Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Bait And Switch On Indy Parking Meter Lease Deal

When the Ballard administration touted its 50-year plan to lease Indianapolis' parking meter assets to ACS for 50 years, it claimed one of the reasons for raising the hourly parking rates and extending the hours of metered use was to encourage turnover in metered spaces in high traffic areas of Downtown, Mass Avenue and Broad Ripple. Some business owners on Mass Avenue, in particular, complained about people parking to go to dinner and the theater and hogging the spaces in front of their businesses all evening.

Today, the Ballard administration announced ParkIndy, the private operator of the parking meter assets, will allow motorists to pay for 4-hour blocks of time in the evening times rather than the current 2-hour limit. In other words, a motorist can pull up to a meter at 5:00 p.m., pay for 4 hours up to 9:00 p.m. after which time you can park for free and remain parked in the same space until late at night. Ballard said the change was being made in response to motorist feedback. "This arrangement will allow residents and visitors to Indianapolis to enjoy … events in the evening that keep them away from their cars longer than two hours," Ballard said in a news release.

I would also note the new parking meters were suppose to allow motorists to access a website via the Internet remotely to add more time to their meter with the new technology that was promised by ACS. I guess that technology wasn't included in the used electronic meters mounted on the existing rusty poles that ParkIndy rolled out this month in the high traffic areas only, which has been falsely represented in the news media as "new electronic meters"; the old mechanical meters remain in use elsewhere. It looks like the private contractor was able to start raking in revenues under its 50-year lease with very minimal investment--certainly not the $8 million investment the Ballard administration claimed the private operator would invest after being awarded the lease. Who knew the lease allowed the company to pull used meters out of storage to finance the better technology promised on a pay-as-you-go basis. Couldn't the City have done the same thing and pocketed millions more annually that it is giving up to the private operator under the lease?

UPDATE: Jon Murray's story in the Star today indicates only about one-third of the City's meters were replaced with the electronic meters. "ParkIndy, led by Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services and including two local companies, has replaced old meter heads on about one-third of city meters, he writes. "Those are in the Downtown core, along Massachusetts Avenue and in Broad Ripple. The rest will be upgraded later this year, and many blocks will get multispace pay boxes." Not surprisingly, there are already complaints that some of the used electronic meters installed are not working properly and causing people to get tickets. "Mary Buckner fed $1 in coins into a new meter in Broad Ripple on Wednesday, returned 15 minutes later and found a $20 parking ticket, her husband said." "A meter repairman working down the street opened up the unit and found it was already full; her coins had gone in but not far enough to be registered by the meter." "We are not impressed with the new meters and will avoid Broad Ripple and Massachusetts Ave. for the foreseeable future until all of the bugs get worked out of this new system," Andrew Buckner, who lives on Indianapolis' Northside, wrote in an email."


Indy Student said...

Ironically, next to this blog post is a very nice looking electronic parking meter in the ad space. Certainly this isn't what we're getting here, and ACS is under no obligation to actually give them to us.

theindianapolisan said...

You know what would be fantastic for high density area businesses and the large segment of the population with a closeted, binge-drinking personality trait? Public transit that runs late night. But good ol' Indy, keep blowing money on half-a**ed blacktop to make sure rugged individualists can drive intoxicated in their 2,000+ lb missles into trees, cops, and families who make the mistake of being out on the road at the same time. This city and this most recent mayor make me sick.

SSJ said...

We can't expect mass transit because there's (apparently) no company out there that is willing to pay millions for the 50 year transit franchise.

But that's the sort of thing we OUGHT to outsource -- expensive inventory, lots of employees, lots of maintenance, likely to see regular technology changes...

Not surprising the outsourcers only grab the profitable fruit from the tree.

When the deal was signed, I had a momentary Warner Bros cartoon flashback, where a parking meter transforms itself into a huge candy-on-a-stick with 'SUCKER' written across it.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I used a credit card at one. It defaults to 45 minutes and I was able to increase it to 60 minutes. I wanted to increase it to 90 minutes but it wouldn't increase even though I kept hitting the button. It was a two hour meter.

SSJ said...

Paul, that's an interesting observation. By defaulting to 45 minutes, does that mean it can be reduced or is that the minimum?

Mnay times I have known I would be in and out in a minute so I would feed maybe a nickel into the meter for 10 minutes or whatever that got me. Is that not the way they are now?

Even if you can, I see that as a future 'enhancement' they may try to pull on us -- make the minimum time 30-45 minutes.

I believe these meters are supposed to sense when the car is moved, so they reset for the next one -- is that right?