Parking Madness 2015: Los Angeles vs. Newport News

Another day, another pair of absolutely terrible urban landscapes. Here’s the second match-up in the Parking Madness 2015 tournament, following yesterday’s drubbing of Mobile by Camden.

Today’s competition pits a giant metropolis against a small city on the Mid-Atlantic coast: Los Angeles vs. Newport News, Virginia.  

Los Angeles


This entry comes to us via an anonymous commenter, who says, “L.A.’s downtown crater is gradually being filled in, but the massive parking lot at North Hollywood station should be a contender.”

Joe Linton at Streetsblog Los Angeles adds more context, saying that this particular crater is actually being enlarged:

  • The lot is at the north (most suburban) end of L.A.’s Red Line heavy rail subway. It’s where the Red Line connects with the Orange Line BRT.
  • There are roughly a thousand parking spots, half free. (425 paid permit spots, 451 free, 25 handicap, 8 staff)
  • It’s located in North Hollywood “NoHo” – a walkably artsy center in the largely suburban San Fernando Valley.
  • Media reports that the lot is “full by 7am” – but it isn’t – only the half that’s free.
  • L.A. Metro is spending $1.4M to add 200 parking spaces

Wow. Los Angeles. Disappointing. Here’s the bird’s-eye view:



Newport News, Virginia


This entry was submitted by Sam Sink, who says:

This is beautiful downtown Newport News, Virginia. The sea of surface parking belongs to the shipyard and creates a dead zone of about 20 city blocks separating the rest of downtown from a residential area to the North (and the CSX tracks cut the area off from the neighborhood to the east). I weep for any pedestrian that has to hoof it through this asphalt wasteland.

A slightly different view:


It’s up to you to decide which crater deserves to advance to the second round.

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Newport News (65%, 227 Votes)
  • Los Angeles (40%, 140 Votes)

Total Voters: 348


  • Dan Keshet

    Welcome to Newport News! Here we have the surface parking district. Come park here, and look around at all the wonderful surface parking!

  • Bicycle_Boy

    I voted for North Hollywood on this one because it is apparently run by a public agency for use by the general public (public transit riders at least), whereas the Newport News crater is apparently owned by the shipyard and is for the use of it’s employees.

  • Yeah, this is probably the worst in LA. Not because it’s the biggest swathe of parking, though it’s probably a contender, but because it’s literally right on top of the terminus of the busiest subway line in the city and the busiest BRT line. Ugh.

  • G1991

    Oh, the things that could become of the LA Red/Orange Line transfer point. That could be quite the walkable community.

  • LAifer

    The size differential between these two craters is significant. Still, the parking crater at the Metro Red/Orange Line termini is offensive, although it’s largely a product of a suburban-style model of rail which says people will only take it if they can do their first-mile/last-mile by car. I’ve heard rumblings of LA Metro looking to actually develop this property at some point, so it’ll be interesting to see what may come of this large waste of land in the coming years. By contrast, when you have block after block after block of surface parking like in Newport News, it’s really something to behold, and there’s so much opportunity to do something different with that space, far and away more than the space in North Hollywood, even for as primely-located as that is.

  • Greg A

    as bad as the newport news crater is, it still conforms (somewhat) to a structure of city blocks, and thus cannot hope to be as awful as the LA one.

  • I’m going with LA here.

  • How come there was no “play in game” this year? It is all the rage! 🙂

  • Amy Turnbull

    I was lucky to get a parking spot yesterday at the Noho station at 3:30 so I could take the Metro to Hollywood and Highland. What’s your beef?

  • Little Red

    Good point, Greg. I just looked more carefully at that area. The street grid does seem to have been maintained. It’s just all the blocks are parking lots instead. If NN Shipbuilding ever changes it mind, redevelopment will just mean building over the lots and not the much harder task of imposing a grid on an area originally designed to be curvilinear.

  • C Monroe

    It is a perfect place for TOD. Maybe if they build a big ramp with commercial/mixed use added in. Parking Craters discourage people to walk by.

  • C Monroe

    After the Panama canal is widened Newport News lots might be full of shipping containers since the port will get much busier. North Hollywood is just a huge wasted opportunity for a great TOD project. LA wins this one despite having less asphalt, just going by value of potential use.

  • Guest

    You were “lucky” to get a parking spot because it’s not priced appropriately. Read Shoup.

  • Mark

    Oh, come on. There’s a huge difference between a wide swath of endless parking lots versus a park-ride lot next to transit. I’m not saying that the NoHo station couldn’t use some transit-oriented development adjacent to the station, but if you look at most suburban rail stations (BART, DC Metro, etc.) the pattern is similar.

    Try an aerial shot of downtown Buffalo some time…note the excessive number of surface lots.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Who is they?

  • jim b

    but its not curvilinear. if you see it with a bit more context on google maps you can see its in a grid, except the parking lot would be a really big square block. it might seem curvilinear because of lankershim blvd, it goes at an angle, but it is straight and the only street like that. and if tod was built over this lot it wouldnt be hard to create new blocks by continuing the streets that currently end at it. also notice it is actually 2 parking lots, divided by a bus plaza. not so car centric is it

  • Amy Turnbull

    I’ve read Shoup and I agree with the theory. If I remember correctly (it’s been awhile), Shoup thinks free parking encourages folks to drive. Well, in the case of free Noho Metro parking, it encourages valley residents to take Metro downtown instead of driving.

