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WICHITA, KAN. — In an effort to cut drunken driving and smooth the traffic flow in the downtown bar district, especially on busy weekend nights, the city of Wichita is planning to establish three limousine loading zones on First and Second streets and Douglas Avenue.
The fine for motorists who park in those zones is proposed to be $100 – the highest penalty Wichita has for illegal parking and previously reserved only for those who violate handicapped parking spaces.
Wichita development assistance director Terry Cassady said city officials are proposing the high fine "to put some teeth in this and ensure compliance."
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the plan soon. Most expressed support for the plan during a recent workshop. Some, in fact, wanted it to be even tougher, suggesting that towing might be the appropriate remedy for those who violate the limousine zone.
But that idea died after police Lt. Steve Kenney said he would only tow in extreme circumstances, for example, "a blizzard and I needed to get snow removal through there." After the council votes, it would take about two weeks to put up signs and re-stripe the streets, Cassady said. She said she hopes to have the zones in place around the beginning of July.
The council will have to decide when to actually begin levying fines. Cassady had suggested a two-week grace period. But council members Paul Gray and Bob Martz said they thought it might need to be longer.
"People will need some time to get used to it," Gray said. Jim Moore, general manager of Artistic Limousines, welcomed the change. He said making a drop-off in Old Town isn't too much of a problem because it can be accomplished quickly. But he said his drivers often have to wait 10-to-15 minutes for customers to straggle in for pickup after a night of hearty partying.
"Besides holding up traffic, it was the fact that we were being threatened with tickets," he said.
He said his company makes six-to-eight trips to Old Town each week, carrying 50-to-75 people. He estimated that in total, all the local limo companies and a party bus transport 300-to-400 Old Town patrons a week.
Under the city's proposal, the limousine zone would be restricted for commercial vehicles seating eight or more passengers. The parking restrictions would be in force from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., when most of the drop-offs and pickups occur, Cassady said.
The zones on First and Second streets would be on the northwest corner of their intersection with Washington. The parking zone on Douglas would be between Rock Island and Santa Fe. Each zone will take up about 150 feet of curb space, she said.
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