News and notes from around town:
On the street
No. I don’t drive.
• So, you want to find a place to park downtown? Well, it certainly is a numbers game. The city has put out its annual downtown parking capacity report that can give savvy motorists a clue on the best places to park, if you are willing to dig through all the numbers. Or, you could just look at our list of the easiest and toughest parking spaces to find. Here they are from toughest to easiest:
- Massachusetts Street: Put on your Elmer Fudd hat because you’re going to have to do some hunting. At least, that’s the case if you’re looking for an evening parking space. If for some reason you are not yet convinced Massachusetts Street is becoming more tilted to evening activities, this report is yet another piece of evidence. The Massachusetts Street parking spaces are 92 percent full during evening weekday hours. On Saturdays, the percentage grows to 94 percent. Those are both the highest capacity totals of anywhere downtown. What is interesting, though, is to compare it with capacity in the mornings and afternoons. In the afternoons, weekday capacity on Mass. falls to 78 percent and 88 percent on Saturdays. In the mornings, capacity falls to 65 percent on weekdays and 87 percent on Saturdays. The numbers do cause a person to wonder how different the city’s parking revenue would look if the city didn’t charge for downtown parking in the mornings, but did enforce the meters later into the evenings. Currently, parkers don’t have to pay the meters past 6 p.m.
- Northwest Downtown: This area — which includes the library parking lot and the lots in the 700 and 800 blocks of Vermont — actually is the toughest spot to find a weekday parking spot in the mornings or afternoons. On weekdays, parking is 77 percent full in the mornings, 80 percent full in the afternoons. But keep the area in mind for the evenings. It drops to 62 percent capacity on weekdays. On Saturdays, the area is less busy. Parking capacities fall by about 5 to 10 percentage points for mornings, afternoons and evenings. But also, take all this information for what it is worth (remember, you didn’t pay anything for this.) The dynamics of the area will change because the city is building a new parking garage in the area as part of the library expansion project.
- Southwest Downtown: I’m going to give this area — which includes the 900, 1000 and 1100 blocks of Vermont Street — the nod for the third busiest location. Technically, it is a little harder to find weekday morning and afternoon spots in the New Hampshire Street parking garage, but the Southwest downtown area is more heavily used on Saturdays. Here are the numbers for Southwest: 53 percent full weekday mornings, 60 percent Saturday mornings; 58 percent full weekday afternoons; 41 percent Saturday afternoons, 35 percent weekday evenings, 39 percent Saturday evenings.
- New Hampshire Street Parking Garage: The garage, in the 900 block of New Hampshire, is a pretty good bet anytime. It also is pretty darn close to the center of downtown. There’s no portion of the garage that was ever more than 73 percent full, according to this survey. The averages are closer to about 60 percent during weekday mornings and afternoons, and about 35 percent in the evenings. The numbers are less across the board during Saturdays. This is the garage, by the way, that the development group that is building the new multistory building at Ninth and New Hampshire would like to reserve 65 parking spaces for tenants of the new building. That request — made last fall — continues to await a hearing by the Lawrence City Commission.
- Northeast Downtown: Downtown parkers, you always have a safety net. It is the Riverfront Parking garage at Sixth and New Hampshire Streets. There are more than 300 spaces, and many of them are covered. And there is always a good chance one of them will be empty. No area of the garage was more than 57 percent full during this survey. On weekends, there are parts of the garage that you could probably use for square dancing lessons. During the mornings and afternoons on Saturdays, the garage is at about 15 percent capacity or less. On Saturday evenings, there are parts that get up to about 40 percent capacity. Go farther down New Hampshire Street, and the parking gets tougher — especially on Saturdays and evenings. The two-hour lots in the 700 and 800 blocks of New Hampshire are often at 80 percent or more capacity on weekdays and weekends. The 10-hour lot in the 800 block of New Hampshire also is often at 80 percent or more capacity during weekday mornings and afternoons.
Finally, as they say on those sports betting sites (or so I hear), this one is my lock of the week. Here is a parking lot that should never fail you. According to the survey, Lot No. 16 at Seventh and Rhode Island streets has 43 spaces available. During the survey, it was never more than 15 percent full on the weekdays or 8 percent full on the weekends. And here’s an added bonuses: On most days you’ll be parking in the same general area as my old Ford pickup with its distinctive dents, artful rust patches, and enough debris on the floorboards that I sometimes worry the fire marshal is going to pull me over. But don’t let any of that worry you.
• Indeed the Wakarusa Wetlands are on fire today. It is part of the annual burning process to keep the habitat healthy out there. But there’s more to see than the flames and smoke. On the north side of 31st Street, a project is well under way to build a new boardwalk on the side of the wetlands that is managed by Haskell Indian Nations University. Michael Caron, a longtime leader with the Wetlands Preservation Organization, tells me that work to complete a 60-foot boardwalk through one of the marshier areas of the wetlands should be done by this week. The boardwalk will make it easier for people entering the wetlands from 31st Street to access an existing trail that goes by the Medicine Wheel, which is an important piece of Native American culture out in the wetlands. Caron said plans also call for another 30 feet to be added onto the boardwalk, including a ramp that will run from 31st Street that will make the boardwalk accessible even when water levels rise fairly high. Haskell students and several volunteers — including KU’s women’s rugby club — have been building the project. The south side of the wetlands, managed by Baker University, long has had a boardwalk.
• Motorists along a busy stretch of West Sixth Street will notice some changes this summer. First, of course, they’ll notice some orange construction barrels. The city has announced its schedule for a project to widen Sixth Street between Folks Road and Monterey Way to include a center turn lane. The city expects to open bids in early May and begin construction in June. Construction is expected to last six to eight weeks. One lane of traffic in each direction will be maintained throughout the entire project. The project will widen the road six feet both to the north and the south. In addition to the center turn lane, the project will include removing the raised median that exists in front of Hy-Vee. The current right-in/right-out driveway to Hy-Vee’s gas station also will be converted into a full two-way driveway. In addition, a 10 foot wide sidewalk/recreation path will be built on the south side of the street.