Parking Madness: Dallas vs. Duluth

Had enough of ugly parking craters? Too bad!

We’re barely halfway through the first round of Parking Madness. As such, Streetsblog will continue to assault your eyes with a surface parking horror show for days on end.

Yesterday, the moonscape of downtown Niagara Falls annihilated a quaint-by-comparison crater in Ann Arbor. Today, perennial contender The Big D — which is good for a different parking crater every year — goes against upstart Duluth. Let’s begin.


Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 4.45.33 PM
The parking lots around the Cotton Bowl in the Fair Park area of Dallas were nominated by reader Dallas May.

The appalling history of this site is laid out in Jim Schutze’s book on race relations in Dallas, The Accommodation. The area was once a neighborhood with hundreds of homes and businesses. Beginning in the mid-1950s, it became a popular destination for middle-class black families, and white flight ensued. But the city wasn’t content to simply leave the neighborhood be, May says:

…the white people still wanted to go to the State Fair of Texas, a long standing tradition, and attend the Cotton Bowl, another long tradition in Dallas. So the city of Dallas purchased and demo’ed dozens of blocks of South Dallas homes, and paved acres of parking lots for Fair goers to fill a few days each year.

Now the city is left with this crater as a reminder, May says:

Fair Park is at the same time the heart of Dallas and the shame of Dallas, and the crater stands empty 95% of the year surrounded by impoverished neighborhoods left behind by the larger region’s economic ascent as a reminder of our city’s shame.



This is the Canal Park area of Duluth, nominated by a reader named Eleanor, who writes: “Right near downtown, hot tourist spot, surrounded by the lake and harbor, but oh my lots — parking lots everywhere.”

A classic downtown waterfront parking crater right next to a highway — not pretty!

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Dallas (61%, 165 Votes)
  • Duluth (39%, 104 Votes)

Total Voters: 269


30 thoughts on Parking Madness: Dallas vs. Duluth

  1. Although the Dallas example is egregious, I’m voting for Duluth. I’ve been there a number of times, and the downtown and waterfront is quite walkable. There is a great bike path running along the water for quite a distance. The area pictured above is a hopping place on warm days (and “warm” in Duluth is anything above 40 degrees.) But the parking lots make the area feel like a block walk is a trek across the desert (or the arctic in winter.) And there isn’t a good walking route from downtown without traversing acres of dead space for car storage.

  2. Seconded. Dallas’s story is horrible but Duluth’s is disgusting regardless of context. Anybody walking there for the first time can see the wasted opportunity

  3. Voting for Duluth because a waterfront should be by nature a walkable area, and this area looks like it could be developed into something great (Erie, PA has a similar waterfront covered in parking that I wish they would do something about). On the other hand, stadiums are always surrounded by parking, and there’s really nothing that can be done about that unless people get really serious about using transit, and I doubt that Dallas’s light rail system has the capacity to handle a full football stadium worth of people at the same time.

  4. Given the history, I like that there’s even a Martin Luther King Jr Dr Blvd in the Dallas example.

  5. I also vote for Duluth but for a totally different reason. Yes, the Canal Park is abysmal and has really missed a great opportunity to become a true example on an car minimal district. The issue I have is the biggest parking crater in the city which is actually in the heart of the city and is ever expanding at the expense of the surrounding neighborhoods – the Essential Health campus. Just as recently as 2006, yet another entire block of former turn of the century houses and apartment structures were bulldozed for surface parking.

    Duluth has so much going for it. To see this happen is just too sad let go unnoticed.

    Dallas? Well yes, that whole city is of, by and for free parking, but we all knew that already.

  6. I’m voting for Dallas only because there is some hope of Duluth’s crater being filled in over time. There’s no chance of this in Dallas.

  7. But as a rust belt city which formerly relied almost entirely on extractive industries, Duluth was really in a position where they were just trying to keep their head above water. Dallas, on the other hand, has been going from strength to strength economically. They had no restrictions and this is what they decided to do…..

  8. Exactly Duluth went from a working waterfront to parking lots for systemic reasons out of their control. Dallas *created* a parking creator out of spite and racial hatred.

  9. I voted for Dallas, but let’s get real: this is a theme park surrounded by parking lots. Here’s a photo of Disneyland surrounded by parking lots. #shock

  10. You obviously haven’t been to Duluth. It STILL has a working waterfront/shipping industry — I think it is the largest US port on Lake Superior, and mining is still very big in the area. Also, there is a good-sized university there and a big tourist industry. If it wasn’t so bloody far from everything else, I’d even consider living there.