  • Alex Brideau III

    I think the market would bear charging drivers at least a couple bucks for parking at NoHo Station. Start at $1 and go up from there. Once some vacant spots appear, you know you’ve hit the sweet spot.

  • Alex Brideau III

    You know what else is ugly about the NoHo Station situation? All the crosswalks leading to the station have beg buttons. Ridiculous, but not surprising.

  • Little Red

    Sorry I wasn’t clearer but I wasn’t referring to LA when I talked about things being curvilinear. I was thinking in terms of the rest of Newport News. You’re right, that section of LA isn’t curvilinear.

  • C Monroe


  • JKR

    but look on the bright side, less crime and blight.

  • gregjeris

    As long as you surround a transit station with parking lots, that station is essentially limited in ridership by the number of parking spaces (plus bus transfers which would only increase with TOD). In Washington, DC the Metro station with the largest park and ride garage (something like 5000+ spaces) has a third of the ridership of a suburban TOD station like Ballston (originally known as Parkington because before Metro it was all parking lots).

    So having a walkable neighborhood surrounding a station is far more preferable to commuter lots for almost everyone involved: the large number of potential residents of the TOD who can use transit without creating linked car trips (unlike you and your fellow Valley residents), everyone else that rides Metro because there would be more destinations easily accessible by transit (parking lots are not destinations), Metro as a whole because it is more efficiently utilizing an existing station and generating higher ridership, and LA taxpayers who benefit from the higher tax revenue generated. The only people who lose out is the (relatively small) group of Valley residents who currently utilize the parking lot.

    The higher ridership, higher tax revenue, greater number of off-peak trips, greater utility for all other riders, and fewer linked car trips induced by TOD will ALWAYS be preferable to alternative of parking lots. The rest of us shouldn’t have to subsidize your decision to live in a car-oriented area. Live by the car, die by the car.

    Also, ignoring TOD and turning to parking prices: if prices were set based on demand, the exact same number of Valley residents would be encouraged to take Metro as do now. That’s the entire point: in both cases 100% of capacity is used, but with pricing you’re also generating revenue that can be reinvested in transit. With free parking, it’s the rest of us subsidizing your decision to drive.

  • Simon

    There may be beg buttons for the crosswalks in NoHo, but they’re in the midst of building an underground connector between the subway and the busway, so commuters can more quickly transfer between the two. There are also numerous developments proposed:

    It sucks that there’s this much surface parking here–the Culver City station is putting their park-n-ride underground–but come on, it serves some purpose.

  • Amy Turnbull

    All good points except TOD is a gentrification machine that pushes low income residents further into the valley, cutting them off from the benefits it bestows on the hipsters who live 3-deep in overpriced apartments. Tax revenue back into infrastructure? More likely it will go to subsidizing the bureaucracy that is Los Angeles city government.

    I get the free parking/subsidy analogy. How would you encourage age 60 plus Sherman Oaks residents or ethnic groups in San Fernando to access Metro? Yes, we have the Orange Line but honestly, time (for me) is often an issue when I have an event downtown.

    And, for the record, I’m glad to pay my fair share of parking fees.

  • Vinstar

    Its a toss up but I would have to go with LA because as you indicated the lots in LA get filled up only half way and yet the city is actually spending millions to build even more parking spaces? Must be getting kickbacks from the contractors or something why else would they be doing something so utterly wasteful and nonsensical . Even if it does fill up they should not be building more parking lots which only encourages more driving and more demand for parking and you end up with the same problem.

    If they are really that desperate for more parking then at least do it in a more space efficient manner such as parking structures built many stories high. Surface parking is so incredibly wasteful and much ugly(er).

  • J

    In terms of present decision making, LA wins, but in terms of historic decisions, Newport News wins by a long shot. Those parking lots were in the downtown of a decently sized city. Now, the entire downtown has basically been replaced by parking lots. The very heart of Newport News has been ripped out. It’s almost like a bomb went off and leveled the city, except we did this to ourselves… on purpose.

  • Dave

    I can’t come up with a negative comment about the LA situation. Don’t live there anymore but I grew up in the eastern part of the San Fernando Valley and went to both Reed Jr. High and North Hollywood High, class of 1973. The idea that there are bike routes, park and rides and light rail in the SFV tickles me pink and gives me hope for the future. The Valley would have the potential to be a suntanned Amsterdam with the right infrastructure–your overhead photo tells me it’s headed in the right direction.

  • Bliss

    All that parking in North Hollywood is slated to eventually become TOD (as that one tower on the left side is.) Most of the major projects got scuttled by the recession, but here’s one that’s currently moving forward –

    As for the new parking spots, that’s just the repurposing of currently vacant land – doesn’t preclude it from being something more productive in the future and it certainly isn’t the tear down of any buildings. Not great, but at least will mean more riders on the subway…

  • lowtechcyclist

    Chiming in well after the voting, I lived in Newport News for three years in the mid to late 1980s. When I first moved there, I asked where the downtown was, and the answer was: there basically isn’t one. Looks like that hasn’t changed at all in 30 years.


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