Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Change considered for parking meters

City officials weigh extending hours of enforcement

August 27, 2007


Reader poll
Should City Hall extend the hours drivers must pay to park downtown?

or See the results without voting

On the street

Do you think the city should extend parking meter hours?

I don’t think so. You shouldn’t have to put money in the meters if you come downtown during the evening.

More responses

More metering?

Chad Lawhorn asks downtown patrons what they think about extending parking meter hours. Enlarge video

Parking income and expenses

City staff members have yet to determine how much new revenue could be produced by extending the hours that downtown parking meters must be fed.

But here's a look at how much the current system of parking meters produces:

  • In 2008, the city's public parking fund is expected to generate $915,000 in revenue. Not all of that, however, comes from parking meters along Massachusetts Street. The city receives $160,000 in revenue from the Riverfront parking garage and $15,000 from the New Hampshire Street garage. Also, $350,000 of the total comes from overdue parking fines. Some of those occur on Massachusetts Street, while others occur in the two-hour lots on Vermont and New Hampshire streets.
  • The fund pays for four parking control officers who monitor the meters and lots, three police officers, three court clerks in Municipal Court, two maintenance workers and one summer worker.

It's 8 p.m. on a pleasant Friday evening on Massachusetts Street.

The sidewalks are bustling, outdoor diners fill the air with the clanging of plates and silverware, and Mass Street is a river of slow-moving vehicles.

In short, there's activity everywhere.

Everywhere except at the parking meters, that is. They're on break, like they are every evening. City regulations require that downtown parking meters be fed only from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

In these days of tight financial times at City Hall, some city leaders are wondering whether it is time for a change. Or more aptly, time to start collecting more change from parking meters.

"I don't know if it would be a good idea or not, but we might want to think about extending the hours," said City Commissioner Mike Amyx, who floated the idea. "What I do know is that the parking meters are already there.

"If we're looking for ways to pay for more police officers downtown, for example, this might be an option."

Every nickel counts

There is no formal City Commission proposal to extend the parking hours for downtown meters. Instead, the idea is just rolling around City Hall like a loose nickel. But as the city watches the growth of sales tax and property tax collections slow, any spare change is attracting city leaders' attention these days.

"It is absolutely worth a conversation," Mayor Sue Hack said. "Any potential revenue generator is worth a conversation right now."

Any conversation likely would start with a bunch of questions: How long should the hours be extended? Would the city do evening enforcement in the two-hour lots? Should the city start charging on Sundays, too? Should the city also increase the fine for overdue parking, which is $2?

Answers to those questions aren't yet evident. But Amyx said the idea that keeps floating through his head is pretty simple: Extend the hours long enough to capitalize off the downtown crowds. The new revenue - how much new revenue is a big question - could be used to fund new police officers to patrol the downtown. More police officers might help ease concerns that downtown is becoming less safe at night.

City Commissioner Rob Chestnut, who like Amyx grew up in Lawrence, said the idea may have some merit. That's because Massachusetts has certainly changed over the years, although the city's parking meter policy has not.

"I don't think the idea is completely out of the realm," Chestnut said. "I remember as a kid when we would go down to Mass Street after 5 p.m., you may not see more than a half-dozen cars parked. But now we have a very different venue."

Security blankets

Longtime restaurant owner Bob Schumm, owner of Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse, 719 Mass., agreed that the changing nature of downtown might be a reason to consider a change in parking meter policy.

"You don't have to know too much about downtown right now to know that the largest demand for parking is from 5 p.m. into the evening hours," Schumm said.

But Schumm said he thought the key to any change would be a promise from city commissioners that the new money be used to fund additional police officers to patrol downtown.

"I've always thought you want to use your parking system money to provide service to the patrons who are using the parking," Schumm said. "Adding more police officers would do that.

"Police officers are just a genuine security blanket for downtown visitors. People like to see them."

Jane Pennington, director for Downtown Lawrence Inc., said the issue might draw a favorable response from her group, which largely represents merchants.

