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


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:


Much of the blame for this sad place belongs to Rochester’s Inner Loop freeway, a 1960s mistake that cut off central neighborhoods from downtown. Some of Rochester’s leadership recognizes the problem: The city recently received funds to fill in a portion of the below-grade highway, which will help heal some of its scars. But the part of town with this parking crater isn’t in line for highway repair, at least not yet.

For some historical context, submitter Matthew Denker points out that before the Inner Loop came to town, this part of the city used to be Rochester’s central square, a real public gathering place. Here’s what the map used to look like. (For reference, locate the area in both maps labeled “Franklin Square.”)


So that’s Rochester’s parking crater.

Now, let’s look at Jacksonville:


Drab. Dead. Ugly. Pretty much any adjective that is synonymous with “lifeless” works for this part of Jacksonville. This one is one of those extra-terrible waterfront parking craters. Carved up by so many freeways, could this ever become a walkable city environment, or is it destined for eternal crater-tude?

So who deserves the 2014 Golden Crater? Vote carefully below.

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Rochester (80%, 618 Votes)
  • Jacksonville (22%, 173 Votes)

Total Voters: 776

  • BBnet3000

    Gonna have to go with Rochester given the extra information provided about how there used to be a whole neighborhood there.

  • A vote for Rochester from me, too, as a former city resident who had to contend with the ugly, lifeless “Inner thing” for five years. The mere mention of the words “Inner Loop” is enough to turn me from a happy man to….slowly I turn…

  • JacobEPeters

    Rochester has a better chance of creating a continuous urban neighborhood to replace this crater if the Inner Loop is turned into a boulevard, but in the short term, Jacksonville at least has a transit connection which could be used to facilitate walkable districts albeit surrounded by highways.

  • Montaignejns

    Not the best choice of photo for Jacksonville. The picture shown is of San Marco, a neighborhood on the South bank of the St. John’s River. Commuters are actually encouraged to park there and take the SkyWay to Downtown, which is on the North shore.

  • Montaignejns

    San Marco (Jax Pic) is actually a fairly pedestrian friendly neighborhood, at least relative to the rest of Jacksonville.

  • Jimmy Combs

    Thank you Matthew Denker! It’s 248 to 62 and it’s not even half-time yet. Rochester deserves to win!

  • Aaron Z.

    I thought this was gonna be close, but after voting for Jacksonville, turns out I’m definitely in the minority on this one. My rationale was that the parking crater in Jacksonville is using what should be prime waterfront real estate, not to mention that residue from cars is probably doing some real damage to the St Johns River.

  • Every big city, i.e., every major center of auto use, contributes loads of nonpoint source pollution to aquatic systems (assuming there is water around) as a result of auto dependence. The increased surface that is paved means virtually every pollutant (auto-sourced and otherwise) deposited on asphalt runs off the asphalt (or concrete) and into storm drains when it rains/snows and from there to where ever the storm drain dumps. The sheer numbers of vehicles that are depositing combustion residues, oils, and metals on the roads and the sheer numbers of roads and parking lots ensures elevated levels of metals, hydrocarbons, fertilizers, and contaminated sediments enter places like the St. Johns R. in Jacksonville, the Genesee River and Irondequit Bay in Rochester, and Mamala Bay off of Honolulu, where I contributed to some NOAA studies. Its been a huge problem across the country. Bad practice, whether commercial, residential, or agricultural, contributes to serious issues with water pollution.

    As Kevin Love from Toronto (just across Lake Ontario from Rochester; hi, Kevin) likes to remind us, the people directly killed by cars are only the tip of the iceberg of what the negatives are when discussing excessive auto dependence. There are ways of trying to mitigate pollution runoff, such as by designing settling catchbasins into storm drain systems and adding activated charcoal mats to storm drains, but these are not universally applied. Attacking the problems at their source…well…never mind…

    Here is a link to the whole problem of nonpoint source pollution. Happy Earth Day in advance….

  • Here is a great, hi res map of old Rochester.

  • cj

    Yeah, Thanks Matt! Rochester has horrible parking. My tires know so much about it.

