Parking Madness 2018: Houston vs. Jacksonville


Your NCAA bracket may be busted but we’ve got a fresh new Sweet 16 for you here at Parking Madness, Streetsblog’s annual tournament to name and shame the worst parking craters in America.

In the sixth year of this competition, there’s still no shortage of entries terrible enough to make the cut. We narrowed down to this field of 16 parking abominations from a batch of reader submissions that proved once again the supply of parking-scarred American cities is truly bottomless.

There are no second chances in Parking Madness — once a crater competes in the tourney, it can’t come back for another run at the title. But some cities have more than one parking atrocity, and to kick things off, we have two towns that have competed before. Houston and Jacksonville give us a classic match-up between a stadium parking bomb and a nasty urban redevelopment project.



Stadium parking craters have a long and storied tradition in this tournament, and Houston’s is one of the biggest. The sports venue and convention center cluster known as NRG Park (formerly Reliant Park) is 305 acres large, and most of that land is consumed by parking.

Like other forms of urban parking blight, sports stadium complexes are often subsidized to a scandalous degree. It’s hard to believe how much public money goes toward creating huge dead zones that generate large volumes of traffic on the rare occasion they’re in use. Houston has a lot of urgent rebuilding needs following Hurricane Harvey, and the powers that be think car storage is one of them: Harris County just approved $105 million to refurbish the Astrodome (where the Astros haven’t played in years), including … a 1,400-space garage.



This is what remains of the LaVilla neighborhood in Jacksonville, just west of downtown. Much of the area was razed in the 1990s, our anonymous submitter informs us, in a failed redevelopment scheme:

The proverbial phoenix has not risen from the ashes more than 20 years later and contains parking lots, empty fields (used as parking) and suburban style development within the city’s grid.

Some of these parking lots serve stations for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s “Skyway Express” — an automated monorail that, in the words of our nominator, moves people “from nowhere to… well, kinda nowhere.”

Vote below to decide which parking crater advances to round two.


18 thoughts on Parking Madness 2018: Houston vs. Jacksonville

  1. I went with Jxville because stadiums and convention centers are always so bad, almost without fail sitting in the middle of a dead zone of asphalt. (There are exceptions, and I’d like to see a run-off between GOOD stadiums.

    But the Jxville is so sad and wasteful, I had to give it the nod. Places where people live and play should not be just blobs of buildings plopped into parking lots.

  2. Jacksonville, since it is close to the center of town, while the Astrodome area is several miles from downtown.

  3. That’s a very old picture of the LaVilla area of Jacksonville. There are numerous infill projects under construction on many of the empty blocks in that picture.

  4. Houston got my vote because the ginormous parking lots are also blocking streets, i.e, you need to go AROUND them, whereas Jacksonville still has connecting streets.

  5. I’m leaning that way too—based on the images, the Jacksonville situation is more easily reversible than the Houston situation is.

  6. That’s definitely surprisingly tame as far as American football stadiums go. What I’m a little bit more surprised by is having something like that smack-dab in the middle of an area that looks, based on the satellite imagery, to otherwise be almost purely residential.

  7. Yes. It’s mostly modest single family housing, with some standard box commercial on the arterials. It’s distantly walkable (45 minutes-ish) from the stadium to the traditional downtown, which like most of the rust belt is somewhat paved-over but recovering. Seems to have a fair amount of old factories & warehouses that are being repurposed. It’s actually pretty “activated” for a small city.,-88.0212262,3a,75y,13.98h,78.32t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sAecuYnolwDiRnzNhSpmO-Q!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    For a football fan, I think it’s worth the pilgrimage.

  8. Yeah, I’ve always been surprised by the parking craters in the US. I have travelled a lot (but never to the US) and never seen anything with even 1/4 of what that Houston stadium has. Most stadiums I have been to have *no* spectator parking. They have bus bays, drop off points, a few disabled parks, and train stations nearby.

    This is probably the worst example here in New Zealand, it’s just a completely different scale.

  9. In this comparison, Denver recently has begun trying to catch up with Green Bay. The currently nameless home of the Denver Broncos has always functioned with a tripod of surface parking, good transit service and walk distance parking controlled to protect residents to a degree. So it sits in a wasteland, just not Texas size.

    Plans are underway for development on the surface lots, though with plenty of multi-use structured parking. The new approach, given general support from adjacent neighborhoods, was made possible by the expansion of Colorado’s rail transit lines into suburban areas where many fans originate..

    A sample of the popularity of the rail access:

    in the toughest situation, an evening game overlapping with the rush hour.

  10. W.O.W.! And that downtown has a fantastic building to parking ratio, particularly given the city’s size. Another reason, besides the cooperative ownership, to Go! You Packers Go!

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