Parking Madness 2015! First Match: Camden vs. Mobile

Who will win the Golden Crater?

Happy Selection Thursday, Streetsblog readers — our annual Parking Madness tournament kicks off today. Over the next few weeks, these 16 cities and towns will vie for the coveted Golden Crater, awarded to the most horrendous pit of parking to blight an American downtown.

It’s year three of this competition, and we’re in absolutely no danger of running low on awful urban spaces in need of a good public shaming. We received more than two dozen worthy entries and had to cut quite a few to narrow it down to these 16 contenders. In addition to the photographic evidence for each parking crater, we considered the submitter’s written description and the geographic distribution of the entire field to arrive at the final bracket. Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry — if yours didn’t make it, there’s always next year.

Now it’s time to get down to business: Who has the worst crater? First up is Camden, New Jersey, vs. Mobile, Alabama.


This submission comes to us from Joseph Russell, who says:

Years ago, this area housed factories for companies like RCA. Ever since, they’ve been used as parking lots for the equally neighborhood-deadening L3 Building, which is essentially a fortress separating employees from the rest of the city. Residents of the Cooper-Grant neighborhood are trying to rebuild a viable neighborhood here, and the negative effects of these huge parking lots stand directly in the way of that goal.

Extra sad when these craters blight a city’s waterfront. This is the straight shot from Google’s satellite camera:

Moving along…



This entry was submitted by an anonymous commenter, who explained:

The grassy area on the lower right is an historic fort, completely encircled by an off-ramp from I-10 onto “Water Street,” which ironically cuts off the whole downtown area from said water (the Mobile River [out of frame, to the right of the highway]). Please note: extra parking provided inside of off-ramp, and between Water Street and cruise ship.

Then, just to the north: Downtown Mobile. It’s hard to choose my favorite parking lot, but if forced I’d say it’s the one abutting Bienville Square’s (the green block) western edge. Great use of a city square!

Here’s the view from Google Earth, straight overhead:


Dreadful. But who should advance to the next round?

Which parking crater is the worst?

  • Camden (109%, 332 Votes)
  • Mobile (10%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 305

  • J

    I hate to pick on Camden, but wow!

  • AnoNYC

    Bad picture, Mobile is much worse (autocentric) throughout the city.

  • Fakey McFakename

    Definitely Mobile. Camden’s crater is a symptom of broader economic problems – it’s simply not worth developing old factory land in that struggling city, and there may be environmental remediation concerns that prevent development. Mobile has no such excuse.

  • Alan

    Mobile also seems like it could have an easy win if they could legalize a food truck pods next to the square there, Portland-style:,-122.681735,3a,75y,64.45h,92.08t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sd1qL-HxyNW9HNJkt-2dM1w!2e0

  • laldm109

    Not noted in the description, but in Camden – running right through this picture – is a light rail line bisecting the parking lots. Wow…

  • EastBayer

    Mobile just looks like generally bad design, not a parking crater per se…

  • FrankS

    Just as a matter of interest, almost 20 years ago I worked on a plan to link the Camden Waterfront to Old City Philadelphia via an aerial tram. It was supposed to open for the year 2000 New Year celebrations. Just think what that would have done for the area.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    That at least gives hope that the lots will some day be redeveloped, and will retain their city block structure instead of being turned into a megablock.

  • lunartree

    Having been to Mobile, yes. I’ve never understood how a city with so much waterfront and warm weather could have so little to offer in the ways of public outdoor space or any livable streets.

  • EastBayer

    Wow, Camden is even more overwhelming if you try street view! For full effect, drop the man on Harbor Blvd…

    But at least they have those nice lampposts!

  • Guest

    Have to say that neither of these communities ranks high on my list of livability, but has anyone thought about why this situation exists? Most likely, it is because their is no more economical (ie–“profitable”) use for this property in the eyes of the owners. And neither of these communities is really wealthy enough as communities to invest in redevelopment. It’s bleak, but the question is: How do you change these communities to something more livable, attractive, environmentally friendly, etc., etc., etc. It doesn’t do anyone any good to just trash these already trashed communities. (FWIW–I live in a planned and comfortably wealthy community filled with open space and a totalitarian HOA so this doesn’t happen here!)

  • AuggieEast

    Why is Boston even in the tournament? There is no possible way that it is one of the worst 16 cities in turning the city into a parking lot. The area of downtown devoted to parking lots is very minimal, and decreasing. The economics of the city now makes it more profitable to build on the few remaining surface parking lots.

  • dk12

    maybe they’re looking at the seaport? a lot of that area is parking lot – but it’s not going to remain parking lot for much longer. There are a few weird areas in the southern end of the city – but these areas are kind of suburban…

  • kclo3

    You’re partly responsible for this?

  • Alan

    I agree that Camden is bad but really it’s not so much parking craters as just a gutted city. I suspect there is close to zero demand for much of that space.

  • Alan

    Maybe wait until you see it? It’s not the entire city, it’s one particular spot.

  • dk12

    also – the seaport is entirely landfill – if you look at historic photos it was water, then rail yards, then vacant lots, then parking – all within 100 years. not exactly a “crater” that replaced an existing urban area.

  • Philly native

    The saddest thing about Camden is that it has two really very nice transit lines–the PATCO into Philadelphia and some of the Camden County suburbs, and the River Line to Trenton–and both are surrounded by this parking. The Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is working to better the connections over the Ben Franklin Bridge by bike, but in general people in Philadelphia just don’t go to Camden if they can help it. And the suburbs near it, though of a somewhat pre-war style for the most part, are probably not drawing anyone in either. People mostly drive to Philadelphia coming from S. Jersey.

    Housing prices in Philly are pretty moderate, too, so there’s no reason for anyone to spill over and develop into Camden as a way of accessing Center City Philadelphia.

    My partner and I used to take “SEPTA weekend adventures” where we would just take an unknown line to wherever it went, and one of the weirdest of those days off was going to Camden and seeing what’s beyond the Aquarium.

    :-/ Good luck, Camden! We’re pulling for you!