BlueIndy plans to roll out car-sharing service next month

BlueIndy, the proposed all-electric car-sharing service that has been spinning its wheels since it was announced in early 2014, finally plans to get on the road early next month, BlueIndy officials announced Thursday.

An announcement posted Thursday on BlueIndy's Facebook page said a grand-opening ceremony is set for 11 a.m. on Sept. 2 at the BlueIndy station at Washington and Illinois streets downtown. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Cedric Bollore of the Bollore Group, which owns BlueIndy, are scheduled to attend.

BlueIndy said cars will be available for the public to use later that day at 25 charging stations throughout the city.

BlueIndy is a subsidiary of France-based Bollore Group, which operates a car-sharing service in Paris with about 70,000 subscribers. The company hopes to eventually have 250 car-sharing sites throughout Indianapolis with 15,000 to 20,000 regular users. Bollore said in May 2014 that the local service would require a $35 million investment upfront and about $15 million in annual operating costs.

Charging stations have been set up downtown and in other areas but so far have only been used for demonstration purposes.

Ballard and BlueIndy officials had expected the service to be up and running by the end of last year, but funding fights and political battles stalled the rollout.

Plans were delayed significantly over disagreements involving the company's request for a rate hike in local electricity rates to help pay for $16 million of BlueIndy's costs.

Consumer groups balked at IPL’s initial request for a rate hike that would cost the average residence about 44 cents per month over five years. The proposed monthly charge was later changed to 28 cents over 10 years in a settlement negotiated by IPL, the city and the consumer counselor.

The IURC ruled that Indiana law allows a utility to request recovery for the cost of extending utility service to new customers if it’s shown to be in the public interest. That’s why it was able to approve $3 million of the $16 million request.

However, IURC said, IPL could not charge customers for the vehicle-charging stations because they would be owned by Bollore.

BlueIndy officials said they would work around the regulatory setback.

The City-County Council has threatened to vote on a proposal to tow away BlueIndy's demonstration cars from their five downtown spots because they are eliminating valuable parking spaces, but that proposal has been put on hold.

Some council members have complained about the way the car-sharing service has been implemented, alleging proper procedures weren't followed.

BlueIndy seems intent to drive around the obstacles.

"Your patience and input throughout this entire process has been invaluable," BlueIndy said Thursday in a written statement. "We look forward to repaying you with a service that meets your highest expectations and elevates Indianapolis to the utmost standard of clean, affordable, efficient transit."

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