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Posts from the "Parking Madness 2014" Category

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Parking Craters Aren’t Just Ugly, They’re a Cancer on Your City’s Downtown

Downtown Hartford

Downtown Hartford’s Phoenix Building sits atop a moat of (what else?) parking. Photo: Brian Herzog, via Flickr

Streetsblog’s Parking Madness competition has highlighted the blight that results when large surface parking lots take over a city’s downtown. Even though Rochester, winner of 2014′s Golden Crater, certainly gains bragging rights, all of the competitors have something to worry about: Cumulatively, the past 50 years of building parking have had a debilitating effect on America’s downtowns.

Streetsblog recently spoke with Chris McCahill of the State Smart Transportation Initiative in Madison, Wisconsin, to learn about his research into how parking affects small cities’ downtowns. Most recently, McCahill and his co-authors have shown how policy makers’ preoccupation with parking not only hollows out city centers, it also decimates the downtown tax base.

McCahill began his analysis as a University of Connecticut Ph.D. student in 2006, choosing to compare the postwar evolution of six small, built-up, relatively slow-growing cities: Arlington, Virginia; Berkeley, California; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Hartford, Connecticut; Lowell, Massachusetts; and New Haven, Connecticut. For each of these cities, McCahill and his collaborators, most frequently professor Norman Garrick, have gone far beyond the usual publicly available statistics and hand-measured the number of parking spaces (both on- and off-street) and the size of buildings from aerial photos.

The resulting analysis shows how three of these cities have diverged from the other three since the base year of 1960. Arlington, Berkeley, and Cambridge went against the postwar grain and chose a “parking-light” approach: emphasizing transportation demand management (TDM) measures, while de-emphasizing driving and in one case even penalizing parking construction. Hartford, Lowell, and New Haven chose a conventional approach, emphasizing that downtown development should provide “adequate” parking based upon standards of the time.

These two paths led these cities to very different outcomes, which McCahill has chronicled in a series of publications. Most recently, he co-authored two papers about how parking has affected the six downtowns’ urban fabric and their tax bases. Parking lots take a big bite out of the conventional cities’ tax bases, which could reap 25 percent more in downtown property taxes had they chosen a parking-light approach instead.

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Rochester Wins 2014 Parking Madness Title and Claims the Golden Crater

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An asphalt scar in Rochester, New York, has triumphed over 15 of the world’s worst parking craters to become the Parking Madness 2014 champion.

It was a surprising run. Who would have guessed a couple of weeks ago that this scrappy upstart would prevail over some of the sprawliest, most highway-marred urban spaces in North America? But a devout group of locals, recognizing the advocacy potential, helped push Rochester past Miami, and then Detroit, and then Kansas City, and finally Jacksonville, all the way to the Golden Crater. Quite the Cinderella story.

When we closed voting at 2 p.m. Eastern time today, Rochester was several lengths ahead of Jacksonville, leading 611 to 165. The Rochester parking crater joins last year’s winner, downtown Tulsa, in the annals of Parking Madness infamy.

Here’s the crater that swept to victory:

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Kansas City may have had a bigger crater. Detroit’s may have been emptier. But the Rochester crater packed an extra wallop because we also got to see what was lost:

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It’s Rochester vs. Jacksonville in the Parking Madness Championship!

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Forget Huskies vs. Wildcats — today is all about parking crater vs. parking crater.

Through 14 matches pitting some of the most hideous parking expanses in the world against each other, two cities are still standing: Rochester and Jacksonville.

These are the worst of the worst downtown asphalt scars. But only one city can claim the Golden Crater, and the teachable moment that comes with it. Now it’s up to Streetsblog readers to choose this year’s champion.

Let’s look at Rochester first:

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Parking Madness Final Four: Kansas City vs. Rochester

The hunt for the worst parking crater on earth nears its epic conclusion with the second Final Four match of Parking Madness.

Today’s matchup features a formidable entry from Kansas City and the upstart parking crater from Rochester, New York, which knocked out Detroit in the previous round. The winner will take on Jacksonville tomorrow for a shot at the Golden Crater and eternal parking crater disgrace (but a great local advocacy opportunity).

Which city has made a greater mess of its downtown with excess surface parking?

First up, Kansas City:

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This image was marked up and submitted by local advocate Emily Catherine. The area isn’t so much a solitary crater as a pockmarked asphalt wilderness.

They call this the city’s Financial District, but it’s hard to pick out any distinguishing characteristics. That’s the thing about parking craters — after a while all these places start to look the same.

