After weeks of voting, the list of 16 parking blights has been narrowed down to just two. Here's a look at the brackets so far:
There are plenty more than 16 parking craters in the metropolitan area. Before we delve into our finalists, let's take a look at some other parking blights in our region, both inside and outside the Beltway. I give you your honorable mentions:
Outside the Beltway
Let's look at some huge parking craters that wouldn't have qualified for this tournament because they're outside the Beltway. But many urbanizing areas, major amenities, and job centers beyond the confines of the Beltway maintain deleterious parking craters. Here are a few:
NSA: The National Security Agency has an estimated 30-40,000 employees. Despite MARC train service on both sides of the campus, the overwhelming majority of these employees arrive by car. Would they if they did not have to? Perhaps we ought to ask someone who commutes on the BW Parkway to work, assuming they're not off somewhere fixing their axel.
Burtonsville: FLASH Bus Rapid Transit will terminate in the area, which will hopefully take commuters from Howard County out of their cars. If this area were to find better uses for its parking lots, Burtonsville might perhaps capture some retail income from these commuters. With the area's current layout, that remains unlikely.
Fair Lakes/Fair Oaks: Talk of extending the Orange Line west down I-66 often mentions a stop near this area. A transit option could be useful, but Fair Oaks Mall and nearby shopping centers are isolated and unfriendly to people walking. Whatever Metro station that might get built would likely just be a park-and-ride.
Prince George's Community College: Community colleges attract many lower income students seeking to improve their socio-economic status. But when campuses have insuficient transit options, education resources must be diverted to maintain massive parking lots, and too many students would face the financial barrier of needing a car to reach the campus.
Twinbrook: Despite transit-oriented development north of the Metro station, the retail plazas abutting Rockville Pike remain unwalkable and unsafe. This area is yet to undergo the full urban makeover Montgomery County is prepared to bestow upon the Pike, as they have just one Metro station south at White Flint.
Hybla Valley Commercial Corridor: Not unlike its cousins inside the Beltway, Hybla Valley posesses a large commercial corridor clogged with traffic and unfit for pedestrians. Efforts are underway to improve the Richmond Highway corridor, but Hybla Valley has yet to see the fruits of these efforts.
George Mason University: A commuter school with over 35,000 students and no fixed right-of-way transit in reasonable walking distance, GMU's parking remains vital for students for the majority of students who are forced to commute because of the campus's lack of dormatories.
Laurel Commercial Corridor: Route 1 has many nasty strip malls on its way from Key West to northern Maine. Though slowly urbanizing, Route 1 in Laurel still has an overabundance of curb cuts and flush medians lanes to serve its overwheming amount of street-fronting surface parking, obfuscating traffic and creating an extremely unsafe pedestrian environment.
University of Maryland: One might expect that any Power-5 conference state flagship university of 40,000+ students would have a great deal of parking. UMD's surface lots are largely on the periphery of the campus, which leaves the possibility open for campus expansion on the site as large surface lots increasingly become obsolete. Three future Purple Line stations will hopefully obviate some of these lots.
Springfield: A large mall next to a major interstate interchange represent an area that was built solely to serve drivers. With Interstate 95 and all of its toll lanes chopping the area in two, the area is likely to remain pedestrian hostile even after the mall site sees new development.
Shady Grove Metro station: Though undergoing a transition to transit-oriented development surrounding the site, Shady Grove Metro station has more parking than any other station on the Metro system. a commuter destination for upper Montgomery County and points north, this parking complex will likely stick around for a while, but if there is going to be a ton of parking anywhere on the Metro system, Shady Grove is the place.
Branch Avenue Metro station: In many ways, Branch Avenue is a carbon copy of Shady Gorve: a terminal metro station serving many commuters far beyond the station, and though transit oriented development is beginning to take hold in the vicinity, the station itself maintains a glut of surface parking… for now.
National Harbor: These lots will likely see development in the future, but for now the transit-isolated crown jewel of Prince George's County must rely on its ample parking to attract consumers to the area's many attractions.
Olney: A quintessential suburb, Olney is isolated, spread out, and virtually unwalkable. The town's “downtown” consists of a major intersection abutted by a series of strip malls with too much parking. The area is very resistant to change, and the status quo will not likely change in this outdated suburban model.
Inside the Beltway
Many of these were not chosen for the sole reason that we wanted parking craters from different parts of the region. Montgomery County, for example, had one large parking complex, NIH. The rest were either fully outside the county, partially outside the county, or barely large enough to merit consideration.