  • Aaron Z.

    True about the pollution, and that runoff is not helping the St Johns River at all, I’m sure. Those riverfront parking lots are basically like jamming someone’s mouth open and shoving pollutants down it.

    The other, lesser, tragedy is that rather than having really high land values at the riverfront that could provide great shopping and luxury residential development (yes, mixed-income housing would be even better), there’s…parking lots. From a real estate standpoint, you’ve got this massive missed opportunity

  • I remember hearing about the candidate that came in for an interview at Kodak HQ one time from NYC and tried to take transit from the airport to Kodak (just west of the Inner Loop). I lived there 4 years and eventually started riding my bike for my 3 mile commute regularly, but admit to never riding any transit.

  • Nathanael

    It’s not obvious from the photos of Rochester how close this is to the Genesse River — it’s pretty close. Rochester is handling most of its riverfront real estate really badly too, by the way.

  • Nathanael

    (Roughly 3 blocks from “Franklin Square” to the river.)

  • Aaron Z.

    True. Inevitably this is going to be a sort of “well who’s the worst?” and ultimately it comes down to personal opinion. The point here is they’re both bad parking craters and there’s solid cases for both to be the “winner” for worst parking crater.

  • Nathanael

    I’ll tell you what would do wonders for Jacksonville. Here’s a scheme.

    The Main St.
    bridge and the Acosta Bridge are expressways — which STOP as soon as
    they reach the north shore! That is pointless, so convert the Main St. and
    Acosta bridges into *local road* bridges and disconnect them from the

    Leave the
    Fuller Warren Bridge as an expressway bridge.
    * “Land” the Acostia bridge and run it directly into Mary St. — delete the connections to the expressway entirely.
    * “Land” the Main St. bridge and run it unti Prudential Drive, then terminate Main St.
    * (For now, retain the ramps from Main St./Prudential Drive to the eastbound expressway. But see below — replace these later.)
    Also delete the slip ramps on the north end of the Main St. bridge, the
    ones to “Independent Drive”. And the weird one-way “mini slip lane”
    from Independent Drive to Ocean St.

    (Browsing around
    Jacksonville, I’d also delete the “Commodore Point Expressway / Hart
    Bridge Expressway” extension from Commodore Point to Washington St. /
    Liberty St. Let people get off the expressway at Duval St. )

    I would probably go further, due to the presence of the railway. There are *no* grade-separated crossings of the railway on this side of the river except on the expressways, which is bad. It’s hard to build such crossings further south as there isn’t much room for the roads to rise up over the railway.

    the mess of expressway ramps removed — creating a lot of new empty
    space in the San Marco neighborhood — there’s room to build a bridge over the railway, north of I-95, through what are now parking lots and expressway ramps/bridges.

    I think this bridge should head south from Main St., turn west, rise over the rairoad, turn south, and sink down to Palm Avenue heading south to get under the expressway, after which it should curve back east through the existing parking lots and become San Marco Blvd. (Eliminate the two “frontage road” sections of Gary St. next to I-95.)

    The San Marco Blvd. and Prudential Blvd. grade crossings could be closed. The entrance/exit ramps to I-95 east could be rearranged to meet this bridge at a T-junction. The San Mateo Blvd. undercrossing of I-95 could be closed and replaced with a pedestrian crossing.

    This still leaves some ugly space between the new bridge and the I-95 bridge, which could probably only reasonably be filled with parking garages. But it renders the space to the north of the new bridge (and adjacent to the Skyway station) much more viable for construction, removes the neighborhood’s dependence on expressways for emergency vehicles, and eliminates *dozens* of bridge spans which otherwise require maintenance. As well as generating buildable (or green) space in a whole bunch of other places.

    These nested ramp mazes are never a good idea.

  • Noone

    Can Jacksonville get extra credit? We have a surface parking lot that is built on pilings and the runoff goes directly into our St. Johns River an American Heritage River a FEDERAL Initiative in our new super duper highly restricted CRA/DIA in the USA zone.


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