Parking Madness: Greenville vs. Portland


Today’s match brings us halfway through the first round of Parking Madness, our annual tournament where the nation’s ugliest urban parking expanses vie for the Golden Crater.

Parking moonscapes in Houston and Lansing have secured spots in the second round so far. Voting is still open in yesterday’s match between Providence and Surrey.

Up next is a contest between two smaller cities with downtowns that suffer from a deficit of “town” and an oversupply of asphalt. It’s Greenville, North Carolina vs. Portland, Maine.


greenville crater

An anonymous reader sent in this vista of the Uptown District in Greenville, North Carolina. It’s the restaurant and entertainment destination in a college town with amount 90,000 full-time residents, and it is heavily paved:

Look carefully and you’ll notice that half of Greenville, NC’s downtown is parking and/or vehicular right-of-way. With a campus of 30,000 immediately adjacent (you can see buildings in the lower right portion of the picture), there’s almost a complete lack of bike racks. Amazing, the four city-block surface parking lot is reserved for university students, while the garage and two city-block surface lot immediately across the street is for city government staff. Eight city blocks, six parking lots and a parking garage. Crater status confirmed.


portland crater

A reader who asked to be identified just as “Thomas” nominated the waterfront area in downtown Portland, Maine. He notes the classic parking crater pathology — there is never “enough” parking:

The city recently conducted a parking study that measured the existing parking supply, I was blown away to learn that Portland’s CBD has a similar percentage of land area devoted to parking to Dallas, TX!

And yet the common refrain: “There’s nowhere to park”!

That parking study counted about 16,000 parking spaces in Portland’s center city. (Only 66,000 people live in the whole city city of Portland.) Nevertheless, in addition to pointing out a few ways to shift trips away from personal cars, one of the consultants’ recommendations was to build another garage.


7 thoughts on Parking Madness: Greenville vs. Portland

  1. I was just in Greenville, NC for the Spazz Fest music festival two weekends ago, and the Uptown District (the city’s traditional Main St-type downtown) is actually very walkable. Dockless bikeshare (Limebike) has actually appeared in town, which is surprising for what is otherwise a small Southern city surrounded by miles and miles of rural farmland. And two of the parking lots in the photo are actually being redeveloped into 5-story luxury apartment buildings that would look more in place in a TOD in California than in a town with a nearly invisible bus system (over the course of a four-day stay, I saw maybe one city bus, and a handful of college buses and hospital buses). Still, for a downtown where 80% of the open businesses are college-crowd bars, nightclubs, and microbreweries, the amount of parking (and presumably drunk driving) is quite surprising.

  2. In many cities it was actually worse with industrial uses lining the shore. Access to water and shipping was important for heavy manufacturing. San Francisco’s bay waterfront was almost entirely military, industrial, and shipping up until about the 1970s. Hard to believe when you look at what is there today.

  3. I was just in Portland last week on a Wednesday. I figured it was the tourist off-season and a weekday so we’d be fine finding a parking spot (btw no way for us to use other transit to get there from rural NH). Ended up parking over 1 mile from our destination downtown. I was shocked at the number of cars around despite the large amounts of spaces. Most on street spots are only 1-2 hr parking to boot. Seems like they would be well served by a few more parking garages in place of the surface lots.

  4. Looking at that Portland map, yeah they could probably benefit by converting some of those surface lots into multi-story parking garages. From a pedestrian perspective it is amazing how much a large surface lot damages the vibe of a walk-able street.

  5. As a Greenville resident, I’m happy that two of our parking lots are being converted into something more useful! But, our anonymous contributor is still right: there is a lot of unnecessary parking Uptown.

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