But Prince George's County, with its larger, more suburban parcel inside the Beltway, is rife with parking craters across the board. Here are some that didn't quite make the cut, but might have been better contenders:
Suitland Government Center: This facility sits adjacent to Suitland Metro station, but the unwelcoming layout of the site encourages most commuters to utilize the glut of parking on the campus rather than brave the walk from the Metro.
Tysons Corner: Straddling the Beltway and several other highways, enormous amounts of parking litter the greater Tysons Corner area. But with four new Metro stations, the area will be receiving a much needed overhaul in the near future.
National Airport: Of the three major airports in the region, this one devotes the largest percentage of its site to surface parking. What's worse, its location on the river assures massive amounts of runoff will pollute the Potomac. Though the parking lots pale in scope to the runways, it is still excess impermeable surface atop a fragile waterway.
Silver Hill: As soon as Branch Avenue crosses into Maryland, it becomes little more than a traffic sewer predominantly serving commuters from Southern Maryland at the expense of the locals who live along the corridor. Its poor walkability necessitates strip malls that are not safely accessible on foot.
CIA: Not unlike the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency devotes most of its transit infrastructure to parking lots near National Park Service parkway land. Like the NSA, it employs tens of thousands of people who have little commuting option beyond driving to the facility. But unlike the NSA, the CIA is entirely within the Beltway and its runoff is much closer to a major waterway.
Forestville: The Pennsylvania Avenue corridor in Prince George's County houses several ugly strip malls, but Forestville takes the cake for largest contiguous parking crater. As long as Pennsylvania Avenue continues to receive the freeway treatment, these lots are likely to go undeveloped.
DIA: Military bases and intelligence agencies abound on this list. Defense Intelligence Agency on JBAB is no different. JBAB is rife with terrible, incongruous, and remarkably un-urban development. Despite the site's proximity to Anacostia Metro station, like any DoD facility it pushes all other transit options aside in favor of the automobile.
Landmark: Obviously any site centered around a mall will likely have Black-Friday amounts of parking. But Landmark shouldn't stay that way forever. After the mall shuttered in 2017, plans for a walkable, open air town center began taking form.
Landover Mall: The mall has long since been torn down, but the entire site remains a useless impermeable surface. Hopefully when it develops it will utilize less parking than Woodmore Towne Centre just across the Beltway.
Providence Hospital: The moribund hospital is transitioning to a “health village” in the near future, but will the vast lots on the campus continue to blight the surrounding residential neighborhood? Or will the development bring an environment more suitable for an urban environment?
Fort Myer: Perhaps not an unreasonable amount of parking for a military base, Fort Myer still utilizes valuable close-in real estate for acres surface parking lots. The Army prides itself on being “ground pounders,” however evidence from land use on Army bases has shown an overwhelming preference for automobiles over foot powered transportation.
Now, on to the main event
In surprising upsets, voters let much larger parking craters outside the city off the hook to nominate smaller but more centrally located parking craters inside the city. In the battle of the stadiums, RFK was a runaway winner, taking almost two-thirds of the vote from FedEx Field.
This is particularly remarkable considering the fact that RFK's lots have plans laid out to completely redevelop all the asphalt blighting the grounds. Residents of the surrounding Rosedale, Kingman Park, and Capitol Hill neighborhoods have clamored for the reprogramming. Though it looks like that will happen soon, for now the sun rises over the Anacostia every morning to preside over the disused lots of a moribund stadium.
Across town, Washington Hospital Center edged out Bailey's Crossroads by the narrow margin of three votes. Despite its relatively diminutive acreage, Washington Hospital Center's parking lot sits between two thriving neighborhoods atop Metro stations to the east and west, and two plots that will become mixed-use neighborhoods in the near future, all very close to the geographic center of DC.
This would make it ideal for a major hospital campus, but the freeway design of the area and the abundance of parking leave Washington Hospital Center isolated amidst some of the most vibrant and growing areas of the region. Employees, patients, and visitors headed to MedStar, Childrens, or the VA Hospital must do so by car if they want do get there feeling safe. And who wouldn't want to feel safe when they are headed to a hospital?
Both finalists are inside the District. Both were voted worse blights than larger craters outside the city. Both sit adjacent to active development. Which is the most despised parking crater inside the Capital Beltway? Vote below and we shall find out on Monday!