"I know they are very concerned about the perception that downtown isn't a safe place," Pennington said. "If more officers would remove that perception, there may be some support for it."

The bigger question, though, isn't what businesses think of it, but rather how their customers will respond.

"I don't know. That's the question everybody is discussing," said Jerry Neverve, owner of the Red Lyon Tavern, 944 Mass. "I think it might be OK. A quarter for an hour is still a pretty good deal."

Neverve also noted that even the $2 overdue parking fine is less than most cover charges.

New hurdle

At Free State Brewery, 636 Mass., the mood on the idea is more like the Oatmeal Stout that the bar serves: dark.

Free State owner Chuck Magerl said he, too, would like to see more police officers downtown, but he doesn't want to fund them in a way that makes it less likely that someone would want to come downtown.

He said downtown competes with many shopping areas - he named The Legends in western Wyandotte County and Kansas City's Plaza district - that offer more free parking than downtown Lawrence does.

"I know we think we're a big deal, but really Lawrence is still a small town," Magerl said. "For lots of small towns, meters are sort of a throwback. Even though the fines and the rates aren't real substantial, it is still a bad message when a customer gets a ticket.

"Downtown has a lot of hurdles at this point. I'm not sure it is wise for us to put more hurdles up."

Some retailers are falling more in the middle. Rich Yeakel, co-owner of Marks Jewelers, 817 Mass., said he is fine with extending the hours to cover downtown's evening patrons. He said treating evening and daytime customers equally is a matter of fairness. But he thinks the city should wean itself from relying on parking meter revenue.

"I know I still have people tell me that they don't go downtown because of the meters," Yeakel said. "There's an awful lot of places you can go and park for free."

- Staff writer Chad Lawhorn can be reached at 832-6362.


pace 10 years, 9 months ago

It is about time. Make it to 10. Please extend the hours.

Ragingbear 10 years, 9 months ago

The revenue generated would not offset the cost of overtime. They should just yank the stickers of when enforcement is over. Since most of the people downtown don't know anyways, you would not see much change.

Confrontation 10 years, 9 months ago

""I know we think we're a big deal," Isn't that the truth!

monkeyhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

Lower taxes and fix the infrastructure. That is the solution to attracting non-government businesses. Oh yes, cut out all the silly regulation, too.

Katie Van Blaricum 10 years, 9 months ago

you're right merril. We can either pay more parking meters, or we can shut down Last Call. I vote for the latter.

nathan 10 years, 9 months ago

@Chad - How much money does the city actually make from parking fines and metering?

Adrienne Sanders 10 years, 9 months ago

Chuck Magerl thinks that having to spend an extra 50 cents on a parking meter is going to stop people from going downtown.... get a grip!!

If they want to make more money, raise the ticket price. Two dollars is ridiculously low.

nathan 10 years, 9 months ago

Nevermind, just noticed the inline above.

toefungus 10 years, 9 months ago

This new rule will help out the 6th and Wakarusa development. Just what Compton is wanting the Commissioners to do.

KS 10 years, 9 months ago

One of the worst inventions of all time was the parking meter, next to a phone tree. It has ruined more businesses over the years. When will City Hall learn? Nowhere do we hear about some reduced spending someplace else. What do you think might happen to the Plaza in KCMO if they put in meters. Parking is free and always will be.

LongGoneFromLarryville 10 years, 9 months ago

"This is Lawrence" - KS

I went to Lawrence, Kansas on a Friday By Saturday I learned a thing or two But up 'till then I didn't have an idea Of what the mod'rn world was comin' to. I counted twenty gas buggies goin' by theirselves Seems everyone one was drivin' all alone An' then I put my ear to a bell telephone An' a strange recorded voice began to talk. What next! What next?

Everything's up to date in Lawrence, Kansas They gone about as fer as they can go They went an' proposed a hotel seven stories high About as high as a buildin' orta grow.

