Parking Madness: Vancouver vs. Rutland

Welcome to day two of the 2016 Parking Madness tournament. Yesterday, the assortment of surface parking between the Capitol and Union Station in Washington crushed the parking lots that greet people entering downtown Burlington, Vermont.

Today pits “Vancouver’s upscale shopping mall” against the parking crater by the train station in “Vermont’s second city,” Rutland.

Vancouver, BC


The parking crater around the Oakridge Center Mall was submitted by Jens von Bergmann. He writes:

While it’s certainly lacking in scale and waste compared to others in North America, it more than makes up for that by revealing the potential of what it could be. The site was recently approved for a massive redevelopment, featuring…

  • Doubling the size of the mall to 1.4 million square feet
  • 2,916 residential units
  • 300,000 square feet of new office space
  • A 70,000-square-foot civic centre (community centre, library, seniors centre and childcare space)
  • Rooftop open space

So this parking crater probably won’t last much longer, but if anything, all this development slated for the site shows how it’s gone to waste until now.

The next competitor is in a very different situation.

Rutland, Vermont


The site around Rutland’s Amtrak stop used to be integrated with a walkable downtown, but now it’s a Walmart and a parking lot. Submitter Andrew Fusco writes that Rutland’s story is one of industrial decline:

Rutland has a rich history of marble extraction, and by the turn of the last century Rutland was exporting more marble than anywhere else in the world for a brief time. All of this industrial output needed to be moved, and the railroads helped Rutland become one of New England’s leading transportation hubs. The dense, busy railroad depot made downtown a bustling place where industry and culture came together. Many of Rutland’s finest buildings were constructed at the turn of the century, and by 1920 Rutland boasted a network of streetcars, with daily train service to Boston, New York, and Montreal.

The urban fabric of Rutland changed drastically in the 1950s. The Rutland Railroad declined and by 1953, passenger service on the line was cut. By 1963, the line was shut down entirely. By this time, the depot downtown had been replaced with a shopping plaza.

In 2015, the rail depot has been replaced with a parking lot. Gone is the train station, in its place is a rare example of an urban Walmart.

Fusco also sent in this aerial view of Rutland from 1923, when today’s Walmart was “a hub of industrial activity that boasted a central train station with daily departures and arrivals to various other hubs in the region.”



So two craters, two cities, on opposite trajectories.

Your vote determines which one advances to the round of eight.

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Rutland (81%, 204 Votes)
  • Vancouver (19%, 47 Votes)

Total Voters: 251


29 thoughts on Parking Madness: Vancouver vs. Rutland

  1. I’ve been to Rutland, and the massive crater is adjacent to the Amtrak station (gateway to much skiing in the area) and directly across the street from a really cute and historic downtown. The train station is just a few feet from the historic downtown, but the first thing you see when you get off the train is a Wal-Mart strip mall. It’s absurd and really takes away from the city.

  2. Gotta give the vote to Vancouver. While Rutland’s parking crater is next to a rail station, it’s an intercity Amtrak station with low frequencies of service. Vancouver’s crater, however, literally has a SkyTrain station (their rapid transit service) right out front! There’s no reason for that much surface parking.

  3. Vancouver is doing as much as any city in North America to build in-fill developments, especially around transit. Even in suburban areas, dense residential (of 30-50 stories) is going up around Sky Train stops. The fact that is has not yet been completely transformed is simply because these things take time.

  4. Rutland gets the vote. It’s heartbreaking to see a small city dismantle its own center. This seems more disruptive than the crater in Vancouver and less likely to be constructively repurposed one day.

  5. J, thanks for the train frequency info about Rutland. I have to concur with LisaBurrito re Vancouver. That is a newish (2009) Canada Line station plus the big centre parking lot is actually on top of the shopping mall. You can see it on google maps here:,-123.1205057,17z. The new development looks like it will eliminate most of the surface parking.

    It is a tough choice today as neither are strong contenders.

  6. I assumed this was Vancouver, WA and not Vancouver, BC because it’s pretty much impossible to equate the Canadian playground, er, city, with any sort of parking madness. This isn’t even a parking crater, per se, since most of the parking is on top of the mall. (Very rare.)

  7. I grew up in Rutland and my parents still live and work there. The picture doesn’t tell the whole story. For one thing, the city is so compact that, even though many streets lack sidewalks and pedestrian signals are prtactically non-existant outside of Downtown, it still takes only 30 minutes to walk across the whole thing.

