Parking deal netting city more meter money

August 19, 2011

Indianapolis’ decision to lease its parking meters to a private company so far appears to be financial boost for the city.

An agreement reached in November called for Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services to give the city $20 million upfront and an estimated $363 million to $620 million in meter revenue over the life of the 50-year deal.

ACS in March began spending up to $10 million to replace the city’s coin-operated meters with newer versions that accept credit cards. Hourly parking rates since have risen from 75 cents to $1 in Broad Ripple and in some busy downtown areas, and ultimately will rise to $1.50.

Parking meter 15colMore than 100 electronic pay boxes have been installed downtown, with others slated for Broad Ripple within a few weeks. (IBJ Photo/Scott Olson)

Total revenue from meter operations grew to $1.7 million in the quarter ended June 30 from $1.3 million in the same time frame a year ago.

The city’s share of that revenue totaled $498,273, compared with $108,265 it made from meter operations from March through June a year ago—a whopping 360-percent increase.

Marc Lotter, communications director for Mayor Greg Ballard, attributed the increase to higher parking rates coupled with fewer expenses. Under the contract with ACS, the city no longer is responsible for maintaining and upgrading meters.

The additional revenue the city earns from the agreement is earmarked for street, sidewalk and alley repairs in metered areas.

“It’s not only the [extra] revenue but the convenience of the new meters,” Lotter said.

The city chose ACS to handle meter operations last August, then revised the terms of the agreement two months later after public opposition mounted to the original plan. Changes gave Indianapolis greater flexibility in removing parking meters and the option of terminating the contract every 10 years.

Opponents had complained the initial deal was short-sighted and riddled with hidden costs.

Fruit of the agreement can be seen throughout downtown. Scores of meters, including those fitted earlier this year with new heads to accept credit cards, have been removed in favor of small numbered signs and pay boxes.

Downtown motorists punch their space number into a pay box and use either credit cards or coins to select how much time they will occupy the parking space.

The boxes have been installed on streets that have at least five meters clustered together. The boxes give streets a cleaner look, ACS spokesman Chris Gilligan said.

“Pay boxes clear up the streetscape,” he said. “They’re embarrassingly simplistic [to use.]”

The electronic boxes alert operators when they need to be emptied of cash or serviced.

More than 100 pay boxes have been installed downtown, and about 60 are operational. The rest are in testing phases to ensure they operate correctly, Gilligan said.

The latest pay boxes to become operational are on Pennsylvania Street between Washington and Market streets, on Alabama Street between Market and New York streets, and on North Hudson Street between Ohio and New York streets.

Installation of pay boxes in Broad Ripple will begin in the next few weeks.

Most meter work should be finished by the end of the year, Gilligan said. The exception is on Massachusetts Avenue, where roads are being resurfaced and sidewalks and curbs replaced. Work is expected to be finished next fall.

Paying to park should get even more technologically advanced, however. A smart phone app that allows users to feed a meter without even stepping outside should be available within the next few weeks, Gilligan said.



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