Everything's up to date in Lawrence, Kansas They've gone about as fer as they can go Now they've put some parking meters on Mass Avenue For fifty cents you can park for two dang hours!

Yes, Sir! They've gone about as fer as they can go!

Richard Heckler 10 years, 9 months ago

"I know we think we're a big deal, but really Lawrence is still a small town," Magerl said. "For lots of small towns, meters are sort of a throwback. Even though the fines and the rates aren't real substantial, it is still a bad message when a customer gets a ticket."

Chuck hit the nail on the head.

Want to make downtown feel safer? Force trouble making bars with an established pattern to shut down. That is maybe one or two real problems? Bring on the ABC and enforce all existing laws. If owners of the trouble spots have friends on the commission it is still necessary to enforce the rules as that is part of the job. Then you won't have citizens like myself bring up stupid ideas like adding 25 cents to every alcohol sale. $33,000 for additional enforcement could repair a sidewalk or two. I say reduce the cost of enforcement by getting rid of the one or two trouble spots.

Too many cops could also create a sense of paranoia. Neighborhoods also like to have access to police officers as well.

KS 10 years, 9 months ago

Talk about totally missing the point! Good grief. I guess this is Lawrence.

LongGoneFromLarryville 10 years, 9 months ago

"Parking is free and always will be" ... yeah, if you ride the T!

Honestly, "free"? Parking isn't free anywhere unless somebody else subsidizes it. "Come to the mall, acres and acres of free parking!" Remember those ads? Think it's free to buy, pave, maintain and police the area? Or do you think the developers/mall tenants subsidize that activity for the purpose of drawing more patrons?

I'd laugh in your face if you told me someone would drive to The Plaza to avoid paying $2 in parking tolls to party downtown.

This seems like a pretty good idea to me. From an economic standpoint, it's a valuable asset that is left sitting idle during periods of high demand. If it was my asset, I'd monetize it. Don't want to pay? Take the T.

TheYetiSpeaks 10 years, 9 months ago


Thats a ginormous leap. Before we start subscribing to loony conspiracy theories let us remember that the parking meters here are some of the cheapest I have ever seen for downtown area parking, right down to the absurdly low ticket price. If I have to put in a quarter or two in the meter to go have dinner downtown one evening, it wont stop me. I'm betting it wont stop you either. The city is desperate to find a way to make money right now. Regardless, of my opinion of how we got to this point, this seems like an okay idea to me.

bearclaws 10 years, 9 months ago

$3.00 for a ticket, and $20.00 for each ticket not paid within the 10 day period. Anyone at City Hall looking at projected income by raising these prices? Expenditures would not increase due to additional manpower. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Even $5.00 for parking at an expired meter is not outrageous. At the current rate, most people are willing to risk parking over their allotted time. This impacts the amount of money going into each meter as well as the fact that there is less turnover in the number of free spaces at any given time.

Steve Mechels 10 years, 9 months ago

Start by raising the price of a ticket and see what that does to revenue. After that, if needed, then consider extending the meter enforcement times. There is still plenty of free parking off of Mass so anyone complaining about meters get a grip a walk 1/2 a block. You are simply paying for the privilege of not having to walk quite as far.

leadrain 10 years, 9 months ago

Don't raise or extend the fines/hours. Where will homeless vagabonds go to camp for free? Ha-ha

FatTony 10 years, 9 months ago

Meters = Throwback for small towns,

So does that mean parking on the street is free in all Major Metro downtowns? Been to Chicago lately? Heck even downtown KC has meters and if you want to park in a lot or garage there expect to pay atleast $5. You have to be ignorant if you think having to pay a meter till 8 or 10 at night is going to affect someones habits. If your product is in demand people will make a point to get it. Thats like saying I'm going to 23rd St Brewery just because I don't have to pay for parking, thats freaking ridiculous. Hey Chuck give your patrons more credit, they are there for the beer and the food and just because the can't smoke inside or have to pay a little more to park on the street doesn't mean they will stop coming.

