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The Other Final Four: What City Has The Most Wasteful Parking?

Louisville's downtown "parking crater" has worsted its rivals to enter the Final Four of Parking Madness.Louisville's downtown "parking crater" has worsted its rivals to enter the Final Four of Parking Madness.
Louisville's downtown "parking crater" has worsted its rivals to enter the Final Four of Parking Madness.Broken Sidewalk

Tonight, Wildcats, Sooners, Tarheels and . . . Oranges? will do battle for spots in the NCAA championship game on Monday. But there’s another competition on, for a much less coveted prize. It’s called Parking Madness, and each year it awards the “Golden Crater” to the North American city with the worst example of vast stretches of surface parking—so-called “parking craters“—gobbling up prime real estate.

This year’s Final Four, as selected by multiple rounds of head-to-head voting at the urban planning site StreetsBlog, includes Dallas; Louisville; Niagara Falls, New York; and Federal Way, Washington.

Here’s the full bracket so far (sans Louisville, which has basically locked a win against Wilkes-Barre):

parking_madness_2016 Final Four

At the top of this story is the photo that’s winning Louisville its not-at-all-coveted slot (submitted by the blog Broken Sidewalk). As StreetsBlog puts it, “it seems like we might be looking at the parking lot of a struggling mall that’s lost all of its tenants except for a Sears auto repair shop.” In fact, this is a neighborhood called SoBro just outside of downtown Louisville.

According to StreetsBlog editor Angie Schmitt, Parking Madness was initially inspired by an aerial photo of downtown Denver in the 1970s, showing a handful of buildings surrounded by a sea of surface parking. The goal is to highlight just how much space North American cities give to parking—according to Schmitt, far too much. Those lots not only contribute to sprawl and congestion, but are also, as the Louisville example shows, often underutilized.

“In some of the examples we featured,” says Schmitt, “There is hardly anything left in important parts of cities, like downtown areas and waterfronts, except parking.”

“I have to say, sometimes for me, putting it together is very sad.” Schmitt’s hope, though, is that the award gets cities’ and citizens’ attention, and encourages them to do better.

With the Final Four lined up, StreetsBlog will host voting for the last three matchups over the next few days.