Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Parking Lots of Doom

Let's discuss the parking lots of Charlottesville!  This post may not be of much use to people who don't live here, but you too may visit as a tourist some day.

Barrack's Road:  Where to begin?  The little lanes and side roads created by the islands of shops so that there always seem to be cars coming at you from twenty different directions?  The poor visibility? The fact that if you have to park in the section close to Emmet St, it's impossible to cross that busy road within the parking lot?  The odd bit that dead-ends into a dumpster? The intersections with three-way stops at which you can never remember which side (it is never your side) doesn't have the stop sign?  With stop signs the size of index cards?  The intersection with the light, leading out onto Emmet St, where cars coming from the side can pull right up to the front of the line and there's no clear direction as to who has the right of way?  Assholes who park there for UVA events?  The fact that you can't walk from some parts of the shopping center to others?  For example:  you've just been to Harris-Teeter and now you'd like to go to Chipotle for lunch.  Can you walk from one to the other?  It's unthinkable!  No, you have to get in your car and drive 100 feet and park again.  The whole thing is a giant clusterfuck, and, I am realizing, has become a symbol to me of everything that is wrong with Charlottesville.

North Barracks Road:  this is an oddly-shaped, long, narrow lot.  It could be a mess--it seems they like to change the direction of the roads--but it mostly works.  After Anthropologie opened, they mysteriously painted a white striped box of nothingness in the middle of the parking area.

"Old" Whole Foods:  Oy, how I used to hate this parking lot!  It's a textbook example of bad engineering, from the confusing way you're immediately shunted into a left-turn only lane on entering from 29N, to the always-irritating three-way stop right at the entrance. HATE.

"New" Whole Foods:  Some people are going to disagree, but I think this parking lot works well.  Here is the secret to managing the new Whole Foods parking lot. On entering, take the FIRST left turn into the lot.  Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to drive through the pedestrian crosswalk.  So now you are in the furthest lane to the left, simply drive all the way to the end, turn right, and you have easy access to all the rows of parking.  I score a sweet spot every time, even on weekends.  Exiting is easy, as long as you use the driveway at the back of the lot that takes you up to that other driveway between WF and K-Mart.  Unless you are very foolish, you will not attempt to leave the parking lot through the driveway everyone enters from, or from the little one-way drive that shoots you directly onto Hydraulic Ave.

Fashion Square:  Again with the three-way stop intersections.  How many accidents do these cause? People who are not accustomed to our ways are likely to get T-boned. Plus, there's the vaguely punative nature of having to stop when you are leaving the mall, while those who are arriving get to blow past everybody. "Come and spend money!  We won't even put a stop sign in your way!"

Seminole Square:  It has issues, such as the inexplicable one-way exits.  That whole shopping center is a spread-out mess in which you are forced to drive from one business to another, similar to but worse than the situation at Barracks Rd.  It does have the bonus of the K-Mart cut-through for easier access.

Albemarle Square:  Generally inoffensive, except for the area by the theater.  Lots of stupid drivers queued up at the Rio Rd exit.  Jumbo-sized pedestrian crosswalk in front of the library and yet I still see cars that don't yield.

Pantops:  Does anyone even shop there anymore?  Extremely annoying speed bumps in front of Food Lion.

Giant shopping center (top of Pantops):  Meh.  No major complaints, and at least there is a FOUR WAY stop and a nice view of the Blue Ridge.

Main St. Market:  Christ.  I once carried an eighteen pound roast of beef and a bottle of whiskey far, far down W. Main just to avoid parking here.  It's like there's a cosmic vortex that sucks every entitled asshole in a supersized vehicle to this one place.  IT'S A PARKING LOT THE SIZE OF A HALF BATH.  WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO STUFF YOUR FORD EXCURSION IN HERE?  Particularly heinous at the holidays.  Oh my GOD.  Avoid.  Avoid at all costs.

South St:  Jon likes to park here when we are downtown.  I do not, mainly because at any given time, there are ten cars circling, ready to do battle for the first spot that opens up.

Beer Run:  Be sure to drive a tiny, precious car so that you can fit it into their tiny, precious lot and drink their precious beers.

Amtrak:  This parking lot got a lot of public attention because of its crater-like pot holes and extremely dusty gravel. It was finally paved, to everyone's satisfaction, I presume. I've looked down onto it as I pass by on W. Main St., but I have not parked there since they paved it and turned it into a life-sized pinball machine.  I confess I am fond of this lot, simply because I taught my nephew how to drive a stick shift here.  We went around and around the oval until he got the hang of it and no one bothered us or seemed to care that we were using the lot as our personal driving school. The pot holes were not as deep then and there was no guy with a clip board, wanting to know your business.

Aqui es Mexico:  This gets my nomination for the absolute worst parking lot in all Charlottesville. You enter on a steep incline and will scrape the bottom of your car if you're not careful.  There are parking spaces around the perimeter of the lot, plus an area in the middle that isn't really big enough for a double row of cars, but is generously sized for a single row.  The parking lot people addressed this issue by painting a row of extra-long white slashes and leaving it up to the drivers to decide how to proceed.  I have seen every possible permutation of double and single parking in this area.  If there is any conceivable hint of a space that might fit a car, someone will be trying to stuff their vehicle into it.  It doesn't help matters that the little driving lane is always full of cars, circling or waiting for someone to leave so they can park or that sometimes the line of cars trying to get into the lot extends backwards into Carleton Rd.  One cold winter night, I was helplessly trapped here until the troglogyte  who'd blocked me in appeared--at his own convenience--and moved his car.  Another evening, we got partially blocked in and Jon, who is genius for making a bad situation worse, stuck his head out of our car window and called the offending driver a puta. (The users of this lot are mostly hispanic.)