FatTony 10 years, 9 months ago

Parking is not "free" on the Plaza. KCMO has a special sales tax placed on business on the plaza to cover costs of the parking garages.

Janet Lowther 10 years, 9 months ago

As near as I can tell, the Lawrence City Commission is suicidal. The problem is they will take everyone else with them.

Every time you turn around they are talking about higher taxes or more regulation.

The more you tax something, the less of what ever you are taxing happens. Economics 101.

Governments often ignore this, because in the short term they can: It initially affects things where the investment has already been made, and it takes a while for projects in the pipeline to dry up. At the rate things are going, I intend to get my investments out of Lawrence as soon as feasible.

henrydorn 10 years, 9 months ago

This article makes me sick. The politicians are nothing but concerned about perception and more ways to get money to expand their reach. They don't care if downtown is actually safe or not.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 9 months ago

aquakej wrote "We can either pay more parking meters, or we can shut down Last Call," which is a false dichotomy. One has nothing whatsoever to do with the other.

The purpose parking meters serve is to turn over parking spaces. The meter fees, fines, etc. are the parker's incentive to free up the parking space for someone else--and the revenue is incidental to this purpose. This makes some level of sense in a retail environment by creating (artificially) a reasonable level of turnover. As people complete their purchases and vacate the parking space, others can come in behind them and (again) spend more money with the retailers. After most of the retail stores close at 6 p.m., though, the nature of downtown changes substantially. People are dining or socializing, and a constant turnover of parking spaces no longer makes sense.

KU_cynic 10 years, 9 months ago

Parking is scarce, and meters and tickets are a way to ensure that people pay for what is a scarce resource -- one way or another.

Personally, I think it would be only fair to enforce meters into the evening. Patrons of daytime businesses -- shops, stores, lunchtime restaurants, personal service businesses like barbershops, etc. -- have to pay for parking, but patrons of late-time businesses -- bars, music venues, and dinner restaurants -- do not. That's inherently unfair in that the daytime businesses subsidize the nighttime businesses (and people wonder why bars are slowly replacing retail in downtown Lawrence). Also, as an occasional night time patron of restaurants and Liberty Hall, I find I never have as much trouble parking in downtown Lawrence as I do at night because people park without pay for hours and there isn't sufficient turnover of spots.

If the downtown business community is worried about the adverse effects of meter enforcement on their customer base, I have simple and cost-effective solution. Make all downtown parking free for patrons, but make businesses pay a parking fee to the city scaled to their sales-tax receipts -- that way businesses that generate more customers regardless of business hours and presumably more parking would pay more. That would be a good way to end the subsidy of bar patrons and other late-night customers without having to pay meter readers or track down drivers with unpaid parking tickets.

Godot 10 years, 9 months ago

Extend the meter enforcement to 1AM; watching the drunks stumble out of the bars swaying as they try to put coins in the meters would be a new form of entertainment for downtown.

mseybold 10 years, 9 months ago

It's not enough to just raise the rates and extend the hours... It makes more sense to raise the rates when downtown spaces are in DEMAND (5pm- Midnite on weekends) and lower the rates or make parking free at low demand times (mid-morning on weekdays). The benefit of treating a parking space like a commodity is that people will weigh their options more thoroughly and may decide to go to the parking garage or find cheaper meters off of Mass street, take the T, or even walk... freeing up parking spaces for people who are willing to pay more to walk less. This has worked for Old Pasadena.

redneckwoman 10 years, 9 months ago

I have yet to see Lawrence tell how they are going to STOP SPENDING. It's always how to make more. Example being paying $250,000 to someone to tell the city what they need to do to improve or something else then NOT doing anything. I say yes to raize the fine, because I know many that say the ticket is cheaper than feeding the meter at times, especialy when they work downtown.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 9 months ago

just_thinking wrote "you embesels might try to charge my brother a little ridiculous rate...."

I'm just wondering if just_thinking meant "imbeciles."

