Parking Madness 2015: Boston vs. Parkersburg

Yesterday, in the closest match in Parking Madness history, Amarillo edged out Nashville by just six votes to advance to the round of eight.

Today we have two new eyesores for you to judge, as the biggest city in New England squares off against Parkersburg, West Virginia, representing Appalachia.



This entry comes to us via commenter JM, who asserts:

I tried to nominate the South Boston Waterfront (AKA Seaport District) last round, but I missed the deadline. If this one doesn’t make it to the finals, your northeastern bias will be cemented once and for all. It’s one gigantic parking lot, almost the size of all of downtown Boston.

We like that this entry comes with a threat. And yes, cities in the Northeast are not immune from the ravages of parking madness. Here it is from the top:


Next up…

Parkersburg, West Virginia

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.02.42 PM

This entry comes from Elliott Lewis, who says:

Here is my submission for the Golden Crater, aptly named “Park”ersburg, WV. With a population around 31,000, it is the fourth-largest city in West Virginia and my hometown. This town has seen Native American raids on settlers (and vice versa), George Washington surveying, planned treason by Vice President Aaron Burr (check out the history of Blennerhassett Island), Civil War soldiers, some of the first governors of WV, Wright Brothers flights, birth of the country’s oil and gas industry, important transportation hubs, large-scale hardware and chemical manufacturing, and countless historical events. Those which took place downtown are likely under asphalt (like the home of the first governor of our state).

By my calculations, including street and sidewalk ROWs, the total amount of land in downtown Parkersburg is approximately 61% paved. Of the developable land in this same area (not counting streets), about 50% is dedicated surface parking, most of which is monthly rentals. Yup, the only short term parking is on-street, in one garage, or in a newly-built parking lot off of 6th St. They dedicate half their land to surface parking. Ugh.

The area in question, besides the entire downtown area, is that from 4th Street to the Little Kanawha River. Much of this is dominated by City, County, and Federal government services and includes the County Courthouse (beautiful Romanesque revival) and the Municipal Building (not so beautiful). From the Google Maps link, it shows some buildings currently demolished; the entire block between Juliana/Market/1st/2nd is paved, as will the building across Market Street abutting 2nd St (the old jail). And to make matters more depressing, the area is bounded by elevated railroad tracks near Ann St.,  an at-grade railway, and a concrete floodwall.

An excellent case. Here’s more of downtown Parkersburg:


Readers, you have until Thursday at 2 p.m. to weigh in.

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Parkersburg (52%, 165 Votes)
  • Boston (49%, 154 Votes)

Total Voters: 316


38 thoughts on Parking Madness 2015: Boston vs. Parkersburg

  1. So I guess I have two problems with the Boston submission. First, most of the parking is on in-fill/industrial land, and not historic buildings that were torn down. Second, the images here are woefully out of date and look completely different now. While there is still a great deal of parking, I estimate there is half or less from what is shown here. Sadly the Google Earth imagery is the same out of date stuff. Bing is slightly more up to date, but I was there 2 weeks ago, and it’s even more built up and or under construction than this:

  2. I agree with Matt. Much of this area was a rail yard and shipping crater before it was redeveloped as a parking crater, so the land use hasn’t really changed that much. In point of fact, part of the reason why development was so slow to come during the boom years of the 90’s and early 00’s were difficulties the city had in forcing the rail companies to give up their land use rights to this area.

  3. Best of all for Parkersburg is that they’ve completely filled almost all their water access with parking. Way to take advantage of natural resources!

  4. The Bostonians come out of the woodwork to defend their town from those who dare to judge it from outside. Not that much redevelopment has occurred beyond the gigantic superblock that is the BCEC and the oversized freeway interchange for the MassPike. I was just there two weeks ago.

