Friday, November 12, 2010

If Minneapolis Can Do It . . . .

The Marion Co. Association of Neighborhood Alliance (MCANA) has urged the Indianapolis City-County Council to reject Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to lease the City's parking meter assets to ACS for 50 years and instead modernize the parking meter system using current revenue sources. An analysis prepared by Pat Andrews of MCANA demonstrated the City could earn in excess of $300 million over the 50-year life of the proposed ACS by following this alternative path above what the ACS deal offers in returns. Others, including this blog, have explained how the City could easily implement the technology to switch to a modern parking system without turning control over to a private company like ACS. The Indianapolis Times blog picks up on a recent story in the Minneapolis Star- Tribune on that city's plan to install its own "smart" parking meter system:

Minneapolis began installing new "smart" multi-space parking meters in the Warehouse District this week, computerized machines that will allow you to pay with coins or by debit or credit card.

The 46 new meters, which will service 450 parking spaces, will begin operating later this month. The old meters will be removed, but the poles will remain, topped by a 30-inch sign that lists the parking space number and other information such as time limit and rush hours.

The city plans to replace all 6,800 metered spaces in Minneapolis by the end of 2012 with a combination of multi-meter and single-meter stations and single-space coin meters.

How do the new multi-meter stations work? There will be one station in the middle of the block on each side of the street. The station will list how long you can park. You type in your parking space number and the amount of time you'd like to park, and insert coins or debit card or credit card. You get a receipt.

What if you decide later you want to park longer? You can return to the meter and pay for more time, or go to any other pay station in the city and type in your space number, which will be listed on your receipt, and insert more coins or your debit or credit card. But you can't park longer than the time limit.

Soon, you may be able to add time using a cell phone, said Tim Drew, city traffic engineer.

Will parking rates go up? No, but it's easy enough for the city to reprogram meters to raise rates. The city can also change rates or time limits, depending on time or day, or raise the rates during events.

Any ecological benefits? The meters are solar powered. The city also plans to install bike racks on some of the old meter poles.

What if you don't speak English? The multi-station screen also has information in Spanish, French and German. If it can handle the translations within the limited screen space, the city hopes to replace the French and German with Hmong and Somali by next year.Are other cities doing this? Lots. St. Paul is experimenting now. Minneapolis experimented last year and picked three companies out of 16 that submitted proposals.

What happened Tuesday? Workers were drilling holes in the sidewalk and bolting down multi-space meters.

What about more meters? The city plans to install 200 multi-space stations next year for about 2,000 spaces and 200 more such stations in 2012. In parts of the city where there can be only a few parking spaces on a block, there will be single pay stations. In a few parts of the city where there is less parking, the meters will be replaced, but the new ones will still be fed only by coins.

What are some advantages for the city?It will use its Wi-Fi network to transmit data on parking meter usage in real time to traffic control agents. Because many people will use debit or credit cards, meters will have to be emptied less often.

What is this costing the city and why is it being done now? It will cost $6.6 million. The multi-space stations cost about $8,000 each, the single space stations $450 each, compared to current coin meters that run $500. The old meters, installed around 1992, are wearing out.

What is the advantage to the customer? No more hunting for quarters in the ashtray or under the seat.

What if you are technologically challenged and have trouble using a meter?The LED computer screen will walk you through the process. Or you can just take the bus.

The story indicates Minneapolis has nearly double the number of metered parking spaces as Indianapolis, but the modernization plan will only cost $6.6 million, which is well below the $8 to $10 million the Ballard administration claims ACS will have to invest to implement a similar system in Indianapolis, and which also includes a doubling of the parking meter rates unlike Minneapolis' new system. Of particular note is how green friendly the new system will be. According to the report, Minneapolis' system will be solar powered, and the city will install bike racks at the site of some of the former parking meter poles. All of the technological advantages the Ballard administration has boasted the ACS system will provide to users are available with Minneapolis' new system. The big difference is that Minneapolis is modernizing its system without giving up monopoly control to a politically-connected firm.
Republican councilors, except for Christine Scales, appear poised to vote in lockstep with the Ballard administration's plan to lease the parking meter assets to ACS, including President Ryan Vaughn, whose law firm lobbies for ACS, and Angel Rivera, whose employer is a subcontractor for ACS. The two see no conflict of interest in casting votes to benefit ACS at your expenses. Councilor Vaughn has gone to great pains to say how closely he has worked with his Broad Ripple constituents to make this plan more palpable from their standpoint, but he has never explained to them why the City simply cannot modernize the system without turning over control to his law firm's client for 50 years, or without raising rates so high. Vaughn also removed Councilor Scales from the Public Safety Committtee as retribution for her refusal to support the plan that benefits his client.

