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Parking Madness Elite Eight: Rutland vs. Niagara Falls

Every year Streetsblog asks readers to judge the Parking Madness competition -- your votes winnow down 16 parking scars in a single-elimination tournament until we crown the "Golden Crater."

Yesterday, Federal Way, Washington, clinched the first Final Four spot. The second will go to either Rutland, Vermont, or Niagara Falls, New York.

Rutland

Submitter Andrew Fusco says the struggling-but-lovable town of Rutland, Vermont, suffers from the blight of this oddly-placed Walmart parking lot next to its Amtrak station.

At one time, the area was a rail yard. Before that, it was a bustling town center. This historic picture shows how the area looked in 1880.

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Fusco says there's still a small green "park" within the crater that hosts a farmers market on Saturdays, offering a glimpse of the urge to converge here.

Niagara Falls

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This parking catastrophe can hardly be separated from Niagara Falls' overall decline. In the early part of the 20th century, Niagara Falls was known as the "Honeymoon Capital." Many people would hop right off the train onto Falls Street, according to this account from Don Glynn at Buffalo Spree:

For the honeymooner especially, downtown had it all: they could pose for a photograph taken against a canvas backdrop of the cataracts, browse in one of those stores stacked high with souvenir cushions, cheap jewelry, and dozens of gadgets, and stop by a sidewalk soft-drink concession.

A travel writer visiting the city shortly after World War II called the tawdry air “a mixture of Coney Island and a carnival, an atmosphere of impermanence, as though nobody was quite certain that the falls would continue to flow.”

But the city started to lose its status as a romantic destination, and passenger train travel declined. According to Glynn, once tourists started arriving in cars, they demanded more places to park.

Well, that problem has been solved.

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