  5. Historically, since the late 1880’s after the land was created by filling into the harbor this area had been a rail yard, warehouse, and harbor district. It never had the tight neighborhood streets that are found in other parts of the city. In point of fact, it took a lot of arm twisting by the city to get the rail companies to relinquish their easements to this area so that it could be developed in the first place. I think it’s disingenuous to characterize this as a result of post war urban renewal like you have in Parkersburg or other communities where the existing urban framework was destroyed to add parking and highways.

  6. There’s also a lot more development in the works for the Boston seaport. Yes, it was planned horribly, but that’s not the consideration here. It is a massive area only recently reclaimed from industrial use, not a downtown killer.

  7. This is an outdated picture of the Seaport District in Boston, half of the parking lots have already been or are currently being developed..

  8. This is not the NCAA. Shouldn’t the big cities be compared to the big cities, and the smaller towns to the smaller towns? Nashville vs Boston and Amarillo vs Parkersburg would have been more appropriate, no?

  9. What’s missing from this story is the undying urge for South Boston residents (including the seaport) to viciously claim on street parking as their God given right. This goes especially in record setting snowfall winters where multiple assaults on people and a tremendous amount of vandalism toward unsuspecting cars over the illegal use of parking space savers… a tradition known all over boston, but made famous here in southie. Even our state legislator who lives nearby said that the city will have to remove his parking space saver “from his cold dead hands”. Yes. Actual quote.

  10. The previous contest was tight because neither was particularly bad (as far as contestants in this tournament go). This contest will be tight because both are especially awful!

  11. Boston’s seaport: the entire northern section of that neighborhood was, until very recently, a construction site and staging area for the big dig – before that it was all rail yard, and before that it was water. Currently most of it is slated for development (and many sites are under construction) – and those big “lots” to the south and east of the convention center are trailer storage facilities (the area predominately featured in the photo) – NOT parking lots. Plus, this aerial is from 3+ years ago – the area looks very different today. geesh – a 650 car parking garage there just sold for $56 million:

    go look up historic aerials for the area:

  12. Thankfully one of those parking lots will soon be taken up by a new stadium for the New England Revolution.

  13. Though Boston looks more massive, Parkersburg is proportionally worse. One day that sad story will get turned around and the town can return to be a nicer place for its residents.

  14. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but the mention of all the governmental entities in Parkersburg leads me to suspect that aside from “normal business hours”, the area is like a ghost town on weekends and after 5 PM.

  15. It’s also not a city.I mean the whole downtown is not even one square mile by any stretch of the imagination.

  16. If I remember right, this part of South Boston is the area now served by the Silver Line trolleybus.

  17. I agree, don’t vote for Boston here. Would it be better if the land were left completely vacant until developed, rather than parking cars on it for the interim? The South Boston waterfront represents the largest opportunity nationwide to build an entire new downtown. Boston has done all the right things here in preparation for large-scale development: upgrades to South Station, a new bus terminal, a new BRT system serving the South Boston Waterfront district, upgrades to the Fairmount commuter rail, etc. It is an exciting vision and one that Streetsblog would certainly approve of. As far as I know, those are still the plans. But stuff like this takes time to complete.

  18. I would’ve agreed, but have you walked around the area? It’s wind-swept and desolate. Please correct me if I’m wrong but did Boston zone for a single park in the district? Plant a single street tree? It’s highly transit-accessible, which is fantastic, but the acres of parking induce people to drive, leading to gridlock, leading Bostonians to ask that more new roads to the area open up in hopes that will relieve the motor traffic congestion.

    Parkersburg is pretty pretty bad, but that’s why Boston got my vote…

  19. There’s Eastport Park and South Boston Maritime Park, and Q Park. Lots of trees planted along Seaport Blvd. And the Lawn on D street next to the Convention Center.

    The area is very much what Cambridgeport looked like in the 1980’s, where many old warehouses and industrial buildings got demolished to create parking lots, but were getting repurposed as office buildings and housing as developers and the city worked through the regulatory process to rebuild the area.

  20. It would be great if everyone on this site would recognize that cities come in all shapes and sizes. Parkersburg most certainly is a city. So is Waterville. So is Walnut Creek.

