Archive for Friday, July 6, 2012

Town Talk: New report recommends city scrap plans to use Santa Fe Depot as bus hub; city to study sites outside of downtown for transit hub; Lawrence is 7th most affordable city for summer cookouts

July 6, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• It looks like the idea of converting the old Santa Fe railway station in East Lawrence into a transit hub is fading away. City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will receive a recommendation from their transit administrator that includes abandoning further planning to convert the train station at Seventh and New Jersey streets into a hub for the city’s T bus system.

Such a recommendation was a bit predictable, given that the small site of the depot created a host of logistical problems for pulling buses into and out of the site. But the problem hit a larger snag when several neighbors in the area objected to the idea of a large amount of buses traveling through their neighborhood on a regular basis.

To top it off, it sounds like the city didn’t get very far in its discussion with Burlington Northern Santa Fe — the owner of the depot — about taking over some office space currently used by the railroad. The city, it appears, wants to move its transit offices from the city parking garage at Ninth and New Hampshire to a new transit hub.

Abandoning the idea of using the train station as a transit hub won’t end the discussion about the future of the Santa Fe Depot, which is a 1950s-era building that preservationists desperately want to see preserved. But it does raise the question of whether the city can feasibly buy the building and rehabilitate it.

The idea of using the building for the bus system really came about because the city thought it might be a good way to get some federal funds to rehabilitate the structure. The city has been reluctant to purchase the building from Burlington Northern Santa Fe because the city doesn’t want to take on the costs of restoring the building, unless it can get some sort of grant or other source of outside funding. But winning a grant for the project will be difficult because the city doesn’t own the building. The railroad is willing to sell the building — but not the ground — for a nominal amount.

So, it will be interesting to see if city commissioners continue to work on solving this chicken-or-the egg-type of problem or whether they begin to wave a white flag on this project that has stretched out for several years now. The latter certainly would disappoint a group of residents who have formed Depot Redux, an active group that does some maintenance and cleaning of the facility on its own dime and is the chief advocate for preserving the unique building.

• The future of the Santa Fe building won’t be the only interesting question, though.

City officials really do want a transit station somewhere. They need a location for riders to get out of the elements while they wait for a bus, and it would be nice to have restroom facilities available for both riders and bus drivers.

In the past, one unwritten rule about the city’s bus system is that is should be downtown-centric. Well, the city transit staff is now asking for $40,000 to hire a consultant to study possible transit hub locations. The request specifically mentions sites outside the downtown area should be studied that “may more appropriately match passenger ridership patterns and demands.”

Certainly sites downtown also will be studied, but it appears transit leaders don’t feel too confident about their ability to stay near the area of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. As you know, a new hotel/retail building is proposed for that intersection. But I’m not sure that use precludes a transit hub from being in the block. It seems the city has many of the items it already needs for a transit hub located in the block. The city owns a major building in the block — the parking garage. I assume the parking garage is plumbed for bathrooms since there are two city offices — the transit offices and parking/animal control — already on the ground floor of the building. The area even has a handy-dandy mid-block, pedestrian-activated stop light to make crossing the street easy. It would seem some type of lobby area would need to be created somewhere on the ground floor of the parking garage to accommodate riders.

On the flip side, there is the question of whether city leaders want this rapidly developing area of downtown to be lined with large buses. Another question for another day.

• What there is no question about, is Lawrence loves its cheap meat and it loves putting it on a grill to char away. Right? That sounds like Lawrence, doesn’t it?

Well, it ought to because Lawrence has been named the seventh-best city in all of America for “Affordable Summer Cookouts.” No, I didn’t just make that title up, although since I’m a member of the media, it appears I have the power to grant titles these days.

Instead, Kiplinger, the financial and investing-oriented publication, has bestowed that honor on Lawrence. Its Web site currently touts Lawrence as a college town known for “its lively art scene and, you guessed it, beef barbecue.” It notes how we like our barbecue “slathered in the state’s signature thick, sticky, tomato-based sauce.”

The article lists Centennial Park as a great grilling spot, and reports that the odds of a sunny summer day in Lawrence are 68.3 percent. (Is anybody else rooting for the 31.7 percent right now?)