Now on to Rochester, the Cinderella of the 2014 Parking Madness bracket.

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Parking Madness Final Four: Chicago vs. Jacksonville

We started with 16 parking craters and now we’re down to the Final Four of Parking Madness.

After two bruising rounds of competition, four hideous parking expanses in Kansas City, Rochester, Chicago, and Jacksonville are still in it to win it. Each one is an ugly and awe-inspiring waste of potential in its own way.

Today’s matchup for a shot at the championship pits Jacksonville against Chicago.

The contender from Florida is a riverfront travesty:

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Jacksonville has been a real force in this tournament, easily knocking off impressive entries from Calgary and Dallas. You can see there are a few very tall buildings in this area, but since it’s been mercilessly carved up by highways, parking has become the land use of choice.

Meanwhile, the Chicago site is a different kind of crater.

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Parking Madness Elite Eight: Rochester vs. Detroit

The last spot in the 2014 Parking Madness Final Four is at stake today, as Rochester faces off against Detroit.

The pictures of these two places, below, really speak for themselves. So without further ado, we’ll leave it up to you guys to tell us which city has the worst parking crater.

Here’s Rochester:

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This soulless, unlovable area, reports submitter Matthew Denker, used to be the town square for Rochester, where the annual Christmas tree was raised. That was before the Inner Loop freeway came along and decimated the place.

Can Detroit beat that?

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Parking Madness Elite Eight: El Cerrito vs. Chicago

We’re two weeks into our Parking Madness competition, and only a few parking craters are still standing.

Today’s Elite Eight matchup pairs a Bay Area suburb with America’s third largest city: It’s El Cerrito, California vs. Chicago.

First up is El Cerrito, which was singled out for shame by one of our readers because of this crater’s proximity to a BART station providing quick access to San Francisco.

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The submitter pointed out that almost every BART station looks something like this, so in a sense the El Cerrito parking crater is standing in for the failure of an entire region to produce walkable development near transit.

Meanwhile, the Chicago crater suffers from sports venue syndrome:

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Parking Madness “Elite Eight”: Kansas City vs. Grand Rapids

One more round, and we’ll be down to the worst-of-the-worst parking craters in the Parking Madness bracket, our annual search for the worst excesses in urban surface parking.

Parking overkill has certainly done a lot of damage to both of today’s competitors — Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Kansas City. We need you to help us decide which city will join Jacksonville in the Final Four and get a shot at the Golden Crater.

First up, Kansas City. It’s rough just to look at this disaster:

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This area is just one of a number of desolate Kansas City parking landscapes that readers nominated for the competition. Imagine walking from one end of this asphalt zone to the other. Someone in Kansas City should do it and tell us what it’s like.

Moving on. Here’s the competition in Grand Rapids:

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Parking Madness Elite Eight Matchup: Dallas vs. Jacksonville

We’re on to round two of Parking Madness, our search for the worst parking crater in North America. And I have to say, the parking craters in this match do seem to have descended to a new level of horribleness.

Dallas and Jacksonville are both such overachieving parking cities, it’s almost a shame they meet so soon. But them’s the breaks. Let’s see which is worse. The winner of this match will go onto the final four competition for the Golden Crater.

First, here’s Dallas:

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We swapped out the picture we used in the last round for one that our readers assure us is more up to date. There has been a little bit of infill development since the last one was taken. But the area can’t attract unsubsidized private development, according to Patrick Kennedy of Walkable Dallas-Fort Worth, because it’s been so blighted by I-345, which you can see on right edge of the photo. Kennedy has been one of the loudest advocates for tearing down the freeway.

Now, let’s look at Jacksonville:

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Parking Madness: Grand Rapids vs. Salt Lake City

The final spot in the “Elite Eight” of parking craters is riding on this match. Either Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Salt Lake City, Utah, will move on to the second round of Parking Madness, Streetsblog’s annual contest for eternal parking infamy.

Both cities have their natural strengths. Grand Rapids, of course, is part of the state that automobiles built, and Salt Lake City is known for its gigantic blocks that make walking difficult.

Let’s see what each city has in store for us, starting with Grand Rapids:

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An anonymous submitter writes of this spot: “It is on some of the most valuable riverfront land in the city. It even has a skywalk connection to it in the northeastern corner. I have been here over 20 years and there has been a lot of newer development in the immediate area, but for some strange reason this spot is still vacant.”

The parking blight in this part of Grand Rapids probably has something to do with that highway — U.S. Route 131 — cutting through the frame. (Boy, if you zoom in, is that highway empty.)

Let’s see if Salt Lake City can do worse:

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