    Secondly, right at the top of the picture, near where the street is labeled “West Street”, that big structure extending far down into the block? That’s a four story parking garage, built in the mid-90s. It charges while the Wal Mart lot is free. It’s always empty.

    Thirdly, we have a literal parking crater. At the intersection of Wales and Center Streets, at the top left corner, there was once a building. It burned down in the 1970s and, what was left was a pit, called The Pit and used as a parking lot.

  8. Well, at least it’s downtown, and bringing traffic downtown. It’s better there than out on the suburban strip on Route 7. If a Wal-Mart is going to be built, this is one of the better ways to do it. The parking lot is small, as Wal-Mart parking lots go. Strongs Avenue (bordering the parking lot) is still full of shops and historic buildings. See the Google Street View:

    And notice that the downtown around it is still fairly dense (for a small town). Zoom out and see just how little of downtown Rutland is parking lots. Rutland no way belongs in this competition.

  9. The situation in Rutland isn’t particularly a crater, however, considering it replaced a railyard— the strip mall, with a half-decent pedestrian entrance and a farmer’s market, is probably a better pedestrian experience than what was there before.

  10. They run on the back side of the former railyard, which the mall was built on. Originally I suspect the main tracks would have run straight through where the mall is now, but when they took the station out, they weren’t thinking about train speeds.

  11. Voting for Rutland for somewhat tangential reasons. It offends me that they *detoured the rail line* around the mall. The railroad line is supposed to run straight through from NW to SE but it was shoved to one side to put the mall in, so that parking could be put in front of the mall.

  12. I don’t have comparable personal experience with Vancouver but I’m still voting Rutland because I’ve gotten off the Amtrak there after dark en route to Killington and holy shit is that a sketchy ass place to walk around at night. The parking crater can’t be helping and I’m sure it’s making it worse.

    I was getting picked up by some friends but had some time to kill owing to some confusion on their end about how exactly I was getting to Killington–they thought I was catching a ride from NYC with someone else–so on the train I Googled to see where I could grab a quick meal and was trying to walk over to the place I’d decided on. As a New Yorker the only setting that creeps me the fuck out is when it’s dark and deserted, doubly so when it’s an urban area (I still find deserted rural areas creepy but at least you expect it in that context).

    Actually, I just glanced up at the Maps image in the post again and the place I was trying to get to is shown there–Yellow Deli. Not a far walk at all, but holy shit was it a hostile-feeling walk.

  13. Honest question: given that that’s where the station stop is, does it really affect train speeds *that* much? Unless there’s trains that run through Rutland without stopping (and I don’t think there are, given that Amtrak runs, what, one train each way a day?) train speeds don’t seem like the thing to worry about here.

  14. Thanks for your comment; it wasn’t super obvious from the angle of the image that the parking is actually on top of the structure.

  15. I like including Vermont because it’s a great example of environmentalists not getting that it kind of defeats the point of “preserving nature” if you have to drive everywhere.

    I don’t have a link because I don’t remember where the hell I read this, but I read a pretty convincing piece a couple of years ago that talked about how New Yorkers (the city) have a much lower energy footprint than most other Americans. Their argument was that it might seem counter-intuitive to call NYC an environmental success, for obvious “lack of nature” reasons, but that the efficiencies you get from the density are so great that it’s worth paving over a comparatively small area of land since it avoids having to pave over way more land to support low-density land usage.

  16. Having personally gotten off the train at Rutland, I’d say it does, because the psychological effect of the parking crater is amplified by the fact of the context of being in the middle of a small town. It’s proportionally a larger chunk of Rutland than parking craters in other cities are. I walked to Yellow Deli (one of the spots you can see in the Maps image in the article) and it was a VERY hostile walk and felt VERY out of character with the surrounding area.

  17. There are a lot of at-grade crossings, so no, they don’t run through without stopping. Also, passenger service is a relatively recent addition, starting in 1997. The tracks were and are still used for freight service

  18. I voted for Rutland because the parking is in front. Small towns and cities in rural areas need parking, so people from the surrounding countryside can drive in and shop. With the noisy, unappealing railroad tracks in back, Rutland could have maintained much better walkability downtown just by asking the developer to put the parking in back by the tracks and some green space in front.

  19. My favorite part of parking craters is the obligatory line of decorative shrubs on the street.

  20. Advantage today: A picturesque view. The Green License Plates are my favourite part. The Service Building is at a close second.

  21. Good point, Jason. Act 250 has many flaws, with its name being most obvious. Our lawmakers failed to predict shifting modes of transportation. Fortunately we Vermonters hate our cars. We all drive Outback!

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