Looking ahead in Lawrence: Big changes coming in 2024

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From major updates to Lawrence’s public transportation system to the election of every seat in the Kansas Legislature, 2024 is going to be a big year for Lawrence, and for the state as a whole. 

Get your calendars ready. Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest changes to know about, dates to mark and more — some coming up Jan. 1, and some to watch for down the road. 


Effective Jan. 1, 2024

• Statewide, sales taxes on groceries will drop to 2%. The agreement embraced by the 2022 Legislature and the governor established a three-year approach that included a Jan. 1, 2023, drop in the state sales tax on groceries from 6.5% to 4%, as Kansas Reflector reported. The next step on Jan. 1 moves the state’s assessment to 2% on food, food ingredients and certain prepared foods. 

• Lawrence utility rate increases will take effect. The Lawrence City Commission on Dec. 12. approved increases to stormwater and solid waste rates that will add an average of about $2 to residents’ monthly utility bills.

Major changes for Lawrence Transit

Lawrence Transit will have no service on New Year’s Day, but buses will follow new routes — incorporating the Central Station — when service resumes and the station opens Tuesday, Jan. 2. Here’s a brief recap of the big changes to come (click the links for more info about each change):

• New routes: Riders should double check for changes to their bus routes, stops and schedules. (Specifically, some concerned community members have noted changes that could negatively affect those who ride to some Lawrence elementary, middle and high schools.) Five routes will still go through downtown. 

• New Sunday service: On-demand transit service — which works similarly to Uber or Lyft, but uses transit vehicles and drivers — will be available during daytime hours, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Sundays. It will also be available overnights from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays. 

Lawrence Transit On Demand, the app to book rides, is available on Google Play and the App Store

• New station: The Lawrence Transit Central Station will open Tuesday. Its hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

It’s located at Bob Billings Parkway and Crestline Drive (click here for an approximate map), near the Dole Institute and Lied Center on KU’s west campus. 

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times The Lawrence Transit Central Station nears completion, Oct. 16, 2023.

Bike storage, seating, WiFi, restrooms, device charging, wheelchair charging, heating and more will be available onsite. It will also house transit’s lost and found. 

The station will be served by Routes 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, the K-10 Connector and Greyhound, according to Lawrence Transit’s operations plan, which also includes a code of conduct.

Continuing from 2023, Lawrence Transit will operate fare-free for all of 2024, supported by grants. That means no one will have to pay drivers a fare or use a bus pass to ride fixed-route buses, Lawrence Transit On Demand, and T Lift.

Get answers to questions, see full route maps and more on Lawrence Transit’s website, lawrencetransit.org, or call 785-864-4644 for more help. 

More changes to come in 2024

January: New local officeholders incoming

• School board members elected on Nov. 7 will be sworn in on Jan. 8 during the board’s regular Monday evening meeting. 

They include incumbents Carole Cadue-Blackwood and GR Gordon-Ross and newcomers Anne Costello and Yolanda Franklin, who will serve four-year terms, and longtime incumbent Shannon Kimball, who was elected to a special two-year term

• Lawrence city commissioners elected Nov. 7 were already sworn in on Dec. 5, and the commission elected Bart Littlejohn as mayor and Mike Dever as vice mayor. 

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February: City’s new online permitting and licensing system rolls out

The City of Lawrence is launching a streamlined system for permitting and licensing services on Feb. 5, 2024. That includes permits such as business, contractor and rental licensing, planning submittals, and permits for building, special events and more. 

“The new system moves many of our manual processes online and will provide numerous benefits for our community members,” according to a city news release about the change. “Our staff is looking forward to more efficiently turning around our permitting and licensing services once we’ve fully integrated this new, streamlined process.” 

Some services will be unavailable from Jan. 26 through Feb. 2, and the city recommends people plan ahead. Read more at this link

March: Plastic bag ban

Lawrence city commissioners in August approved an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags citywide. That is set to go into effect March 1, 2024. 

The ordinance aims to reduce the use of plastics in the city, which in turn could help reduce the city’s dependence on fossil fuels and prevent some pollution, contamination through microplastics from bags’ degradation, and animal deaths from eating the bags, among other concerns.

The ban targets mainly stores and restaurants but includes some exemptions, such as product bags to prevent cross-contamination of items at grocery stores, dry cleaning bags and more. Paper bags that contain at least 40% recycled materials will still be allowed.

Read more about the ordinance at this link

Spring: New license plates

Vehicles registered in Kansas will soon have new license plates, expected to roll out sometime in spring 2024. 

Gov. Laura Kelly’s office on Nov. 22 announced a new plate design that received widespread criticism. She hit the brakes and announced an online vote for Kansans to choose between five potential new plate designs. 

The winning plate, which received 53% of the total vote, features the Kansas Statehouse dome inside an outline of the state in a yellow, white and blue gradient background.

At the bottom, the plate features the words “to the stars” — an allusion to the state motto, “Ad astra per aspera”: “To the stars through difficulties.” 

August, November: Big elections; adding two Douglas County commissioners; possibly expanding Lawrence City Commission

Mackenzie Clark/Lawrence Times Kansas Statehouse in Topeka

• The 2024 election will include numerous important races, from president of the United States to township trustees. The primary election will be held Tuesday, Aug. 6, and the general election will be Tuesday, Nov. 5. 

Notably, all 125 Kansas House of Representatives seats and 40 Kansas Senate seats will be on the ballot, as will Kansas’ four representatives in the U.S. House. 

The election will also include the Douglas County district attorney, sheriff, clerk, treasurer and register of deeds. 

Some Kansas Board of Education seats as well as retention races for some judges at the state and district court levels will also be on the ballot. 

• The Douglas County Commission will also expand to five districts from three, and voters will elect commissioners from four of the five districts. 

Districts 2, 3, 4 and 5 will be up for election. Get a look at the district maps at this link

• Lawrence City Commission ballot question: There are no Lawrence City Commission seats on the 2024 ballot (city commissioners are elected in odd years), but voters will decide whether the commission should expand to seven members from five, including a directly elected mayor. 

That question will be on the Tuesday, Nov. 5 general election ballot for Lawrence voters. Read more at this link

Here are some key voting deadlines:

To change your party affiliation to vote in the Aug. 6, 2024 primary election: noon Monday, June 3
To register, or update your registration, to vote on Aug. 6: Tuesday, July 16
To request an advance voting mail ballot for the Aug. 6 primary: Tuesday, July 30
To register, or update your registration, to vote on Nov. 5, 2024: Tuesday, Oct. 15
To request an advance voting mail ballot for the Nov. 5 general: Tuesday, Oct. 29

Douglas County voters can take care of voter registration, updates and ballot requests at ksvotes.org

We’ll have a lot of coverage ahead of the election, but the Douglas County clerk’s office has a website full of information at douglascountyks.org/county-clerk/voting-and-elections.

Lastly, just FYI: 2024 is a leap year. Feb. 29 falls on a Thursday. 

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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