Or, How to Not Die of Road Rage
First, let me be frank: driving a car is not the best option for getting around downtown. People who live downtown already know this, but everybody knows a dozen or more people from the outlying areas — from Midtown to the suburbs — who refuse to come visit your place because they don’t want to deal with the roads. I’ll admit, it is a headache. Have you ever tried to drive to CVS to get cold medicine in the snow? There is no place close to park — the farthest parking spot at a big box store is closer than some places to park downtown — and the ground can be slushy and often still icy between your car and the business.
That’s why a lot of downtowners walk, bike, or take public transit, even if they own cars. Having said that, I’ll also explore some ins and outs of driving downtown because sometimes you just need to. We do live in the midwest.
I live between Broadway and Main about four blocks from KC Live. I routinely walk to P&L alone in the warm months. At night, the streets are lit, there are usually a lot of people around and I have never felt in danger. As a single woman, I rarely walk at night east of Grand or South of Kauffman Center unless something is going on. It’s not that I’m afraid, I’m just smart. If I’m with another person or a group, I feel fine.
I will bike anywhere, however. Again, some places can be a little shady, so I’m on my guard in those areas. I always wear a helmet. At night, you must have reflectors and a light on your bike per the law. Most destinations have places to park your bike. If riding to Cosentino’s for groceries, I wear a backpack and park my bike out front (and do lock your bike, don’t be silly). Biking to First Fridays or the River Market is a most excellent choice because when are there ever parking spots for cars?
I drive in downtown if the weather is bad or if I’m going to the outskirts of the loop (think Commerce Bank at 12th and Charlotte). That’s it. Current road construction due to the streetcar does make maneuvering the roads in the downtown loop difficult. I am totally on board for this streetcar but generally, I avoid Main street as much as I can. (For an updated, interactive map of streetcar construction, check out http://www.kcstreetcar.org/) There are routine road closures that I won’t bother mentioning because they’ll change in a couple weeks. City Market area and the streets off Main are particularly susceptible to road closures. Just be prepared to take an extra five minutes and alter your routes. By the way, the city is also updating underground utilities at the same time. The streetcar is set to be complete by 2016.
Where do I park if I do drive, you may ask? Street parking is almost entirely metered 7am-6pm, Monday-Friday. Weekends and holidays are free. There are random spots of unmetered street parking but they do tend to have 1-2 hour limits. These are checked, so don’t try to get away with parking there all day.
For public lots in the River Market:
- East of the market along Grand (east of the Steamboat Arabia Museum)
- 3rd and Grand at the KCATA park-and-ride
- In the Library District, nearly all lots are paid lots and not public. Your best bet is street parking. I have friends who’ve gotten tickets from parking in the “non gated” private lots. Yes, they are patrolled.
Power & Light:
- If you just need a grocery run, the garage just north of 13th has entrances off Main and Walnut, and offers free parking for 30 minutes OR free parking for the first 2 hours with validation (get your ticket validated at Cosentino's when you check out).
- If you are a member of Onelife gym, free parking comes with the membership (same garage as Cosentino’s).
- Parking in the garage under P&L is generally $2 unless there is an event.
- For event parking, the garages in P&L are cash only upfront. Be ready for that!
In conclusion, parking and construction are huge drawbacks to driving downtown right now, but getting around in a car is not impossible. Alternate forms of transportation are certainly preferable!