Buford Middle School: not technically a public parking lot, but I mention it here because I've had a child at Buford almost continuously for years, and so have several hundred other Charlottesville citizens. This parking lot was adequate until they built the new Boys & Girls club and pool which took away half the spaces in the Buford main lot. I was a Buford parent during the entire time of the construction, and not once did any communication go home to parents about the parking lot, nor do there appear to have been any plans made for dealing with the loss of spaces. It's not an issue during the day, but school events such as concerts have become a nightmare because there is not enough parking. Why did no one address this issue? Even a note or an email alerting parents to the new dearth of parking with encouragement to car pool would have been better than nothing. I have solved this problem for myself by parking along 9th St SW, but other people are probably not willing to do so as the neighorhood has a bad reputation and it is a long, dark walk to the Buford back entrance.  Myself, I would rather be mugged than expose myself to the parental mayhem in the Buford lot.

I would be remiss not to mention the Corner Parking Lot, but as I have never parked there myself,  I can't comment on its design.  It's the only parking lot I know of that is the subject of a critically acclaimed movie, which I highly recommend, even if you've never been to or plan to visit Charlottesville.  Indeed, if I had the power to make people do my bidding, one thing I would make them do is watch The Parking Lot Movie.  It's available for streaming through netflix.  My favorite part of the movie is the story of the attendent who eventually married a woman who parked in the lot.  What attracted him to her?  She was a good parker.

Below is awesome clip about the insanity of suv's in parking lots.

If someone were conducting a poll, and asked you which was the worst parking lot in Charlottesville, which one would you choose?


  1. Old Whole Foods and Main Street Market get my votes. Barracks Road can be bad if you're not aggressive. I've got a 17-year old junky car and I'm in a hurry: that seems to slow down the tentative SUV drivers who can't decide if they have the right of way. The Target parking lot is all right near the store, but craptacular for drivers who have to squeeze past Harris Teeter on the way out.

  2. OH YOU LIST SO MANY AMAZING CHOICES FOR THAT AWARD!! I have to say, Barracks Road gets my blood pressure up more than any other lot. To the point that I almost automatically look for spots on the OTHER side, the one with Chicos and Hot Cakes, and just walk. It's easier than trolling for a spot in front of B&N or Old Navy. The Corner may actually be even worse, but I neverevereverever go there, especially when students are here, because I'm a sane person.

  3. I *loathe* parking at Main Street Market and try to bike or walk over. Unfortunately, when I go to the butcher, I tend to stock up for a month or two, so a car is a must. When I was there the other day, some asshole biker had parked his motorcycle across two spaces and it was the tail-end of the lunch rush to boot.

  4. OHMYGOD. Barrack's Road IS all that is wrong with Charlottesville and Cville drivers.

    I was just at Barrack's Road on a TUESDAY AFTERNOON AT 3pm. There was almost NO place to park. I headed straight for the Emmet st spots.

    And I thought: what the f*#@ are all these people doing here on a Tueday afternoon? Its not holiday shopping season, is it? Did I miss Thanksgiving? Is it some sort of day off? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!

    I hate driving in Charlottesville. Did I mention that?

    Seriously, I live in Richmond now, and I always leave Cville thinking, "Man, I am SO glad to leave that mess of traffic behind".

  5. I am laughing so hard.
    And fearful of ever visiting your city.

  6. Great post on the entire mess. I would only add that Barrack's Road goes beyond terrible [or craptacular, to borrow from Not Beehive] from mid-November through Christmas. It makes more sense to park at JPJ and walk over than to follow the endless stream of cars snaking through the lot looking for one spot. Or, avoid Barrack's Road altogether.

  7. You've pretty much nailed them all.

    When I go to MSM, I try to go on a Sunday afternoon to visit the butcher. Or I go via bus/bike and then call the manbeast to come and pick up the meaty loot. It's an easy drop on Main Street or a side street.

    I do walk at Barracks. I like taking my life in my hands, it seems. Walking there from anywhere is also a nightmare. You have to cross the lot or the exits/entrances somehow and cars never want to yield, despite crosswalks.

    I once wrote a letter to Trader Joe's claiming that the Shoppers World Plaza would be perfect once WFM moved out, as the parking lot was already up to TJ's abysmal standards.

  8. But see, you guys actually have places in town that people want to drive and park for. Here in the desolate, large, used-to-be manufacturing town I live in (near, really), there isn't any reason to actually drive and park. Well, unless you have to go to the courthouse, or get a building permit.

    There is all kinds of parking here. But no one wants it.

  9. Seriously. What is that dumpster deadend doing at barracks anyway? drstrangecollege has it right - I don't even attempt the lot at christmas.

  10. Oh my word,
    you all seem to get so excited about parking.

    I can't wait until you post about driving.
    You know, best roads,
    speed traps, best looking guys, best building sites to get whistled at, that sort of stuff

  11. Brilliant observations. I commute to Cville to work and do my radio show... and detest, with every fiber of my being, the ordeal of parking in Charlottesville.

    It may not qualify as a "lot", but the 14th Street Parking Garage gets my vote. It's a dark, chaotic vortex in the deep, dark heart of the University. I have, thankfully, never had the experience... but imagine that's what being inside a tornado must be like: blindspots; large, hurling projectiles; ever-spiraling up-or-down dodging others in the tight corners.

    They had a good staff when I used it. They had good competition.

    Oh... and anywhere Downtown when there's a Big Name Show at the Amphitheater. You have to park in Hogwaller.