But apparently what pushed Lawrence over the top is our access to cheap barbecue supplies. The article notes the cost of “cookout staples” is 10.1 percent below average. (What? Bourbon, blow torches and burn cream costs 10 percent more in other markets?) Particularly attractive, according to the article, is that ground beef costs nearly 18 percent below the national average.

I know you are wondering what cities actually could be more affordable when it comes to cookouts than Lawrence, so you can click here to see the complete list. But I’ll tell you about the No. 1 spot. It is McAllen, Texas. In fact, four of the 10 cities were in Texas. In McAllen, the cost of cookout staples is 11.6 percent below the national average. But hold on to your Stetson, soda prices in McAllen run 15 percent below the national average.

One of McAllen’s specialties, according to the article is beef barbacoa, shredded meat traditionally made from a slow-cooked cow’s head. (I can’t imagine why that cut of beef is cheap.)

So, you guessed it. I’m going to save some money this weekend. I’ll pack the kids and wife up and we’ll drive the 1,012 miles to McAllen Texas, and we’re going to get us some of that cheap soda.

Now, where did I put my cow’s head pot?


JackMcKee 5 years, 5 months ago

Am I mistaken, or was this another Cromwell special?

JackMcKee 5 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence has been too "downtown centric" for decades. Sometimes I think the only people that matter in Lawrence are those that own property within a half mile of Mass. between 6th and 12th.

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

Downtown is the only interesting area.

JackMcKee 5 years, 5 months ago

$40k is a drop in the bucket to these people.

JackMcKee 5 years, 5 months ago

The paper should reall start reporting on which City Commissioner owns each idea presented. It's only fair that the voters have an opportunity to know just how good or bad each commissioner's ideas are. Was this another Cromwell special?

MarcoPogo 5 years, 5 months ago

I can name five possible hub locations off the top of my head. And I'll tell them for half that price.

Rusty Thomas 5 years, 5 months ago

Is anyone really surprised that Compton and Company don't want a Transit Hub near any of their developments downtown? The stops were moved from the original locations to the current ones when the Big Compton Structure was built on the southwest corner of 9th & New Hampshire (at taxpayer expense). Now they want it moved yet again (at taxpayer expense) to accommodate their new building plans. When is enough, enough? Let Compton and Company pay for this and let's not give them any financial breaks either. Enough is enough!

MISTERTibbs 5 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for the idiotic post of the day.

The original location, such as it was, for downtown was the NW corner of 9th & Mass. Then it got slipped over to 9th & NH and for safety reasons needed to be moved during construction. The current location for the "hub" was never intended to be there permanently, in fact none of these locations were. The city has been trying to determine an acceptable location almost since the start of the T. If any of these locations would have been deemed the best place, the city could have purchased the location.

I hate sounding like a Compton apologists, but I get sick of the people posting on here taking a crap on the guy because they are jealous.

Jennifer Dropkin 5 years, 5 months ago

Nonsense. The city has been trying to hide the buses and the bus system for years. Downtown is the only logical place for a hub. If Compton & Co. wants to build anything more Downtown, it could incorporate the hub into the building, and the city commissioners should have insisted on it. Hiring consultants to hide the bus system is just part of the continued effort to get rid of bus service no matter how much the voting populace wants it here.

hail2oldku 5 years, 5 months ago

And we have today's winner.

Where does Tibbs say that it doesn't belong downtown? He is simply pointing out, rightfully so, that these weren't intended to be the permanent location. If the city wants to use the NE or SE corner of 9th & NH for the bus hub they could take it for "relatively" low cost through eminent (sp?) domain. You can't force a private individual to build something that would incorporate this public feature without adequate compensation. You think Compton is getting some perks now from the city just think what would be needed to compensate for that.

classclown 5 years, 5 months ago


The paper should reall start reporting on which City Commissioner owns each idea presented. It's only fair that the voters have an opportunity to know just how good or bad each commissioner's ideas are. Was this another Cromwell special?

July 6, 2012 at 10:52 a.m.


