A champion from each division has been chosen, and we have reached the penultimate round of Parking Madness! After a couple of close races and a couple of blowouts, we have uncovered the worst parking blights in different areas inside the Beltway. But which one is the worst?
The Northern Division was supposed to be the Montgomery Division, however Montgomery County has too few parking craters inside the Beltway, so Washington Hospital Center was placed in the division. Voters overwhelmingly voted for Washington Hospital Center's sea of parking amidst some outdated freeway infrastructure. Three times as many voters picked WHC over the National Institutes of Health in the battle of the hospitals.
Takoma-Langley was also defeated by a wide margin after receiving six times as many votes as Montgomery Hills in the first round. About 40% of the Washington Hospital Center site is devoted to parking, a remarkable number considering the site's location between two Metro stations, not to mention a great deal of offsite parking. The McMillian Sand Filtration site and the southern portion of the Armed Forces Retirement Home could someday bookend the hospitals with more walkable development, but the hospitals themselves are slated to remain ensconced in a sea of surface lots for now.
In Virginia, four retail corridors went up against each other, and Bailey's Crossroads was voted the worst. Perhaps this result stems from the fact that Bailey's Crossroads is closer in than Annandale or Seven Corners, and unlike Potomac Yard it is not well on its way to an urbanist overhaul. Commenters decried the area as difficult to navigate with its nonintuitive road layout, ubiquitous curb cuts, subpar pedestrian facilities, and insufficient transit options.
The closest the area came to receiving rail transit was the Pike Transit Initiative. Five years ago, however, the Arlington County Board shelved the proposed streetcar down Columbia Pike for the foreseeable future. Until another proposal surfaces, Bailey's Crossroads remains unlikely to shed its blightful, parking-heavy suburban layout. If it does, it could pave the way for Seven Corners and Annandale, but the first stop for suburban retrofitting will likely need to be Bailey's Crossroads.
Voters made it clear in the first two rounds that NFL stadium-sized parking lots are not welcome inside the Beltway. RFK Stadium narrowly edged out the US Capitol to take the crown of worst parking blight inside the confines of the District. Fortunately, as of later this year, 27 acres of those lots will become recreation facilities, and a market hall is also under construction. As unsightly as they may appear while construction crews dig them up, these parking lots appear to be in their final days of blighting and polluting the west banks of the Anacostia River. In fact, the beloved stadium's entire site is likely to be redeveloped.
Even if Mayor Muriel Bowser succeeds in her efforts to lure Washington Football Team back, development already approved on the site and adjacent plots will likely prevent a parking crater as blighting as the current lots. Adjacent neighborhoods will soon benefit from activated spaces along an up-and-coming waterfront district. And if Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton's bill passes, DC will finally own the land on which these new amenities will sit.
With all this new development on the way, will this former NFL stadium make it to the finals?
FedEx Field, on the other hand, still houses the Washington Football Team, as well as the largest contiguous parking lot inside the Beltway, perhaps in the entire region. At best, these lots sit virtually unused for about 350 days a year. And of course, with plummeting attendance at stadium events, these vast lots are even less practical on the 15 or so days a year they do get used. Over 160 acres, the parking on site (not including the stadium itself) is about twice as large as the City of Mount Rainier five miles west. If these lots were as densely-populated as Mount Rainier, they would house more than 16,000 people.
As far as transportation goes, the site's only saving grace with regard to transportation is its not-completely-unreasonable distace from the Morgan Boulevard Metro station. The mile-long walk isn't so bad when headed into events, but the walk back after a game is ill-advised unless you are unfazed by the jeers of the opposing team fans celebrating their victory. Worst of all, there are absolutely no formal plans for any improvements to the site. Team owner Dan Snyder has made it very clear that he intends to move home games to another site by the end of the team's lease in 2027.
Will a giant pockmark sit completely fallow amidst its nearby transportation amenities? Hopefully not, but currently there is no indication this will change any time soon.
Anticipation builds: Which of these grim expanses will we dub our region's worst parking crater? Vote today and see which two sites will be facing each other for this duboius title.