelopment by reducing the “wall effect” of the interchange.

  • thielges

    Great idea and metaphor! A crater changes the landscape. Did it add a new detail or blast away existing structures? I think that the first time I saw the term “parking crater” was in one of Angie’s stories about Cleveland. It had a before photo of a manufacturing district and an after shot of the expansive parking lots. Which is more helpful for the economy?

  • This bracket is incomplete without the South Boston Waterfront! There is more empty surface parking in this area directly east of downtown than five closed shopping malls combined. http://goo.gl/maps/eitm1

  • hudsonhill

    Many of the “open lots’ in Jersey City are slated for new development of high rise residential buildings which will continue to make this area a 24 hour neighborhood.
    Parking lots do make great development sites nationwide.

  • Miles Bader

    Yeah, that pattern is pretty common even in much more pedestrian friendly cities.

    Around here, it’s very common to see “old person dies, rickety old house in newly popular location gets sold, torn down and converted into a parking lot … and then after a while, the parking lot gets turned into a much newer and taller building.” I imagine in many cases the land is actually sold pretty quickly, and the developer wants to make a bit of income on it until they get the actual building process started.

  • Margo McCann

    I think Jersey City’s parking is really not bad. A lot better than Manhattan where I currently live. I have been looking into Jersey City real estate because it is a lot easier to get around.

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