    Not every city is the size of New York. Stop being condescending, please.

  21. I also wonder, where in Cambridgeport was like this in the 80s? The Sidney and Vassar street area before Novartis came in to central square? Magazine Beach before the Trader Joes and Microcenter?

  22. No, I don’t think C-port was like that in the eighties. I lived on Magazine Street in the late seventies, and I went to college at MIT in the late 80s, and as I recall it, the pattern of development was pretty different. Before Microcenter and TJs there was STop and Shop and Medi-Mart, and before Novartis there was the New England Confectionary Company’s candy factory (Necco wafers), and there was never that kind of vast acreage devoted to parking. Ditto with Kendall Square. Cambridge has not done everything right, but…

  23. Hi EC, I worked on Charles Street in the mid-90’s, and spent a summer at MIT in 87, and I remember walking from Kendall up towards Charles and walking past lots of parking lots where warehouses had been demolished to make way for new construction. Additionally, all the housing and the shopping center that’s now around the CambridgeSide Galleria is of that time frame, newly build after removing an industrial area. Take a look at the aerial photo from 1978 and you’ll see a lot of open space north of the Kendall T stop.

  24. I think you two are saying the same thing, just that the area you’re describing isn’t really considered Cambridgeport, that ends at Sidney so I think that’s where the confusion was, at least for me. Vassar, Albany, really all of Kendall was a massive hole – old decaying industry that hadn’t given way to anything yet by the 80s – it certainly would’ve have been a top-seeded contender in parking madness. But Cambridgeport, the Port, Hampshire Street, etc… have always been pretty densely packed – with the exception of those remaining parking lots on the Port side of Central.

  25. Well, they haven’t done them yet. I agree that this “match-up” is a little disingenuous – the picture that they are running is a few years old and many of those parcels have either been developed or are in the process of it. But the Fairmount isn’t ready yet, the BRT has a some major issues with it’s layout (the D Street Light and poor concrete used in the transitway), South Station has not been expanded and can’t until the USPS sells the mail sorting facility, and even then planners missed a huge opportunity to cut many of those superblocks down to a good size – both from a pedestrian’s standpoint and from a road engineer, as the blocks are too big to disperse traffic leading to those heavy delays we all hate so much. I mean, drastically better than what was there, but I wouldn’t call it a success as of yet.

  26. You’re also being disingenuous. All the parking lots to the northeast of your pic are currently under development. The BCEC is itself slated for a controversial upgrade and they’re land-banking because of it. There’s land being held for the new USPS facility and there’s still and active container port that is actually being expanded. Is there too much parking, yes. Wasted opportunity, yes. But not because of the parking, because of the poor job we did in redesigning the area for humans (we didn’t really, at all). If you’re going to use the Seaport, and I think you should, then you should also submit an updated picture, which this one is certainly not.

  27. OK, I understand what you mean now. But in my memory it got filled in fairly quickly. I certainly remember lots of old industrial buildings around Kendall Square in the seventies–my dad used to work around there–but by the late eighties it was already filling in quite a lot. But where can I look at an aerial photo from 1978–that sounds like fun…

  28. The railyards were working industrial land. This is… parking. The railyards were more useful. 😛

  29. Plus, about 4 of those lots are now residential tower buildings put up over last year alone. Boston no longer looks like that satellite photo. There is much less parking in South Boston now.

  30. I was in the Boston Seaport neighborhood a few weeks ago and found it horribly hostile as a pedestrian. The parking craters are part of it; the stroads make it worse, together with the traffic lights that make pedestrians beg and wait forever, but the worst is that it is a 3D maze with very few connections between the upper level and the lower level.

    The first thing I thought was: this should be nominated for Parking Madness! But then I slowly remembered that it had already participated in the tournament, so I came to dig out this old post to see how “well” it did in the polls. It was a bit disappointing to see that it “lost”, but I’m pretty sure I voted for Parkersburg myself back then. 🙂

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