Parking Madness Elite Eight: Parkersburg vs. Amarillo

There’s just one spot left in the Final Four of Parking Madness, and it’s going either to Parkersburg, West Virginia, or Amarillo, Texas.

Gaze upon on these sad city spaces and despair. Then vote to decide who should stay in the running for the Golden Crater.

Parkersburg, West Virginia

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.02.42 PM

This small Appalachian city overcame a parking wasteland by the Boston waterfront in the last round. Submitter Elliott Lewis says of this area of Parkersburg:

Here is my submission for the Golden Crater, aptly named “Park”ersburg, WV. With a population around 31,000, it is the fourth-largest city in West Virginia and my hometown. This town has seen Native American raids on settlers (and vice versa), George Washington surveying, planned treason by Vice President Aaron Burr (check out the history of Blennerhassett Island), Civil War soldiers, some of the first governors of WV, Wright Borthers flights, birth of the country’s oil and gas industry, important transportation hubs, large-scale hardware and chemical manufacturing, and countless historical events. Those which took place downtown are likely under asphalt (like the home of the first governor of our state).

By my calculations, including street and sidewalk ROWs, the total amount of land in downtown Parkersburg is approximately 61% paved. Of the developable land in this same area (not counting streets), about 50% is dedicated surface parking, most of which is monthly rentals. Yup, the only short term parking is on-street, in one garage, or in a newly-built parking lot off of 6th St. They dedicate half their land to surface parking. Ugh.

The area in question, besides the entire downtown area, is that from 4th Street to the Little Kanawha River. Much of this is dominated by City, County, and Federal government services and includes the County Courthouse (beautiful Romanesque revival) and the Municipal Building (no so beautiful). From the Google Maps link, it shows some buildings currently demolished; the entire block between Juliana/Market/1st/2nd is paved, as will the building across Market Street abutting 2nd St (the old jail). And to make matters more depressing, the area is bounded by elevated railroad tracks near Ann St., an at-grade railway, and a concrete floodwall. I’ve included an aerial screenshot from Google Earth, the same with parking highlighted, and a couple of photos (a couple of historical ones and one from 2005 – note that the buildings toward the top of this photo are now demolished). Enjoy.

Here — thanks to Shane Hampton at University of Oklahoma’s Institute for Quality Communities — is an aerial photo of the area in 1968.

streetsblog_parkersburg1968

You can see the beginnings of parking decay, but nothing like the total decomposition of today.

Let’s see how Amarillo stacks up.

Amarillo

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.51.55 PM

Amarillo’s crater beat out Nashville in the first round. Nick Sortland, who explains:

Amarillo has one sad center for a city, which according to wiki has always had steady population growth, but strangely a very much dying urban center.  I went there once to visit relatives, and all that I can remember is that it was large, flat, and brown.  Even when coming from Fargo, ND, Amarillo made that look like a green lush paradise compared to the hard dirt of the Texas panhandle.There is a funny thing about the part of the country from around Tulsa down through this part of Texas: it all looks burnt to hell by the sun in 45 degree view, street level retail is almost completely absent, and the traffic engineers have been kind enough to redesign nearly every road into a one-way for maximum efficiency, which almost certainly assures maximum pedestrian bleakness.I don’t know if this is some kind of hold over from the prior rancher attitudes of these places, with a desire for your own private land to defend to the death in a shootout, but these places all seem incredibly dead, with a huge absence of any kind of public space.

Here’s what this area looked like back in 1953:

Amarillo in 1953. Photo via Shane Hampton.

Which city should advance to the Final Four? Let us know below.

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Parkersburg (72%, 180 Votes)
  • Amarillo (28%, 69 Votes)

Total Voters: 249

parking_madness_2015

  • JayinPhiladelphia

    Gotta go for the appropriately-named “Parkersburg” here. At least Amarillo isn’t a city with 90%-ish of its waterfront dedicated to auto parking, as Parkersburg appears to be.

  • Kevin Miller

    First one I’ve voted on, because it’s the first one with such an obvious winner. Parkersburg looks like some kind of joke Photoshop exaggeration. So sad.

  • Does anyone know the history of Parkersburg? I’m pretty familiar with Amarillo. It’s surrounded by millions of acres of empty, dirt cheap land without natural boundaries to growth and what has been (until recently) a pretty reliable groundwater supply so it’s pretty easy to understand why it would have expanded outward. Parkersburg, on the other hand, seems pretty hemmed in by geography…

  • Charles Buckley

    Correct. Parkersburg is basically built on the river flat. It was a transportation hub through the 19th century as the terminus os the major east/west turnpikes from tidewater VA to the Ohio as well as the western terminus of the B&O railroad. Parkersburg had a pretty dynamic downtown until about 1970. Between a few industries moving out and the construction of the mall at the edge of the city, the downtown died.

    It was the geographically hemmed in part that led to most of the decay you see. There are only 6 total roads in and out of the city and only 1 of them would be considered a major road (US-50). US-50 went to 2 lanes until 4 years ago when they built the current road as an elevated roadway. I-77 skirts the town to the east and does not actually go into it. the other 5 that actually go into town are two lane roads and only 2 of them have exit ramps off I-77. Most stores migrated outwards towards easier access.

  • Thank you for your perspective Charles. I appreciate it. -Bob

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Parking Madness Final Four: Syracuse vs. Parkersburg

|
Only the ugliest, most wasteful parking craters are still in the running, as the Parking Madness Final Four winnows down to two finalists after this match. The winner will take on Camden, which narrowly defeated Fort Worth, for a chance at the Golden Crater, eternal shame, and, we hope, some good awareness-raising opportunities for local advocates. So far your […]

The 2015 Parking Madness Championship! Camden vs. Parkersburg

|
Welcome to the World Series of asphalt. The Super Bowl of lifeless city blocks. Today is the Parking Madness championship — the culmination of our 16-city tournament showcasing the worst parking craters to scar America’s downtowns. Are you excited? We are! Streetsblog readers have winnowed the field down to two of the finest examples of poor urban land […]

Parking Madness 2015: Boston vs. Parkersburg

|
Yesterday, in the closest match in Parking Madness history, Amarillo edged out Nashville by just six votes to advance to the round of eight. Today we have two new eyesores for you to judge, as the biggest city in New England squares off against Parkersburg, West Virginia, representing Appalachia. Boston This entry comes to us via commenter JM, who asserts:

Parking Madness Final Four: Camden vs. Fort Worth

|
We started this Parking Madness tournament with 16 soulless parking craters from California to New Jersey, and you’ve narrowed it down to the Final Four: Camden, Fort Worth, Syracuse, and the very aptly-named Parkersburg, West Virginia. Today and tomorrow your votes will determine who gets a shot at the title and Streetsblog’s coveted Golden Crater. Camden Joseph Russell […]

Parking Madness 2015: Detroit vs. Walnut Creek

|
The Parking Madness competition has never been fiercer. In yesterday’s match-up, Parkersburg, West Virginia, edged Boston by a slim 12 votes, and before that, Amarillo beat out Nashville by just six votes. Your ballot counts. We have two doozies to feast your eyes on today. The Detroit waterfront is taking on the Bay Area suburb of Walnut Creek, California. Detroit […]

How to Repair a Parking Crater in Three Steps

|
[Before we started up the bracket for this year’s Parking Madness tournament, I got in touch with Donald Shoup, who literally wrote the book on parking reform, and asked him to pick the worst parking crater in the field of 16. Here’s his response, packaged with some advice for cities that have a parking crater problem. — Angie Schmitt] All the entries […]