Parking Madness: Denver vs. Pleasanton

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After today, there’s just one more match in the first round of Parking Madness, our annual bracket that shames parking run amok in American cities. This year we’re focusing on parking craters next to transit stations.

So far parking lots in St. Louis, San Bernardino, Poughkeepsie, Queens, Atlanta, and Medford have advanced to the second round. There are four more contestants to meet before we move on to the Elite Eight.

Today we compare a depressing abundance of commuter rail parking in the Bay Area to a parking crater enveloping three separate light rail stops in Denver.

West Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station

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BART stations are notorious for their overbuilt parking supply. Three years ago, the El Cerrito BART station made it to the round of eight in Parking Madness.

Now we’ve got another one in the competition thanks to reader Bill Chapin, who writes:

This is not to be confused with the next station to the east, named “Dublin/Pleasanton,” which may very well get its own nominations. But I think this one is the real winner.

The station, which opened in 2011 and is currently the newest facility on BART’s main lines, is flanked by two parking garages on either side of the Interstate with a total of nearly 1,200 parking spaces. Beyond the garages is a proverbial sea of asphalt serving multiple shopping centers, office buildings, and apartments. The largest of these lots, for Stoneridge Mall, is ringed by signs warning that parking for BART is forbidden and cars will be towed.

Denver — Pepsi Center/Mile High Stadium/West Auraria

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We received three nominees this year for parking craters by Denver’s new light rail stations, and we combined two of them to capture this mammoth parking crater just outside downtown.

This view encompasses three light rail stations swallowed up by the oceans of parking for two pro sports venues and Elitch Gardens, an amusement park. Mile High Stadium is below the middle station, on the other side of the highways in the bottom right corner.

Reader Chris Kampe gives some background about the area:

Not to be confused with Aurora, CO (suburban city to the east of Denver), Auraria (directly southwest of downtown Denver) was originally a competing pioneer settlement to Denver on the opposite side of the Cherry Creek in the 1800s. Denver won out as the central business district but Auraria once had some great historic neighborhoods. Although part of Auraria is now a college campus and houses a sports venue, the vast majority was plowed down to make room for a massive parking crater.

The voting is open until Wednesday at 2 p.m. Eastern Time.

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Denver (66%, 302 Votes)
  • Pleasanton (34%, 158 Votes)

Total Voters: 460

parking_madness_2017

  • I’m going with Denver. The size of the Pleasanton crater is mostly due to mall(s).

    And personally, if I owned a mall, I’d encourage people to shop at my retail by allowing them to park for transit if they purchase $X worth of products at the stores the previous month. Why would any sane person NOT want people to walk off the train and be right in front of their store?

  • JK

    I’ve recently walked through parts of both craters and the Denver one is just awesomely bad. It’s so huge that it raises the question of whether some parking lots are so vast they need their own transit system to convey people from the most remote parking spots to the destination.

  • Ryan Keeney

    That carnival thing near the bottom center of the Denver photograph is sitting on top of yet another huge parking lot.

  • iSkyscraper

    The competition this year is a mess because of all the apples vs oranges comparisons. Suburban commuter rail vs urban lrt, malls vs main streets, stadia vs light rail terminus. Obviously commuter rail, shopping center and stadium lots are far more impressive visually, but they also have at least some reason for being. A smaller crater in an urban area may be far more meaningful and also developable, even if not as vast.

  • JerryG

    I think that Denver’s is the worst in this case, but I also want to correct Chris Kampe’s history of the area. Most of the neighborhood of Auraria was destroyed to build Auraria campus which houses three institutions: Community College of Denver, MSU Denver and CU Denver. Where Elitch’s (the amusement park) and Pepsi Center (the arena) were built were rail yards just as what was before the Union Station and Commons Park areas to the north. The light rail line runs next to the now much reduced freight rail corridor. Unfortunately, when the rail yards were removed in this area no one thought much more about infill development beyond building the amusement park and arena.

  • AB3

    I think that might be a travelling Cirque du Soleil show.

  • Ken Schroeppel

    I agree with iSkyscraper below. Surface parking for major sports venues and amusement parks is different than general parking lots in the middle of, say, a central business district. In Denver’s case, these lots were built as part of the arena/amusement park developments, are owned by the entities that own the arena/amusement park, and are mostly single-purpose lots (note how empty the lots are in the aerial photo–no event was taking place in the arena at the time). Obviously we hope for better utilization of land surrounding these venues in the future but that’s the way it is at present. America has no shortage of massive surface parking lots around sports venues–many that are much larger than the ones in Denver pictured above. Are we doing sports venues parking comparisons now?

    By the way, the three light rail stations aren’t new–they’ve been there since 2002–and were built about the same time as the sports venues and specifically to service them.

  • Elizabeth F

    Sorry voting has closed, but I would have gone with Pleasanton. The Bay Area has a severe housing shortage, and the mall’s location would be a good place to put a couple thousand condos. It makes no sense to put a huge auto-oriented shopping mall next to a transit station, when you could put so many more useful things there. Shopping malls are a dying breed anyway. It’s just a matter of time before this one turns into condos.

  • I’m quite impressed that you can take LRT from one end of the parking lot, to the other end!

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It's Parking Madness season at Streetsblog, and if you're just joining us, this year's competition is all about how we sabotage transit by surrounding stations with huge fields of parking. First round action continues today as Toronto takes on the Boston suburb of Malden. Vote for the worst to send it through to the round of eight.