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City to consider using gated, pay-as-you-leave system for new downtown parking garage


It is a popular game with a certain someone in my household: Where is the downtown parking meter patrol officer?

I suspect you know how the game is played: Park in one of the many metered parking spaces in downtown or the free two-hour lots, and then start calculating when the parking control officer will next be by to check the area. Perhaps you figure you don’t need to pay the meter this time, or maybe you can stay a bit longer than the two-hour time limit.

Oh, it is quite the game with some. (Note to parking control officers: If a certain someone from my household tries to give you a hug, that’s her way of trying to plant a GPS tracking device on you.)

Well, the rules of the game may change dramatically when the city opens its new multi-level parking garage in the 700 block of Vermont Street, next to the expanded public library.

City Manager David Corliss last night told commissioners he’s seriously considering recommending that automated gates be installed as part of the new garage. Motorists would receive a ticket as they enter the facility, and then they would put the ticket in a machine and pay to leave the garage.

Kansas University has such systems on some of their garages and they’re quite common elsewhere. But the system hasn’t made it to downtown Lawrence. Instead, the city employs a crew of people who constantly walk around downtown, checking meters, chalking tires and writing tickets.

Apparently, Corliss is rethinking that strategy, at least for the new garage.

“One of my mantras is to use automation to save on labor costs,” Corliss said.

No final decision on the system has been made, but it is clear that it is a real possibility. A decision may need to be made sooner than you think.

Corliss said he believes there is an outside chance that a portion of the parking garage may be open to the public by late July. In fact, he’s challenging construction crews to have at least part of the facility open by Downtown Lawrence’s Sidewalk Sale day July 18. No promises on that, he said, but it is a goal. He hopes to have the entire garage open by the end of August, but that also is dependent on weather factors and such.

It will be interesting to see how the public responds to the idea of a new parking enforcement system. The gated, pay-as-you-leave approach would allow for more flexibility. For example, commissioners could say that two-hour parking in the garage is free, and then you pay a certain amount for each fifteen minutes thereafter. Such a system would allow any parking space in the garage to be used for two-hour free parking. In the city’s other garages, that’s not the case. The city marks a certain number of them as free two-hours spaces, while the others are marked as spaces that require you to insert your money into a pay box.

What will get really interesting is to see how far the city carries out this idea. Just to be clear, Corliss didn’t mention anything about a gate system for anything other than this new garage. But clearly, if the idea is a success, the city may want to try it with other downtown locations. There are two other parking garages in downtown, and the city has many surface parking lots where the gate system could be installed as a method of charging people who overstay the two-hour time limit.

How much would the city save in labor costs and in time spent by Municipal Court processing the thousands of parking tickets that are written in downtown Lawrence? I don’t know. But it would seem unlikely that the need for parking enforcement officers would disappear altogether. The meters on Massachusetts Street would still need to be patrolled. But the officers could focus on that area more intensely, giving motorists more of an incentive to use those premium spots as the short-terms spaces they are meant to be.

It will be interesting to watch. I know a certain someone in my house will be watching, and, of course, scheming.


olddude58 4 years, 9 months ago

and how would this system handle handicapped parking?

Brock Masters 4 years, 9 months ago

Handicap people should not be defined by their disability and are equal in every respect to everyone else. Make them pay just like everyone else.

LawrenceTownie 4 years, 9 months ago

Just when the employees of Downtown Lawrence think the 5 hour meters will be available to park in again the City takes it away. Most people who now use those 5 hour meters will not be using the pay-as-you-go new garage. Instead they will continue to use the long term meters for shopping. Those are meters most of the employees use to get close to downtown for work. When I go downtown (not very often at all) I always go to the 2 hour free parking areas first, second is down Massachusetts, and third is looking on side streets. I am surprised the businesses downtown are still going, with all the restrictions the City seems to come up for customers to not shop. I spent 4 weeks in Scottsdale, AZ this year, NO PAY PARKING IN THE CITY. Why? They want to encourage shoppers, and it works great. That city also supplies FREE Trolleys to ride, many going several miles to outlying areas. That encourages shoppers too. Wake up Lawrence City Commissioners !!!!!!!!!!!!

appleaday 4 years, 9 months ago

Who furnishes the parking places and who pays for the trolleys?

LawrenceTownie 4 years, 9 months ago

I suppose the business owners furnish the parking places in the small shopping areas, and the City of Scottsdale picks up the tab for the Trolleys. I rode the trolleys day after day, all free. I did not have a car to use, so used the trolleys all the time. The drivers were all nice and friendly, I highly recommend Scottsdale as a clean, low crime place to visit.

gccs14r 4 years, 9 months ago

If I'm going to be downtown for awhile, I park on the top deck of the parking garage.

chzypoof1 4 years, 9 months ago

At least they didn't try to hide the fact that the Whole Point of the "expanded Library" was to get their parking garage for downtown. That's what all of this was for, and no one was willing to go vote against higher taxes to help their bottom line.

Might as well be used to it by now....


parrothead8 4 years, 9 months ago

Aren't I already paying for those parking spots? Why should I pay for them again when I leave the garage? People whose taxes go to pay for this parking garage should be issued annual permits allowing them to park in the garage whenever they come downtown...to spend money.

George_Braziller 4 years, 9 months ago

If it's pay as you leave I hope the payment options are more flexible than the the ones at KU. The lot by the union will only let you pay with a debit card. No option to pay with cash or pay as a credit card charge. I have a debit card but always pay it as a credit charge because my bank charges a fee for debit transactions, credit charges are free.

George_Braziller 4 years, 9 months ago

And you automatically pay for a full hour even if you've only parked for five minutes.

George_Braziller 4 years, 9 months ago

When I was there in January debit was the only option.

George_Braziller 4 years, 9 months ago

I tried. Wouldn't let me out until I paid by debit.

lawrencian 4 years, 9 months ago

George, the machines at KU's garages say they take Visa, MasterCard, or American Express -- no mention of any requirement that it be "debit" or "credit". Also, you can pay cash at the pay station on level 4.

MADatLJW 4 years, 9 months ago

Didn't we already pay for the parking spaces when all the do-gooders in Lawrence voted yes on the 18-19 million "library expansion"? Why should we pay twice for when people made a mistake and voted yes?

irvan moore 4 years, 9 months ago

the good news for Corliss is that he can afford to spend all that money on the gates by stealing from the library money

workinghard 4 years, 9 months ago

If they use the card option to pay, I would like them to explain how they say they cannot afford to let people pay their water bills online for free. Currently you are directed to a 3rd party website that charges a substantial fee.

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