Parking Madness: Hartford vs. Cleveland


Streetsblog is on the hunt for the North American transit station that’s most severely undermined by excess surface parking, and today you’ll meet the last two contestants in the running.

So far, we’ve gotten to know 14 dreadful transit-adjacent parking scars in this year’s Parking Madness bracket. St. Louis, San Bernardino, Poughkeepsie, QueensAtlanta, and Medford are through to round two, with Denver and Pleasanton still going at it in the polls until tomorrow afternoon.

The final spot in the Elite Eight is up for grabs today as two forlorn downtown train stations face off.

Hartford — Union Station


Multiple people nominated this transit station in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. Reader Mike Crimmins sets the scene:

Hartford’s main transit hub, Union Station, is located directly in the center of the picture above and currently serves as an Amtrak and CTFastrak bus rapid transit station, with commuter rail service running from Springfield, MA to Hartford to New Haven, CT expected to begin operating sometime next year. As you can see, there is currently a huge amount of parking around Union Station, isolating it from many offices and business just a few blocks away.

Parking constitutes around 20% of Hartford’s total land use, so this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Interstate 84 runs through the city and passes close by the station as well. Efforts to reduce the impact of the freeway on the city and to repurpose some of the excessive amount of parking are underway, although it will likely take decades for the city to fully recover.

Cleveland — Waterfront Line “Muni Lot” Stop

Cleveland Waterfront Line Muni Lot

This site was nominated by everyone’s favorite Cleveland writer — yours truly (in consultation with local transportation Tweeters).

South Harbor Station, also known as the “Muni Lot” stop on the Waterfront Line, deserves recognition because the only thing it’s accessible to is parking for city employees, who can drive here and take the train to City Hall. The lot is wedged between a waterfront highway — Route 2 — and a set of railroad tracks, but it’s also right on the shoreline of Lake Erie next to downtown Cleveland. It’s basically a culmination of many, many transportation and planning failures.

The Waterfront Line was built in the 1990s and makes for good a case study in how not to plan transit. It was intended to serve the “Flats” entertainment district and runs between some of Cleveland’s biggest tourist attractions, like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Browns Stadium. But ridership has disappointed, especially since the Flats went downhill, with just a few hundred riders per weekday and only a handful of people on each off-peak train. With ridership so low, it’s hard for the Cleveland RTA to justify running it, especially as the agency cuts bus service.

So there you have it. The voting is open until Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern, and tomorrow we’ll move on to the round of eight.

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Hartford (64%, 223 Votes)
  • Cleveland (36%, 126 Votes)

Total Voters: 349


8 thoughts on Parking Madness: Hartford vs. Cleveland

  1. New ridership potential could be gained by extending the Waterfront Line southeast along the rail corridor to a new junction with the Blue/Green Lines near the intersection of Holton Avenue and E. 90th Street. Asiatown and the central Euclid corridor could be served, spurring new transit oriented development at the latter location.

  2. Hartford Fun Fact – Instead of looking to the I-84 viaduct project as an opportunity to embrace TOD and dense development the Greater Hartford Transit District (runs Union Station) recently proposed a soulless, full-block parking garage on that surface parking lot. They proposed more parking in a city that is drowning in parking lots and garages – even though the city’s zoning was recently updated to eliminate parking minimums on new developments. Fortunately the GHTD was roundly shouted at. I have to think that the GHTD management (and the planning firm they hired) doesn’t ride buses or trains, and drives in to work every morning from the far suburbs.

    So yeah, I don’t think Cleveland has a chance in this match up.

  3. Cleveland’s waterfront has been poorly planned and developed but I think the placement of a surface parking lot at that location isn’t so bad. In theory, it keeps that parking and those cars outside of the downtown core and gives drivers a place to park their car and hop right onto light rail to reach their destination. In this case, parking actually might be the best use for a wedge of land stuck between a highway, an airport, and rail lines.

    Center city light rail park and ride… only in Cleveland.

  4. The closer the line approaches the E 79th St station walkshed, the less logical it is to take the curving extension as opposed to the Red Line direct to downtown. Even the Healthline is more direct and useful, and the extension itself is only useful up to that point as the rest is vacant/industrial land.

  5. I’m a resident of Hartford who is frequently in the vicinity of Union Station. Union Station itself only has the one small triangular parking lot to its left in the picture. In addition to I-84, that lot is also cut off by the natural hill side that was there when the station was built in 1889. None of the parking lots “isolat[e] it from many offices and business just a few blocks away.” There are businesses (and empty stores) directly across the street and three streets extend from the front of the station toward the center of Hartford, Main Street, which is several blocks east of the area shown in the photograph. The streets to the north and south, Church Street and Asylum Street are unobstructed by anything and the third street which is directly across from the main entrance to the station ends at Ann Uccello Street because of the XL Center but has quite a few business, especially taverns. Union Station is not only served by Amtrak and CTFastrak (sort of — the stops are on Asylum Street) but also three intercity bus lines, Greyhound, Peter Pan and DATTCO. Walking down Church or Asylum to the rear of the station where the Greyhound and Peter Pan gates are located may be made a little uncomfortable for some, not by parking lots, but by passing below the elevated rail line. For those who do not want to walk from the station, it is served by 17 CtTransit local bus lines and the free DASH (downtown areas shuttle). DASH runs every 15 minutes from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM Monday to Friday and its hours are extended in the evenings and weekends when major events are underway.

    The very large building at the right edge of the picture is the XL Center, the home of the Hartford Wolf Pack hockey team, as well as the second home of the UConn basketball and hockey teams. It has been the site of the AAC men’s basketball tournament two of the last three years and was the site of the Big East women’s basketball tournament from 2008 to 2013. It also is used for a number of other events throughout the year. The parking in the area is essential for the folks using it.

    I am a member of St. Patrick-St. Anthony the church on the right side toward the top of the picture. The largest parking lot in the picture, immediately across from the church and our Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry, the building to the left of the church, belongs to the church. It was the site of the parish school which closed and was demolished many years ago. While I live in the city and use public transit (which means I seldom go to church on Sunday since local buses only run once every hour and ten minutes), our parishioners come from about 150 different zip codes and almost all drive to church.

  6. I have been to both Hartford and am a CLE resident. I actually think that there is more to the Muni Lots potential that was not mentioned. True the Waterfront Line has had better days. Ridership is low. The lot however adjoins the site of the currently dreamed of multimodal station. Pretty much what Hartford already has. It would serve Amtrack, Regional Transit, Local trains, circulators, Greyhound, MegaBus, and other carriers. The city would be blessed if it would consider developing / promoting this land as remote connected parking to downtown while eliminating surface parking in the heart of the city. This lot via the Waterfront Line has a near direct connection to Tower City, the Harbor District, The Flats, The Convention Center, and all 3 sports venues. Part of public transit is to train the pubic on how Public Transit make sense. I consider the Muni Lot a unexploited asset waiting to be exploited. I wish it had what Hartford’s station has.

  7. Two legitimate contenders, finally! (Please, no more malls or stadium lots or even distant suburban commuter rail parking lots, which are NOT transit parking craters in the sense of this competition.)

    Cleveland rocks (always), but the more you zoom out on Hartford the more spectacular the crater, right downtown. Hartford to win the whole thing.

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Parking Madness: Medford vs. Hartford

There are three spots up for grabs in this year's Parking Madness Final Four, as readers vote to determine which North American transit station is drowning in the most shameful sea of parking. In today's match, Hartford's central transit hub takes on a T station just outside Boston.