Lansing Is Your 2018 Parking Madness Champion!


In the last few weeks we’ve gotten to know 16 ugly asphalt wastelands overrun by surface parking. But only one city (per year) can emerge victorious from the Parking Madness bracket and win the Golden Crater™. Our readers have spoken, and this year that city is Lansing, Michigan.

The state government complex in downtown Lansing beat out the area around the Long Island Railroad station in Hicksville, New York, to claim the championship.

Congrats, sort of, to Lansing — it’s a deserving winner!

In the true spirit of Parking Madness, Lansing’s parking crater stretches out for acres in the middle of town. While there’s a healthier downtown area east of the state capitol, make no mistake: This is a large, center city employment cluster where surface parking has metastasized to an outrageous extent.


The parking crater complex is home to the state capitol and various appendages of state government, including Michigan DOT headquarters.

Commenting on the championship match, reader Nick Helmholdt told us he used to have a state job and commute to this very crater. The parking situation is even more extreme than the satellite view lets on, he says, because below the surface are fields of underground parking. It’s a different story for bike parking though: Helmholdt often commuted by bicycle, but there were no bike racks, so he had to lock up to a hand rail.

The real estate market is soft around the state office complex, and these parking lots won’t get redeveloped with the wave of a hand. Helmholdt says the urban design in this area is basically set up to suffocate street life:

It would take a lot more than simply redeveloping underutilized asphalt to make this portion of Lansing an attractive investment. Many of the State’s office buildings in this area have terrible street frontages. My colleagues joked that the architectural style of our building was “neo-penal”. Large portions of the office complex are grade separated from the street. (You never have to cross a street at grade along the half-mile path between the Hall of Justice and the State Capitol.)

Interesting backstory: We actually received two parking crater nominations in Lansing this year. The other was by the riverfront and could have gone far.

We’ve been contacted by the Lansing State Journal about the competition and look forward to the local coverage of Lansing’s victory.

Last year’s winner — Denver — is making moves to redevelop its parking crater. Maybe Lansing will take steps to end the parking madness and make the area around Michigan’s seat of government more hospitable for human beings.



16 thoughts on Lansing Is Your 2018 Parking Madness Champion!

  1. Congrats (lol) to my hometown of Lansing!! To be at least partially fair, the underground parking referenced above is directly beneath each of the seven state office buildings immediately west of the Capitol. That strikes me as a better, multiple use of space than as simple parking lots. Perhaps if those same buildings also had sidewalk level commercial space for rent instead of the current brutalist concrete walls…the new ATF building in Washington DC actually rents out similar shop space…

  2. Good gravy…you need to call Uber to pick you up and take you to your destination after your park!

  3. Thanks for the recognition and ‘kick in the rear’ that might help jolt our State govt. and City officials into some proactive steps to humanize our downtown area. Great to hear that Denver has launched some initiatives after winning last year! The City has recently installed 12 new bike parking lockers which are coming online soon, but that’s far from adequate when you look at the numbers of cars being accommodated w/ parking. Providing ample, covered and lit bike parking facilities near the govt. and city buildings would really be a good next step towards encouraging more commuting by bike at least.

  4. A monument to waste, poor planning, and misplaced priorities. I am not surprised — the automobile industry has clout in Michigan, and a state government complex that enshrines the road and cars over everything else — even people, livability, and efficiency — is certainly a testament to what Michigan is all about.

  5. This is what happens when a place doesn’t have attractive active & public transportation options. It’s classic pennywise, pound foolish. We think we’re saving a few dollars, but the costs associated with ruining a city are many times any trival savings.

  6. State government complexes get extra “demerits” because the vast majority of the people work 8 to 5 Monday through Friday jobs. Weekend and evenings tend to be like ghost towns of the Old West. At least city and county government centers often have law-enforcement related buildings that are open late; even a county jail will have folks coming and going (not always willingly) at odd hours.

  7. Fun fact: Lansing is the only state capital (of the 47 located in counties) that isn’t also a county seat.

  8. Also, the parking lot immediately west of the Capitol in the picture is being removed so that the west lawn of the grounds can be restored.

  9. At least in the US, municipalities ensure that there’s enough parking lot to accommodate all the cars in a certain area.

    In many developing Asian countries like mine (Kuala Lumpur), there’s neither a good transit system nor enough parking lots for cars. So people park in any space that they could find, usually by the roadside; and then the municipality fines them because obviously it’s the people’s problem for not sorting out the transportation issue by themselves.

    So my advise is, be careful with what you wish for. Develop the transit first, remove the parking lots later.

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