It has been estimated that the use of the smart parking meters increases parking meter revenues by at least 15% without even raising rates because of the convenience a swipe of the card versus feeding quarters into machines offers. A constituent of Councilor Ginny Cain says she is telling her constituents it's a "no-brainer" to support the ACS parking meter lease deal. Interestingly, when Bart Peterson was mayor, Cain voted against anything she viewed as a tax increase, including fee increases. Now it's a "no-brainer" to her to vote to double parking meter rates. Me thinks Councilor Cain speaks with forked tongue.
Folks, this is nothing but a corrupt insider deal concocted by people who are being paid to make money for ACS. How our Republican council has permitted itself to become co-opted by these self-serving individuals is very troubling to me as a life-long Republican and elected Republican precinct committeeperson. When I have to turn to Democratic councilors to find voices of reason and fiscal restraint, something is indeed wrong in Denmark.

UPDATE: Minneapolis actually chose three separate vendors through an RFP process to install and maintain its smark parking meters. Here's a PDF document that discusses it more fully. The city has had electronic meters since 1992 that allowed commuters to use smart cards to make payments. The new meters were deemed warranted because of the high failure rate and accompanying loss of revenues with the existing electronic meters. The new meters will allow payment by the smart cards, debit cards and cell phones. It's noteworthy that Minneapolis allowed 6 vendors to demonstrate their electronic meters in an initial stage of its RFP process before settlling on the 3 vendors it chose to install new meters. That's what you call real competition. It should also be pointed out that ACS was not among the six vendors chosen to participate in the demonstration phase or the final implementation.


The Urbanophile said...

The amount the city says ACS will spend to upgrade the meters - $10 million - is about two and a half times as expensive as Morgan Stanley actually paid to upgrade Chicago on a per spot basis.

Blog Admin said...

"Vaughn also removed Councilor Cains from the Public Safety Committtee as retribution for her refusal to support the plan that benefits his client."

When has Cain ever stood up and taken a vote against Ballard and Vaughn? There was some rumblings about her voting against the CIB budget, but she caved. And the only R who might vote against this deal is Scales, but they'll have Bateman to make up for it.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Sorry, my bad. I meant to say Scales and not Cain had been removed from the Public Safety Committee for refusing to support the ACS parking meter lease deal.

Downtown Indy said...

It stunned me to hear one of the mayor's staff bemoaning the cost of upgrading the meters because it was so much money. Yet they dropped the same amount into the Pacer's piggy bank without a whimper and plan to do so twice more. Go figure.

Citizen Kane said...

That PDF and article ought to be sent to every counselor and MCANA should distribute it to every neighborhood organization to provide evidence of how a real government operates - not perfectly - but with the public interest in mind.

dcrutch said...

What the hell is wrong with us? 3 respondents to the RFP! It costs less than our deal and is not a monopoly for 50 years! What the $%@#! are we smoking around here?

To be a Democrat only means government seizes control of everythng and spends too much money, while to be a Republican only means to spend too much money on behalf of chosen monopolistic cronies and their projects?

For the average taxpayer- what the hell is the difference between getting the shaft from somebody's left hand or right hand- it's still the shaft!!!

artfuggins said...

I predict that Councilor Jackie Nytes will flip on this issue and support the mayor. She has done that on most of his spending follies and there is no reason to suspect that she won't do it again. She will make it appear that she is asking questions and then at the last minute declare that this is the best possible deal. She certainly must know by now that she will not be renominated or reelected so why not!!

Gary R. Welsh said...

Citizen Kane, It's a waste of time trying to talk to the other Republican councilors. Scales is the only one with the backbone to exercise independent judgment. The rest simply follow orders. Yeah, Bob Lutz will shake his head and wring his hands a lot, but in the end, he always does what he's ordered to do. It is a sad group of councilors my party has elected to the council.

Jon said...

What the #$@ is going on in this town? Is the city and the citizens of this city so jaded by corruption that we just ignore the shady dealings of our city council and their mega dollar law firm buddies?
Is there no end to corruption and back door dealings?

Marycatherine Barton said...

Jon is right. Every wise ethical citizen should feel an obligation to take a stand on the government corruption and back door dealing being reported on by AI and other bloggers,