It’s time to move past the controversies that led up to the Sept. 2 launch of BlueIndy and see if the electric-car-sharing program can give Hoosiers—and visitors—a new way to move about the city in an affordable and efficient way.
If BlueIndy is successful, it could bolster the reputation of Indianapolis as a place for innovation, jump-start a struggling move toward more transit options, and give millennials and other urbanites—the people communities are trying so hard to attract—a reason to make the capital city home.
The program could also benefit the urban poor.
BlueIndy officials promise to put the cars—which rent for $4 to $8 for 20 minutes of use—in areas considered “food deserts” for their lack of fresh options. And they’re working with retail centers to create stations at the places people need to go.
That won’t be a panacea. Users must have a driver’s license and a credit card—two things often absent in low-income homes—to access the program. But BlueIndy creates one more option in a city with too few.
Still, even as supporters celebrate the city’s new, more environmentally friendly transportation option, some of the concerns about BlueIndy remain legitimate.
The company could certainly have done a better job working with community leaders as it placed stations in neighborhoods throughout the city.
It should be no surprise that some restaurateurs and homeowners had questions about losing the parking spaces just outside their front doors. Company officials have pledged to do better as they roll out even more stations in the coming months.
And Republican Mayor Greg Ballard erred in his initial decision to back an increase in all Indianapolis power bills to pay for construction of some 200 charging stations—stations that most residents will never use or certainly won’t use for some time. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission rejected that idea earlier this year, leading the city and BlueIndy to cough up the extra cash needed to keep the project moving.
Democratic members of the City-County Council cried foul as Ballard took money for the project from parking fees earmarked for infrastructure. And they’ve said the administration had no authority to let a private firm use public right of ways. Ballard has accused those critics of playing politics.
Whether it’s politics or legitimate policy concerns, it’s time to move forward. The stations and the cars are in place. And the service is provided by a company that wants to make Indianapolis a showcase so it can launch similar services throughout the country. Let’s let them do it.•
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