Or perhaps someone that has an interest in such things can attend the meetings every Tuesday evening and write a blog about it on this website. Than we can have a record of who is responsible for which hair brained idea. Also a record of how each commissioner voted on each issue.

Such a blog would do well I think. Especially when you consider the tripe people blog about these days. At least yours would have some interest. Then come election time, you could blog a chronological list of everything each candidate was responsible for.

Perhaps the blog could be titled "Never forget".

classclown 5 years, 5 months ago

Or we can all just bitch. This is Lawrence after all. People are extremely good at that here.

classclown 5 years, 5 months ago

On a more important matter.

Chad, when the homeless shelter moves to their new building, what will become of the old one? Bar, pizza place, or mexican restaurant?

classclown 5 years, 5 months ago

Another thing of importance.

"New report recommends city scrap plans..."


Scrap the plans? How long has the city been trying to cram the idea of forced recycling down our throats and here they're just going to simply scrap the plans? Not recycle them? What hypocrites!

MISTERTibbs 5 years, 5 months ago

Why not close 7th street to all but bus traffic between the post office and the $18 million monstrosity across the street. Then the riders could use the library while they waited for the bus. They would be able to use the bathrooms, stay out of the elements, etc. I'm sure for the money being pumped into it you could carve out some office space for the transit offices.

gatekeeper 5 years, 5 months ago

You should drive over to the old Tanger mall some weekday. It's mostly full and is now a business park. Parking lot is packed. Very few spaces left in the old mall.

somedude20 5 years, 5 months ago

A hub just isn't a hub unless you have prostitutes and drug dealers. Well, most of the prostitutes are now in politics and the drug dealers seem to be getting fewer and fewer by the minutes. If you want an authentic and rustic hub, better act fast

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

The SE corner of 9th and NH would be a great location for a hub.

average 5 years, 5 months ago

The Santa Fe depot isn't anything close to 'central'. A simple look at a map says it's in the corner of the town as it actually exists. Every grocer in town is within a 90-degree arc from the Santa Fe depot. And I like trains, mind you.

A proper 'hub' would be able to accommodate all the bus routes for a pulse at the same time. Not the "some buses are here at :20 after, some at :40 after" plan that has been the hallmark of the system since it was started. Which is unlike 'pulse' bus systems everywhere else in the world.

Find the center of town on a map. Look for nearby land. Look for nearby heavy users of transit. And the hub, to me, goes somewhere between the Lied Center and the KU Park and Ride. We've already integrated the city and KU systems to a fair degree. This is the next step.

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

I was thinking over by the Merc at 9th and Iowa, so not too far off from there.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

In front of the Community building. Then add a dedicated free shuttle going down Mass. St., from 11th to 6th. It would ease parking and encourage shopping downtown. Have the downtown merchants kick in to cover costs of the free shuttle. If the "T" is something worth keeping, people who use the free shuttle will see the benefits which will encourage ridership on other lines.

irvan moore 5 years, 5 months ago

how about a bus hub instead of an outdoor art center expansion when they bulldoze the salvation army building

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Of course the city should buy the current depot. It is there, it has decades of life left and Lawrence,Kansas COULD NOT build one for less.

Train travel is on the way back and this family loves traveling by train. We traveled by train on our honeymoon and since we've had children.

The bus hub should be left at the 9th and New Hampshire location because it is logical. At some point the depot should be a rehab project as train travel and commuter train service become more popular and in demand.

Gasoline will be ever more expensive in the near future and car travel is one of the most expensive modes of travel as we speak. A $300 million trafficway is reckless spending and for what....... a ton of vehicles carrying only one person.

That makes the most vehicles on the road EmpT.

Cars = the most expensive budget items ever in history = fiscally reckless.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

The initial study gave us 9th and Mass/New Hampshire which makes even more sense due to the new push for downtown residential. This study was quite in depth. Can't see that much has changed in Lawrence since the initial study.

Lawrence made wise investments in the diversity of buses to better fit Lawrence needs.

Hopefully the $40,000 could be spent for passenger shelters ...... instead.

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