Parking Madness 2016 Championship: Federal Way vs. Louisville

This is it, folks.

We started out with 16 parking craters in this year’s Parking Madness tournament, and just two remain: the asphalt-dominated downtown of Federal Way, Washington, and the grey parking lots in the SoBro section of Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville scored a major upset yesterday, beating many commenters’ pick to win it all, downtown Niagara Falls, New York. Meanwhile, Federal Way has routed competitors from the Mid-Atlantic, Quebec, and Texas en route to the final.

Which of these two deserves the Golden Crater? Use your last vote wisely.

Federal Way


Between Seattle and Tacoma lies Federal Way. Believe it or not, this “downtown” is already a transit hub with frequent bus service to Seattle. And it’s about to get a new light rail station (site outlined in red), thanks to an eight-mile, $1.5 billion expansion project.

Trouble is, walking to the train isn’t going to be an attractive option. The area is a nightmare for pedestrians, with wide streets that don’t work for anyone outside a car. As you can imagine, the sea of parking lots and all those curb cuts just make the situation worse.

Unless some walkable, mixed-use development sprouts here, it’s not a great place for a big transit investment. But park-and-ride seems to be the name of the game — in addition to the 1,200-car garage that you can see in the photo outlined in yellow, another 1,000 structured parking spaces will be built to serve the light rail station.

Making matters worse, Sound Transit passed over a different alignment for this rail line that would have had five stops and much better transit-oriented development potential. Instead the agency chose a route along Interstate 5 that terminates at this location, with two other stops. A big factor behind that decision was NIMBY resistance to locating transit stations in more walkable areas with less parking.

A spokesperson for the Federal Way mayor’s office, however, assures us that some transit-oriented development projects are coming to this area. So there’s that.



By now you’re probably familiar with this parking bleakness in the Louisville neighborhood known as “SoBro” — South of Broadway, just south of downtown.

Branden Klayko of the blog Broken Sidewalk made his case for this parking crater like so:

You can see in the upper left corner, the castle looking building is Louisville‘s old train station and now the headquarters of TARC, the city’s transit agency. And it’s completely surrounded by parking lots. SoBro connects Downtown with the leafy neighborhood of Old Louisville, with few parking lots and many Victorian mansions, but it serves as a sort of pedestrian/cyclist no-man’s land that creates a flat wall of sorts between the two areas. SoBro is home to a couple colleges and Louisville‘s Main Branch public library, but here you’d never guess people existed at all.

The area suffered a lot, Klayko says, when the widening of Ninth Street, the street with a green median in the photo, “split Downtown from the predominantly black Russell neighborhood and created what is locally called the ‘Ninth Street Divide,’ a major problem still dividing the city today.”

Here’s a historic photo of what used to be, taken during a devastating flood in 1937:


As they say, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

This is the last vote of this year’s tournament and we’ll be keeping the polls open for two days. Weigh in before Friday at noon to determine the winner of the 2016 Golden Crater — and with it, a friendly reminder to make smarter decisions in the future.

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Louisville (57%, 217 Votes)
  • Federal Way (43%, 167 Votes)

Total Voters: 384


7 thoughts on Parking Madness 2016 Championship: Federal Way vs. Louisville

  1. The Federal Way TC is on Interstate 5, not “Interstate 99.” Transit advocates had hoped the line would be routed along State Route 99.

  2. Federal Way should not be here, unless this competition is retitled Suburban Land Use Normalcy. I took the time to study Federal Way more closely, and what I found was nothing more than the same retail land use patterns found in every single suburb in every single state and province in North America. There is no parking crater here, just a bunch of suburban strip malls, shopping plazas, enclosed malls and vacant ghost boxes – the same ones you see everywhere. I’m not saying it is good, but it is not the same as hollowing out an existing area and replacing it with parking. These are simply common suburban retail land uses that – surprise – come with surface parking.

    Clearly what happened here was that the older plazas and boxes were built, then shinier new ones were built next door and some of the old ones closed. As the area builds out and transit moves in things will change as the old uses turn to infill. The school bus shopping lot in the above photo is now under construction for a 300-unit infill apartment complex (Uptown Square), and the vacant Toys R Us is becoming a Performing Arts Center. If LRT comes one would expect more redevlopment. This looks like a suburban area in the process of becoming an urban one, not an urban area destroyed by parking. To award it the championship is to end this contest forever because any one of the thousands of suburban shopping nodes should then win it every year.

    Louisville is not a great champion – its parking woes look to be more of a result of industrial zoning than anything else – but at least it is an urban area that once was and could be a better cityscape. It will grudgingly get my vote.

    I weep for Niagara Falls!

  3. I, too, cast my vote for Louisville, if nothing else but for the fact that it appears Federal Way at least has the intent to try to rectify the situation. I was also impressed that their mayor’s office took the time to reach out to Streetsblog to share the plans they have in store. Unless there’s additional information I’m not privy to, it appears Louisville didn’t share that concern.

  4. Federal Way only incorporated as a city in 1990 as a response, I believe, to the Goodwill Games of that year, held in Seattle. Ted Turner built an Olympic swim center in the area, and the locals scrambled to become a city and gain control of it after the games were over. I worked for the King County Parks there at the time, and it still looks like a typical shopping mall-school district development.

  5. You make an excellent point, but including it focuses on the land wasted through park and ride designs.

    Hopefully, in a few years, big center city parking craters will be rare enough to think about redesigning suburbs.

  6. Sometimes the parking crater is invisible. Wilmington, Delaware, for example, has replaced downtown life with umpteen parking garages. After 4:00PM, the place is dead.

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