Parking privatization may spur economic development

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Downtown and Broad Ripple restaurants and retailers could enjoy a boost in business from Mayor Greg Ballard’s parking meter privatization initiative. But curbside coat-tailers, meter-feeders and ticket scofflaws may have to pony up more fees, or at least move their cars every few hours.

As IBJ reported earlier this year, Ballard is exploring leasing out management of more than 15,000 city street, surface and garage parking spaces. Indianapolis makes about $5 million annually from parking tolls and tickets. The mayor hopes to keep that revenue stream steady while generating at least $10 million in upfront cash for infrastructure improvement through the lease.

Indianapolis currently operates a hybrid parking management model, in which locally based Denison Parking handles meter enforcement while city employees are responsible for meter maintenance and coin collection.

On Feb. 10, Ballard released a request for qualifications from businesses interested in a privatization contract covering the city’s whole parking operation. Indianapolis received 16 responses by its March 15 deadline.

Thursday, Ballard released responses from the seven business groups selected to move forward in the bidding process. Denison, in a proposal with three affiliated partners, was among the preferred candidates. Firms were selected based on their technology-management capability and parking experience.

The remaining respondents’ proposals vary, but all involve installing modern parking meter technology and operating it for at least 10 years. Ideas on the table include new mulit-space meters that allow more cars to park in the same amount of ground. Proposed enhanced single-space meters could offer wireless capacity for driver convenience, allowing toll payment by credit card or even cell phone.

The new meters also would encourage parking turnover. For example, they may include sensors that register when a vehicle enters and exits a space, allowing a monitoring system to prevent long-term parking by drivers who repeatedly feed the same meter. A sensor-based system also could wipe away any paid-but-unused time before another driver parks in the same space, creating more frequent opportunities for the city to collect tolls.

Kurt Fullbeck, project assistant for Ballard’s Parking Monitorization Initiative, said one of the mayor’s main goals is to spur turnover at the most valuable parking spots in downtown Indianapolis and Broad Ripple, which would boost economic development.

“To have meters that are occupied eight hours a day makes it tough for companies such as restaurants and [retailers] to [attract] the customers they need,” Fullbeck said. “We’re trying to increase the ease of use for people to park downtown and spur the turnover needed for people who want to come down to have dinner, or run into a shop quickly to pick up something, instead of having to drive around for blocks and blocks to find a parking spot.”

“Parking on the street is not supposed to be long-term parking,” he added.

A single IT system for all the city’s spaces also could allow Indianapolis to offer demand-driven pricing for its parking meter tolls. That means drivers might pay less during off-peak hours but more during the busiest parts of the day, month or year.

All seven of the remaining proposals, available at www.indy.gov/parking, currently stand on even ground, Fullbeck said. Each business group now will have the opportunity to parse the city’s historic parking data in preparation for initial bid presentations in late May or early June.

After that, the city will narrow the field to two or three possible contractors. Fullbeck said Ballard expects to enter final negotiations in July or August, then bring the deal before the City-County Council for a vote this fall.

“We were really, really excited about the quality of the responses that we got,” Fullbeck said. “We received responses from local and international firms, which to me signals we ran a good and competitive process, to attract this type of interest.”

The city plans a series of public meetings to discuss parking privatization and gather public opinions. The first is scheduled for Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the IPS Center for Inquiry, 725 N. New Jersey St.


  • Privatization costs money
    Privatization is letting a private corporation provide services for a profit. Atlanta privatized their water and after 20yrs the contract was not renewed. The company was paid to sign on customers. It did not maintain the infrastructure,so water was being rationed while broken pipes allowed water to run down the streets.
    The Moral being: Corporations want to make a profit, not provide actual services. They make a profit at the expense of something else.
  • Cha-ching
    Listen to Chicago Talk Radio to learn how privatization of parking meters has had a negative effect in Chicago. Radio callers tend to have problems with public "systems", but the increased fees will keep many away from downtown & Broad Ripple restaurants and shops. too bad City can't figure out a way to do what the private sector can do instead of the taxpayer paying twice!
  • This is the better way to do it
    I travel to Chicago and this multi space approach not tied to the meter but the space means more cars can park in the same space. Also, you can pay with credit cards. HUGE IMPROVEMENT.
  • Cards
    As a downtown dweller, I accept the fact that in order to visit businesses locally, I will have to pay parking fees that I would not have to in the suburbs. But, it would be nice to have the option to pay with credit card, or a rechargeable cash card instead of trying to find coins to put in the meters. Sometimes I spend as much time trying to find coins around the house than trying to find a parking spot.
    I hope if they go through with this initiative, alternate payment options will become available.
  • Not Again?
    Once again the Mayor is mortgage the future for some upfront cash. We will all pay a price for this idiotic idea.
  • I'm in
    Count me in. i have connections, and nothing gets done in this town without me.
  • If Selected....
    I promise that I will be just as concerned for the average citizen of Marion County as head meter maid as I am now as head Prosecutor.
  • Increase Revenue
    I just moved from Chicago, and they have leased their meters to a private international company with mixed success. Rates are through the roof, but you still can't find parking.
    By privatizing the system, we will probably get much nicer meters and the rates will go up accordingly as suggested, but why can't the city raise the rates to implement exactly what the RFP's suggested? Privatizing gives all the control to the company running the program and they aren't concerned with Joe taxpayer like the city might be.
  • Two birds of the same feather
    I think he and Ballad are already silent partners
  • Govt giving away Public Assets
    if the mayor leases the spaces and streets to a company, how can he claim that their practices which wipes out remaining time, and raises fees for certain times of the day is going to bring more money into the city's coffers? If you lease it, the company keeps the profits and you are paid a flat fee.
    Sounds like another government giveaway of taxpayers property. I wonder how much money he and his campaign will get for selling off the city's assets at the tax payer's expense.
  • How Do I Get An RFP?
    I have some business partners that might be interested in submitting a bid.

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