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Rochester Wins 2014 Parking Madness Title and Claims the Golden Crater

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An asphalt scar in Rochester, New York, has triumphed over 15 of the world's worst parking craters to become the Parking Madness 2014 champion.

It was a surprising run. Who would have guessed a couple of weeks ago that this scrappy upstart would prevail over some of the sprawliest, most highway-marred urban spaces in North America? But a devout group of locals, recognizing the advocacy potential, helped push Rochester past Miami, and then Detroit, and then Kansas City, and finally Jacksonville, all the way to the Golden Crater. Quite the Cinderella story.

When we closed voting at 2 p.m. Eastern time today, Rochester was several lengths ahead of Jacksonville, leading 611 to 165. The Rochester parking crater joins last year's winner, downtown Tulsa, in the annals of Parking Madness infamy.

Here's the crater that swept to victory:

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An aerial rendering of the proposed Encuentro Square development in Logan Square. Credit: LUCHA

Kansas City may have had a bigger crater. Detroit's may have been emptier. But the Rochester crater packed an extra wallop because we also got to see what was lost:

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Matthew Denker, the Rochester expat who submitted this entry, said the winning site stood out to him for a couple of reasons.

"It used to be a real neighborhood," he said. "It used to be a downtown. There was a beautiful park there that got cut in half by a highway."

He said Rochester has its share of parking scars, but here, "there’s nothing to even drive to anymore. There’s a four point intersection with nothing on the corners."

Mike Governale, who writes at Rochester Subway and leads the local advocacy group Reconnect Rochester, rallied the local troops to vote for their hometown crater.

"I get a lot of people asking me, 'Why are you promoting this?'" he said, noting that it doesn't present a very positive image of the city. "But I see this as a tool. I think we can use this going forward, get more people involved. We can go to our policy makers and say, 'Is this the image you want out there?' Because if it’s not, we need to plan a little bit better."

Governale pins the blame for this eyesore not so much on city officials, but on the lack of coordinated regional action to promote a healthy city. Most people opt for driving because it's relatively easy compared to the local transit system, and parking is cheap, he said.

Two mayoral administrations ago, he said, a detailed plan was produced to develop a downtown circulator bus system, but it has been sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

"I love Rochester," Governale said. "I think Rochester can be better and I think a more diverse public transit system could really help unlock Rochester’s potential."

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