Parking Madness 2017 Tip-Off: St. Louis vs. Sacramento

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Welcome to the first match in the first round of Streetsblog’s 2017 Parking Madness tournament, our 16-city bracket highlighting the worst “parking craters” in North America.

This year, we’re focusing on a specific type of parking disaster: transit stations engulfed by car storage. Transit works best when people can walk to stations — more people will ride and fewer will drive. A moat of parking defeats the purpose and repels people on foot, but that is exactly what you’ll find at a shocking number of American transit stops.

We asked readers to submit the worst parking disasters near transit stops, and they did not disappoint. We had to cull some stunningly awful parking craters to get down to a field of 16. By the end of the tournament, we hope these cities start to rethink their parking and development policies.

We begin the competition with St. Louis vs. Sacramento.

St. Louis — Richmond Heights Metrolink Station

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Here’s the Google Earth view of the Richmond Heights Metrolink Station outside of St. Louis. Like many of the submissions this year, this transit stop is also right next to a highway. Another highway and drive-to shopping complex is just below the frame of this shot.

Reader Jack Painter submitted this entry and describes the complicated walking logistics near this stop (follow along here):

Over 150 homes are in the center of the picture that are walled off by highways 170 and 64 and MetroLink train on the east. Therefore to walk 500 feet from the corner of Bryan Ave and Kurt Ave, to Trader Joes and numerous other stores/restaurants requires walking 1.8 miles via going south on Bryan, north on E. Linden, east on Clayton Rd, south on Hanley Rd and then south on Eager Rd.

Before building the New 64, a pedestrian bridge was over 170 at Antler Dr that was removed and not replaced by MoDOT.

Sacramento

Sacramento parking crater

Statehouses — and Capitol Hill, for that matter — are highly susceptible to parking craters, as we’ve seen in Washington, D.C. and Hartford.

This one is right around the California state capitol in Sacramento. Reader Jim Adams makes his case:

Around two major light rail stations downtown, just south of the capitol (8th and O, Archives Plaza/DMV at 11th and O) there is way, way too much parking for the state office buildings. I count 8 surface lots (yellow) and five parking structures (green) within three blocks of the stations (red dots between the blue icons on the attached image).

We don’t have much of a transit system in this town (but do have the second highest fares in the nation), but the light rail carries significant numbers of workers downtown each weekday. More housing or employment on these lots would juice up demand for the system, considering the recent decline in ridership. We are focused on doubling the population of our downtown area over the next eight years, but these are mostly parcels controlled by the state of California, which is more antiquated in its travel preferences and urban planning.

Vote below to decide which is the worst waste of a transit station.

Which parking crater is worse?

  • St. Louis (76%, 247 Votes)
  • Sacramento (24%, 79 Votes)

Total Voters: 326

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  • iSkyscraper

    So this is a tough one, because it pits urban under-utilized vs suburban highway mess. I’m not sure I’d call the St. Louis situation a parking crater, since most of the parking in that image has to do with the nearby mall and several sprawly commercial buildings. The pedestrian connections are certainly an issue, but is it an underutilized parking crater? I would say no.

    Downtown Sacramento, on the other hand, looks to be far more vacant than it should be given the LRT. It’s much more densely utilized than suburban St. Louis, but relative to peer downtowns with LRT this view is terrible: https://goo.gl/maps/dDrhR4PyMGJ2

    My vote goes to Sacramento.

  • davistrain

    Sacramento, like many capital cities, probably suffers from the 9-to-5, Monday through Friday nature of many government activities. I would guess that most of the shopping activity has migrated to the suburban malls. I haven’t been there for a while, but I’ve read that the light-rail lines are infested with thugs and hooligans, making off-peak riding an unpleasant experience.

  • Andy Crossett

    The St. Louis (Brentwood) one is infuriating as there is very little pedestrian access to all the shopping that is nearby. There are several large shopping centers to the south. You can get to the first one pretty easily, but there is no pedestrian connection between the 3 major shopping centers to the south. This means you have to walk entirely around these shopping centers to get to them, when pedestrian access could have connected all of them. Likely this was by design to keep kids from loitering.

  • Thomas Hillman

    Upvote for Camden next year – atrocious waste of space!

  • keenplanner

    Pretty typical scenario around suburban BART stations. In Lafayette they don’t have anyone poor enough to live alongside the freeway anyway.
    https://goo.gl/maps/1zkwCBeyu7F2

  • keenplanner

    Walnut Creek had plans to build TOD, NIMBYs made a fuss. Not sure where it’s at now. https://goo.gl/maps/fVTJq4SFbCJ2

  • Jason

    The Sacramento station is at least surrounded by a grid that can be restored. I don’t see what you’re supposed to do with the area around that St. Louis station without completely razing it and starting over.

  • JZ71

    Part of the St Louis challenge is that transit is viewed, by too many residents, as a negative (bringing in”undesirables”, aka “people not like me”), and not as a positive or an alternative. At this station, you can’t walk walk to the east (fences, done very consciously), you don’t want (or need) to walk to the north (sandwiched between the freeway fence and the light rail fence), the nearest thing to the south is a Residence Inn, so most people end up walking west, to the mall . . . Until CURRENT residents along new transit lines are willing to embrace access, future riders will get stuck with the NIMBY non-access that transit districts default to to get lines open – see the Southmoor Station in Denver (no access to the west, the ONLY access is under the freeway!): https://www.google.com/maps/@39.6486364,-104.9165293,578m/data=!3m1!1e3

  • john

    Not really true, the problem in this area is that the highways were expanded with the New 64 and thus residents were prevented rom walking directly to over 50 stores/restaurants nearby. The building of the MetroLink train route closed what use to be a route direct to the stores under highway 64. MoDot stated and Metro originally promised to include a walkway for pedestrians and cyclists along the Metro route but it was eliminated with the cost overruns in building the new Metro train route.

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