Still Not as Bad as Improper Recycling

Despite my habit of regularly getting out of town, I really do like the city of Madison. There's plenty of "60 sq. miles surrounded by reality" naysayers out there who rant against Madison's leftist politics, but it's hard to see their point when the city is always getting ranked as a great place to live, has the lowest unemployment rate in the state, provides pretty extensive municipal services, and has a great public education system. Not to mention how much people from Madison tend to love living in Madison. And really, if you're going for a derogatory nickname you might as well use "The People's Republic Of Madison", it sounds more menacing. That being said, there are two surefire ways to hear me rant against the city.

Madison doesn't actually have a parking problem. Maybe it's because downtown is stuck on a ¾ mile wide isthmus which precludes the archetypal Midwestern city's wide airy streets that makes people think  it does, but it doesn't. Regardless of that, and despite the ridiculously cheap parking ramps scattered around downtown, people still complain about the lack of parking. None of that bothers me though; I hate it when I can't find a spot right in front of the place I'm driving someone's car to also. This is what pisses me off:

Are you getting a load of that spot's dimensions‽ That CR-V may well be an SUV for beginners, but it's no Smart Car either; it shouldn't look comically small in a parking spot. I'm 100% positive I could park another one of them in there with only minimal bumpage. It's like the city designed all of its metered parking stock to make sure it's prepared for the unlikely eventuality of the entire metropolitan area's populace deciding to sell their Priuses and buy F-350s. Not in the PRoM. Add to that the excessive use of yellow curbs throughout the city and sometimes I get a little rant-y about it all. Take this classic Madison Double Yellow for example [see below]. Why there's a need for 5 feet of yellow curb between every two oversized parking spots all the way down the street I do not understand. Let me repaint the parking lines downtown and I guarantee at least a 68% increase in total parking spots.

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Annoyance level: -4 Ws

Height Limitations
In addition to it's pretty good politics, Madison has a pretty good looking state capital too. It's all white and get's lit up at night and is apparently the largest granite dome in the world. The badger atop Lady Wisconsin's head sits 284 feet above the ground, which makes it the tallest building in the city. That's largely a result of state and city's rules limiting buildings within a 1 mile radius of the capital to the height of the base of the columns supporting the dome. Which in practice means the Madison skyline consists of 1 big white dome, completely surrounded by 187.2 foot high buildings.

It's all in the name of preserving sight lines, which I think is idiotic. A couple of tall buildings nearby are not going to block out the view of the capital.  And it's not like you have to give up all control over what gets built. There's still zoning commissions and design committees that every new construction project has to make it through. It wouldn't even have to be some big office building that sits empty all night. People want to live in downtown Madison; mix that use up and practice some of the sustainable, public transport oriented, anti-sprawl development you're always preaching. And get more than 1 bright white building in your skyline.

My feelings on this subject are clearly related to growing up in Philadelphia, which by the mid-1980s was the 5th most populous city in the country but still didn't let buildings get higher than the brim of Billy Penn's hat on top of city hall. Then people realized that didn't really make any sense and One Liberty Place got built in 1987. Then over the next 20 years 7 more supra-City Hall buildings got built. City Hall continued to be visible from almost every direction, downtown was completely revitalized, and Philadelphia ended up with a real skyline. Suck on that Madison.

Annoyance level: -3 Ws

[Philadelphia 1976 v. Philadelphia 2008]

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