In a Landslide, Tulsa Wins the Parking Madness “Golden Crater” Award

Streetsblog readers have spoken — and they have annointed Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the champion of Parking Madness, our hunt for the worst parking crater in an American downtown.

The final match was a total blowout, with Tulsa stomping Milwaukee in our poll, 483 to 124. In the end, no other downtown could compare to the parking devastation on the south side of Tulsa. And so we award Tulsa Streetsblog’s first “Golden Crater” award.

Here’s one more look at the part of downtown that carried Tulsa through it all:

But the point of this contest isn’t just to single out Tulsa — it’s to help provoke change. In that spirit we wanted to share a redevelopment plan for this area submitted by Tulsa native Kevin Adams, who completed the project while working toward a master’s degree in urban planning at Clemson University in 2010. His plan [PDF] involves redeveloping the south side of Tulsa’s downtown as a reimagined “Cathedral Square,” a name sometimes given to the area in recognition of its beautiful historic churches.

“Cathedral Square is one of Tulsa’s most tattered urban environments,” Adams wrote in 2010. “A more fitting moniker for the district might be ‘Cathedral Car Lot.'”

The first step to rebuilding this area would be to renew the city’s current moratorium on downtown surface parking lots, which expires at the end of the month unless the City Council acts. But Adams has some advice that goes beyond preventing the problem from getting worse.

To turn downtown into a welcoming pedestrian environment, he recommends putting streets on road diets to tame vehicle speeds and make walking more comfortable.

Tulsa could establish a few streets as transit thoroughfares. Image: Kevin Adams

Adams named a few streets — Boston Avenue and 10th Street — that he thinks should remain major thoroughfares but could still be improved for walking. “Boston Avenue if revived under the right design and planning rules could easily one day become Tulsa’s premier outdoor shopping street, like Philadelphia’s Walnut Street, or Chicago’s Magnificent Mile,” he wrote.

He also wants to see the city establish a form-based code to influence the shape, size, and position of buildings. A form-based code could help Tulsa direct new development in a way that produces a healthy pedestrian environment, with sidewalk-facing retail spaces and residential and commercial development tailored for walkability, not driving and parking.

25 thoughts on In a Landslide, Tulsa Wins the Parking Madness “Golden Crater” Award

  1. The scary thing is, Tulsa won by a landslide and that’s not even the worst pic they could’ve taken of the parking lot devastation in the south part of downtown. Just out of the picture to the right is about 6 square blocks of surface parking before you come to another building. It’s really not even part of downtown anymore. Downtown stops at 7th Street.

    I’m happy to report that the north half of downtown is much better. There’s a decent amount of density that’s getting better year after year!

  2. ” A form-based code could help Tulsa direct new development in a way that produces a healthy pedestrian environment, with sidewalk-facing retail spaces and residential and commercial development tailored for walkability, not driving and parking.”

    Agreed. The problem is – being a Tulsan myself – we have so many fat and lazy people here, that they freak out if they can’t park right in front of their final destination! If people have to walk more than 1/2 a block, they will complain that there is “no parking”. This is especially true for folks from the suburbs and beyond who have no concept of a what a major, thriving downtown area should/does look like. My advice to Tulsans: lose some weight, don’t be so lazy, travel to other big cities and then open your mind to the possibilities of what downtown Tulsa COULD be!

  3. Tulsa is not lazy! We just happen to have several handicap people. I am one! I am far from lazy I just can not walk one block let alone 10!! The BOK center has no parking at all for the handicap so I don’t go to the BOK. We need more accomindations for the handicap!!!

  4. The shot is definitely not photo-shopped. I work for a larger property owner downtown, and this is for real. The lot in the upper right is one of ours.

  5. As a Tulsa lifer and a worker downtown I firmly believe Tulsa has worked hard for this award. Our years of laziness, disregard for our history, and lack of civic pride or vision have finally paid off. Its nice to be recognized after so many hard years of apathy and neglect. Thank you.

  6. Awesome plan, but beware the narrow bikeways. 4 ft is *not* enough space to configure as a cycle track as shown in the cross section image. 4 ft is not even enough for a conventional bike lane layout when put next to parking.

  7. Very true. Especially when in reality the people parked would not be lined up in that neat row. The image should really be replaced.

  8. Let us all take a moment of silence for all the stupid fucks circling the parking lot trying to find a princess space at 10 Gym right now…

  9. Heck, the stretch between Williams Center and the Blue Dome District is a vast expanse of parking. It’s funny how used to it Tulsa’s become, too. “Wow, you got here quick, where’d you park?” “Fifth and Main by the roundabout, I had another meeting downtown today.” “Really, wow, that’s a long walk!” “Umm, no. 4 blocks. Takes like, 8 minutes if you’re carrying something heavy and awkward like I am.”

  10. BOK Center has many handicapped parking spaces at the curb immediately in front of the door on Denver Ave. I hope you’re not the one driving if you can’t see the large, bright blue curbside signs…

  11. In honor of this momentous occasion:

    “Actually, there is a point at which a city can satisfy its parking needs. This
    situation can be found in many small, older American cities and is almost always the result of the same history: at mid-century, with automobile ownership on the rise, a charming old downtown with a wonderful pedestrian realm finds itself in need of more parking spaces. It tears down a few historic buildings and replaces them with surface parking lots, making the downtown both easier to park in and less pleasant to walk through. As more people drive, it tears down a few more buildings, with the same result. Eventually, what remains of the old downtown becomes unpleasant enough to undermine the desire to visit, and the demand for parking is easily satisfied by the supply. This phenomenon could be called the Pensacola Parking Syndrome, in honor of one of its victims.”

    –Andres Duany, “Suburban Nation.” North Point Press, ©2000, p. 162 [footnote]

  12. Well deserved. Lots of private parking lots downtown. But whenever any event ever happens these lots are an easy $10 a spot even if you are not partaking in the event. In some cases go for $25. This money goes to private entities, not Tulsa. So paying for these spots does not make the situation better, it encourages it to get worse. I don’t mind a buck here or there. But it is just getting retarded.

  13. Looks like this contest had an impact in Tulsa. They are considering restricting surface parking in the downtown as part of their new zoning code, and the main proponents of the restrictions cited the “honor” in his statements.

  14. To be fair, Tulsa tends to work at a glacial pace, that was already rolling long before Tulsa got the Golden Crater thanks to the success of the Blue Dome District and urban renewal around what is now ONEOK Field. I’m guessing all six people in Tulsa even aware of Streetsblog have commented in this thread already.

  15. There are 8 handicap spaces on Denver and maybe 12 more on 3rd st, but those are blocked off when they close 3rd st for during big events. That’s is not very many for a place like the BOK!

  16. So crack down on abusers. Just being fat and diabetic shouldn’t get you a parking placard, but there are people who intentionally do that just to get it…

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