Parking Madness: Portland vs. El Cerrito, California

The contenders in today’s Parking Madness competition prove parking craters can happen anywhere, even in progressive metro areas where the regional economy is booming and transit is a solid travel option.

This face-off to get one step closer to the Golden Crater pits Portland, Oregon, against El Cerrito, California.

First let’s take a look at bike-friendly Portland:


Minus 50 points for proximity to a MAX light rail station.

Reader Byron Palmer submitted this photo, which shows where the Morrison Bridge — one of Portland’s most heavily used — empties into the city. The heavy traffic and highway-like design depress land values and lead to low-value uses like surface parking. Who would want to have lunch, or take a walk, in that area?

“Part of the problem,” adds Palmer, “is that for many owners it is cheaper to tear down the building and have parking than to pay taxes, and they are waiting for the economy to improve before selling.”

Our next contender is El Cerrito, California, a San Francisco suburb located north of Berkeley.


This location was one in a series sent to us by the anonymous author of Systemic Failure, who goes by the pen name “Drunk Engineer.” All of the photos were of parking craters at Bay Area Rapid Transit stations. You can see the line and the station highlighted in red.

“Almost every one of its suburban stations is a parking crater,” Drunk Engineer says of BART. “The surrounding properties are generally auto-centric as well.”


Which of these eyesores deserves to advance to round two? Vote below!

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • El Cerrito (64%, 236 Votes)
  • Portland (36%, 133 Votes)

Total Voters: 368

  • Len Conly

    Thanks. Can you tell how long the BART bus platform is? It seems a long walk from the north end of the platform (where the 72 bus stops) to Fairmont Ave.

  • david vartanoff

    Has to be less than 720′ because BART platforms are sized for 10 cars A’s are 75′, B’s, C’ 70′ giving 710′. note the platforms overhang both Central and Fairmount
    here’s google

  • guest

    BART is already at capacity during rush hour. They literally wouldn’t be able to handle higher ridership than they currently have.

  • guest

    El Cerrito a disaster? Comared to what, Davis?

    El Cerrito is more bikable than most of San Francisco.

  • guest

    Trees and farmland? In El Cerrito? What the…?

  • guest

    The El Cerrito Shopping Plaza may be “shitty” by your standards, but it still manages to pull a shit ton of sales tax dollars out of Berkeley.

  • Erica_JS

    “increase density on the existing concrete farms”

    Isn’t that called “infill”? Which is exactly what urbanists/SPUR/ABAG etc are advocating for.

  • david vartanoff

    “at capacity” is not quite true though close. They are short of cars so even at the height of rush hour many trains are not full length. Then, BART has never achieved the promised (pre-operation agit-prop) of 90 sec headways. The problems are both the control system and the dwell at Montgomery because the cars have too few doors. BART riders are slow to exit trains (riders still seated when the train has stopped) and the seating pattern doesn’t help either. Some plans for the next generation fleet show 3 doors and more traditional subway seating. Meanwhile someone came up with a hugely expensive plan to dig out new side platforms for exit only at Montgomery as if the problem is the area of the platform rather than either slow moving passengers and insufficient stairways.
    Fun fact; the only BART station in Contra Costa County in the top ten of ridership counts is El Cerrito Del Norte.

  • Sanfordia113

    No, their interpretation of “infill” is to fill in every square in of land between the nothernmost and southernmost building with high-density buildings, spread out equally among the counties. In other words, equal density across the SFBay Area. We need much greater entropy in housing development, with super-high density in a few locations, and nothing more anywhere else. Discouraging transit use from outlying suburbs and instead promoting the creation of yet more megatowns in the low-density places like Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and parts of San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and other counties is wrong-headed/pro-developer. For example, those interests are responsible for turning much of the farmland in eastern Marin into “low-income housing” developments because “Marin needs to do its share.” Now this farmland is forever gone, making it even more difficult for SF residents to visit a working farm.

  • Alan

    I see your point but I’d say the general consensus is probably that it would be much more TOD friendly to build say structured parking on 1/4 of the space and develop the rest into apartments/retail/condos/office etc that would be walkable from the station.

  • Erica_JS

    Marin does need to do its share of absorbing expected population growth – certain communities don’t get to opt out entirely just because they are wealthy and have more political power. If no service workers can afford to live in the North Bay traffic is going to be even more of a nightmare than it is now, as every single low income worker commutes in from 30 miles away. That doesn’t have to mean sacrificing farmland, though. It means densifying the communities that exist already. Not into “megatowns” but into places that offer housing for all income levels, not just an elite few.

  • ComradeFrana

    Montgomery? I thought the largest bottleneck was Embarcadero.


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