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."