Parking Madness, Round 2: Lansing vs. Greenville


Today we’re kicking off the action the round of eight in Parking Madness, Streetsblog’s annual tournament seeking out the worst excesses of America’s urban parking fixation.

The parking craters that have secured spots in the Elite Eight hail from HoustonLansingProvidenceGreenvilleFremont, Philadelphia, and Hicksville, with voting still open in the San Diego vs. Nashville contest.

Two impressive downtown craters face off below for a spot in the Final Four, as Lansing, Michigan, takes on  Greenville, North Carolina.



Seats of government are an interesting parking crater genre. Something about the government’s ability to hand out free car storage perks seems to generate an abnormal volume of surface parking. Two parking near the U.S. Capitol have competed in Parking Madness, and so has Hartford, Connecticut.

The parking crater in downtown Lansing might top them all. Here is reader Rick Brown’s guide to the area around the Michigan Statehouse:

Yes. Most of these lots are for State of Michigan employees or visitors, particularly those between Kalamazoo and Ottawa Streets, west of Pine Street. The series of buildings between Allegan and Ottawa west of the capitol itself are all state offices and the one north of the circle on Washtenaw is the State Historical Museum and Archives.


greenville crater

Downtown Greenville, North Carolina, is a restaurant and entertainment destination. But as you can see, except for a few blocks, it’s mostly set up for people to drive everywhere instead of walking. East Carolina University, with 29,000 students, is just out of frame to the southeast.

Our anonymous submitter writes:

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.

Which belongs in the Final Four?


13 thoughts on Parking Madness, Round 2: Lansing vs. Greenville

  1. we treat parking garages like basements; It’s not exactly the social
    gathering place unless you’re doing drugs or mugging someone. Trying to find an additional use of what most consider a
    blight. But you need to have lots of parking even in major cities or
    the retail and commercial activities leave or fail to be attracted, so
    why cant parking structures be beautified. Paris in the 60’s, Pompidou removed side parking on the famous streets
    and avenues and retail all but died there. It wasn’t until the parking
    was reestablished that the retail was able to regenerate. Garages can be
    designed with ground floor retail, and with beautiful facades or hiding them within the interior of buildings. This is
    the answer, not banning the car, which would be self-defeating.
    Going after automobiles is not the solution, doing so only chases auto users out and defeats retail and business.

  2. Cant read it it’s exclusive content.
    Liberal cities in Europe have tried to ban automobiles for years,
    Paris is attempting to do it now; I’m confident that measure will
    probably fail.

    And second Paris tried this before in the 60’s they didn’t ban cars….
    but they did ban parking along the most popular streets and the
    adjacent retail all but died. It wasn’t until Pompidou reversed the
    order, the parking was reestablished that restaurants and shops along
    those avenues could revive. And high rent, is because of property taxes, not business success.

    Yes, parking downtown can be expensive. But, remember, 92.5 percent of
    jobs aren’t downtown. Nor are most shopping areas, restaurants,
    recreation areas, homes of your friends, churches, or other destinations
    that you may want to reach by car or transit.

  3. My pick is Greenville. At least Lansing has a fairly robust and uninterrupted main street a few blocks east. Greenville is just a mess throughout.

  4. Lansing also has a gigantic auto factory four blocks to the south of the lower edge of the picture

  5. The ‘successful main street’ in Lansing also has a fair bit of parking throughout. Its not terrible but still there are gaps along the main street. Plus the last few times I was there it was dead at night.

  6. What is sad about Lansing and many other government centers is how they are disconnected to the surrounding city. The idea was to create a beautiful looking campus of “civic” buildings but what ended up is a series of brutality isolated concrete slabs surrounded by a sea of parking. The central plaza has trees but not down the center. therefore in the summer the center of the plaza is unpleasant. And most of the time the entire area is empty. It get some use at lunch time as workers walk around but its not a true public space.

  7. Greenville looks more like a suburb type of development than a city. Lansing looks like someone just way overbuilt parking for the state government complex.

  8. I dont agree that all successful major retail centers have lots of parking. No one is talking about banning all parking. That said, without high capacity transit most people are going to get around by car, but there are lots of other strategies like shared lots and comingling residential/office/nightlife parking in the parking structures that can efficiently serve the needs with much less space.

  9. It’s the economic and cultural center of Eastern NC (Wilmington is its own thing). The fact that it’s the largest city between the Outer Banks and Raleigh and home to a major university – it should look different than it does. The fact you confused it for a suburb is telling.

    Greenville has a lot of parking in its downtown – a LOT. That said, there’s been a huge influx of development $$ and it is gaining density downtown.

  10. By population, the Lansing metro area is roughly three times the size of the Greenville metro area, though.

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