Bladerunner 10 years, 9 months ago could I possibly follow that?

Confrontation 10 years, 9 months ago

Proof that the educational system has failed: just_thinking

TheYetiSpeaks 10 years, 9 months ago

In regards to Just_Thinking, I am sure the scientific community will be very pleased that Just_Thinking is now apparently thinking. I see those electro-shock sessions are paying off.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 9 months ago

Just do it. If people don't like it, you'll know. Most of all it could be an inconvenience to have to go plug the meter if you are staying past the alotted time. I think we'd be the only town in Kansas (that I know of) that charges for evenings and weekends. Might make us look a bit cheap and greedy, but probably wouldn't be fatal. Getting a parking ticket is very annoying, though, and could possibly stop people from coming downtown if for nothing else, just to make a point. Who knows?

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 9 months ago

Where's cool hand Luke when you need him? Did he get a little rabbit in him? He needs more Copperhead in him. I don't care if they increase the times covered by metered parking and increase the fines to $5. I'm poor but I'll still pay for parking... as long as they go back to accepting pennies in the meters!~)

Emily Hadley 10 years, 9 months ago

When I drove downtown, it was a lot harder to park when we would go out to eat for dinner -- a line of cars fills every spot right around five, including many night employees. Metering through prime time might be good idea. I certainly won't notice a nickel or quarter on top of what I am planning to spend at Zen Zero.

Sandra Willis 10 years, 9 months ago

IF the bus were to have extended hours - until 10 or 11 on Fridays and Saturdays, say. My husband and I would be out for dinner downtown - instead of driving to other places to eat.

I know, it's not going to happen - but it would be nice.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 9 months ago

I don't go downtown for anything. There is nothing downtown that I NEED that I cannot get at Target,Checkers, Dillons or, God forbid, Wal-Mart. THEY have free parking (for those in Eudora, NO PARKING METERS) !!. ANY ONE ON THE COMMISSION LISTENING?????????????

matahari 10 years, 9 months ago

you can't even deposit 5 pennies to equal a dimes' worth of time (or 10 and so on) I have tried to pay my $2 fine with 200 pennies, but it would not fit in the pay box! I am pissed!

Keith 10 years, 9 months ago

Pennies are useless, I don't even think the homeless consider them spare change anymore.

Bill Chapman 10 years, 9 months ago

Extend the hours to 10 p.m. and raise the fine to $5. The only people this will effect are the people "causing" the problems - the bar patrons. If this causes a loss of customers for the downtown bars, Boo - Hoo! The bars are not willing to take responsibility for their drunken patrons, so reduce the occurrence of incidents by reducing the number of patrons.

This won't really reduce the number of patrons - but it will cause some to drink less so they don't get a parking ticket. - And that WILL reduce the number of incidents involving drunken stupidity. It may not reduce the number of gang related incidents though.

This could also have a good side effect: possibly more use of the "T" bus - which would lower the number of legally drunk drivers on the road and also support the local bus system. It could even result in a special, late night "bar" bus system to transport the patrons near to their homes.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 9 months ago

Let's be real. Shoppers pay for parking no matter where shopping takes place. Any fee will be less than a parking ticket.

If consumers think parking plus snow removal and general maintenance is not included in the price of each purchase at shopping centers well then I am amazed.

As one person indicated all of that nice sheltered parking on the plaza isn't coming for free and neither is that lot at Oak Park Mall or at 31st and Iowa.

Since we live in a society that expects snow to be removed within hours of falling we gotta pay the piper.

coneflower 10 years, 9 months ago

This is a terrible idea. People out in the evening want to relax, not worry about getting a parking ticket and timing their dinners. Downtown faces enough challenges. There is plenty of competition to downtown where there is also free parking.

Forget the purchase of Farmland Industries site and spend the city's money where it is more important.

Oh, and impact fees.

Godot 10 years, 9 months ago

Cumbayah, no lord, Cumbayah. Cumbayah, no lord, Cumbayah.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.