  11. Except of course that Dallas has made massive and huge strides in urban development but let’s not let that stop us from the favorite hobby in Dallas…. complaining about Dallas.

  12. I have been to Duluth. It’s been a couple decades though. Glad the shipping industry is still prevalent. It’s probably down from its peak however. Just like the ones around NY/NJ as we’ve changed both shipping and the way we manufacture things.

  13. Fair Park isn’t a theme park. It is a public park that also hosts the state fair for three weeks out of the year. All of that parking sits empty the other 49 weeks.

  14. Canal park looks like prime real estate. What I’m wondering, though, is if all those parking lots on that little peninsula are part of a flood plain where it would be risky to build residences.

  15. Not really. Lake Superior might fluctuate four or five feet over the course of a decade, and it never rises to a level that will flood this park.

  16. Duluth/Superior is the largest port on the Great Lakes and Seaway by a factor of two and a half in terms of tonnage, although it is still dwarfed by even, say, the port of Huntington, WV.

  17. Funny, I’m in Duluth this week on business. Apart from a road connecting the lift bridge to I-35, that area should be more pedestrian oriented. The city has made some good progress by building a park structure over I-35 just north of the area depicted in the image to better link the old downtown to the lakefront, so improving the area around Canal Park would be a good next step, especially given the proximity to downtown. For the Dallas case, I’m not sure what else is around that you’d even want to walk to, so I’d vote for Duluth.

  18. I vote Duluth. It has a lot of wasted potential. Dallas is just a stadium with mass parking around it…you find that in nearly every major city in America. I consider sports stadiums to be unique ‘destination’ land uses like heavy industry where it’s okay to have large surface lots. If anything this as a good example of that type of land-use because it is multi-purpose. The lots can be used for the Cotton Bowl, the amphitheatre, or the state fair. Pedestrian friendly too…you can walk across most of it without even seeing a surface lot. And the site has light rail access too.

  19. Yes, Houston should be the #1 seed, they’re the UConn Huskies women’s basketball of “parking madness”.

    That city is a hellhole, not a thing “urban” to speak of.

  20. “Empty the other 49 weeks” is not an accurate statement. Anyone wishing to learn more about what happens at Fair Park year round need only visit It offers festivals, running/walk events, exhibitions, musical theater, sporting events, free concerts, and a major outdoor ampitheater concert series.

  21. I’m sure the parking lots were full the for the last team to call the Cotton Bowl home, the Dallas Desire of the Lingerie Football League in 2010…

  22. Is it so different than Lambeau or FedEx field? Those stadiums host 8 games a year and not much else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Parking Madness Final Four: Federal Way vs. Dallas

Villanova is taking on UNC tonight, but the main event is here on Streetsblog, with the first Final Four match of Parking Madness 2016. Streetsblog readers have narrowed this year’s field of 16 down to four parking abominations in these cities: Niagara Falls, Louisville, Dallas, and Federal Way, Washington. Your votes will determine who gets into the […]

Parking Madness Elite Eight: Dallas vs. Muncie

We’re down to six remaining contenders in this year’s Parking Madness tournament after the grey expanse of Niagara Falls, New York, blew out the competition from Rutland, Vermont, claiming the second slot in the Final Four. Today’s pairing: a Texas-sized disaster and a Midwestern moonscape. Only one will advance. Dallas Dallas’s Fair Park is a 275-acre complex near downtown that is home to the state […]

It’s Tulsa vs. Milwaukee in the Parking Madness Championship!

This is it — the final, epic showdown of Parking Madness. We started with 16 reader-submitted contenders for the title of America’s Worst Parking Crater, and Milwaukee and Tulsa have emerged from three rounds of voting to face off in the championship. Only one will be immortalized and receive the “Golden Crater,” Streetsblog’s prize for asphalt […]

Parking Madness: New York City vs. Wilkes-Barre

If there’s one thing to take away from Parking Madness, it’s that surface parking disasters have struck cities great and small, victimizing boomtowns and economically struggling places alike. Nowhere is immune. Yesterday the parking lots around the Cotton Bowl propelled Dallas over the downtown Duluth waterfront. Today we have a David vs. Goliath pairing with Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, taking on New […]