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It’s Washington vs. Burlington in the Parking Madness 2016 Tip Off!

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Welcome to Parking Madness, Streetsblog's annual Sweet 16 tournament of parking craters. What's a parking crater? Simply put, it's a depression in the cityscape, a void where car storage has usurped land that should be devoted to buildings.

This is the fourth year Streetsblog readers have submitted more than enough entries to field a 16-crater bracket. Thanks to everyone who nominated a crater -- if we could accept them all we would, but there are just too many downtown parking scars to put them all in the competition.

Entries advance through the tournament by beating other parking craters in a reader vote. Today's match-up is practically ripped from the headlines: Burlington, Vermont, where Bernie Sanders served as mayor in the 1980s, goes up against Washington and the parking crater at the epicenter of the American political establishment.

First up: Burlington, Vermont.

Here's an overhead shot of the area where Main Street meets South Winooski Avenue.

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Brendan Hogan submitted this entry. He writes:

Burlington's Main Street is a key access route from the University of Vermont, the highway exit, and points east of town to the vibrant downtown and waterfront areas. Traveling west towards town you are heading downhill on Main Street with a great view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains on the horizon. Unfortunately the entrance to downtown where Main Street intersects South Winooski Avenue is a complete eyesore, with a gas station, seedy motel, and (to the point here) a large surface parking lot.

The parking crater, and the intersection as a whole, is in stark contrast to the bustling Church Street pedestrian marketplace nary a block away. Suffice it to say, that land could do a lot more for residents and visitors in some mode other than a surface parking lot.

The block north of Main and east of Winooski used to contain a market, a school, a church, and other building, as you can see in this historical map Hogan provided:

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Definitely ugly.

But can it top Washington D.C.'s Capitol parking lots? Let's see:

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Dan Malouff, who writes the Beyond DC blog, submitted this beauty. He says:

This may not be as big as some others, but it's particularly heinously located. In a city with barely any surface parking lots, 4 entire blocks worth of them (plus some full-converted-to-parking streets) separate Union Station, America's second busiest train station, from downtown DC and the US Capitol. The lots are federally owned and are for the US Capitol complex, so there's nothing anybody can do to fix them. Developers can't buy them, and the city can't tax them into submission. It's absolute parking madness.

Former Streetsblog writer Payton Chung, who blogs at West North, followed up with this observation:

Selling off these parking lots, at today's historically high market valuations, would raise $230 million for the federal government. That could pay for two entire years of the federal government's bike/ped program!

All right, now it's up to you to tell us which one deserves to advance to the next round. Come back tomorrow and every weekday for the rest of March to get your daily fix of parking crater face-offs.

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