City officials rethinking BlueIndy sites, but not for parking

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BlueIndy shut down its operations in May 2020. (IBJ file photo)

City officials want to turn former recharging sites for BlueIndy, the defunct electric car-sharing program, into bike-sharing stations, bike parking spots and charging stations for electric cars, scooters and bikes—but likely not back into traditional car parking spaces.

The city will release a request for proposals to developers to repurpose up to 42 of the 89 charging stations before the end of the year, according to the Department of Metropolitan Development. The move would come more than a year after Paris-based BlueIndy shut down.

“This difficult decision to end the service has been made because we did not reach the level of activity required to be economically viable,” BlueIndy said in a December 2019 letter to customers.

The company launched in September 2015, during former Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration. By August 2019, BlueIndy reported 3,000 active members, just 20% of what the company said it needed to be profitable.

BlueIndy ceased operations May 21, 2020. The next month, Indianapolis issued a request for information on how to reuse the below-ground electric charging infrastructure and the above-ground site footprint.

In September 2020, the city waived its option to buy BlueIndy’s assets, and instead began a public engagement initiative for more reuse ideas that October. Now, the data analysis for those ideas is done—but parking isn’t a priority for spots in Indy’s busiest areas.

“With these findings, we plan to continue expanding our network transportation system to facilitate mobility options that are less reliant on cars,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett in a news release Thursday.

His administration’s “Reimagining the Curb” reuse initiative ties into recent “transit-oriented development” zoning changes that prioritize pedestrians, bikers and other non-car modes of transportation.

Not everyone agrees.

Electric charging “can be done without tying up space in major commercial areas,” said City-County Council Vice President Zach Adamson, who led opposition to BlueIndy’s use of public parking spots. He suggested parking garages as an alternative site for charging infrastructure.

Adamson said he hadn’t gotten complaints from constituents recently—probably because many of the former charging station sites have already informally gone back to being parking spaces.

“In many places, they’ve been used for carryout delivery, especially during COVID, and a lot of those areas have signs up. They’re full all the time,” Adamson said. “Nobody’s complaining about them because they’ve basically reverted back to what they were before BlueIndy.”

But those spots will likely be replaced with some kind of site offering public electric vehicle charging, bike parking, e-bike docking stations and e-scooter charging, according to Department of Metropolitan Development slides.

DMD hopes to move forward with a proposal on the first 42 spots in 2022. Many are in Indy’s core.

Traditional car parking isn’t totally off the table.

“There could potentially be locations that are not suitable for other uses at all, which would cause a return to general purpose parking,” said a department spokesperson in an email Tuesday. “However, what the former sites may be is by no means set in stone.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of sites included in the city’s RFP. The correct number is 42. The city initially provided IBJ with the wrong number. In addition, a reference to the way the project would be phased was removed, after the city changed an explanation about it. You can see all our corrections here.

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8 thoughts on “City officials rethinking BlueIndy sites, but not for parking

  1. So Zach Adamson wants the one-third of the former Blue Indy charging sites to revert to parking for cars and trucks where the electrical infrastructure will go unused. And he wants to put new charging stations for e-bikes and e-scooters in parking garages designed for cars and trucks where the electrical infrastructure currently does not exist for charging stations. With forward-leaning leadership like that Indianapolis will continue to fall behind our peer cities in the availability of amenities that attract the next generation of employees and make the Crossroads of America socially and economically attractive and viable for everyone.

  2. If the city doesn’t use these spots (perfect infrastructure) for EV vehicle chargers, bicycles, or alternative transportation it be the icing on a terrible cake. A $29M investment cake?…

  3. My understanding of these charging spots is they are built specifically for the Blue Indy cars and that hybrid/electrics that used them charged much slower. How useful would these really be for EV charging? Would it cost more to upgrade them to modern standards in an industry that is already rapidly changing?

    We need more electric charging, but I don’t know if we need this many right now, especially when so many parking garages already have charging within them. Of particular concern is charging in Rest Areas and off Interstate exits for longer trips, not so much within the city.

  4. As usual the city is heading down their ideological path. Zac is right on this one. The basic 4-5 parking spots could be a mixed use for cars and bikes, etc. EV charging needs to be grouped and centralized for easy access and easy maintenance and tech updates. 29 to 89 locations scattered around town is impossible to maintain as the electric systems required continue to change. Limited temporary parking similar to drop off zones would serve the constituents much better. Basic 120 volt for scooters would be feasible, but not car charging. In fact car charging should be a private enterprise, not government finances.

  5. @matthew S. The Indy blue spots are in EV vernacular Level 2 Chargers. These are not specific to IndyBlue only vehicles. Most EV’s can and do leverage Level 2 Charging stations which is what most 3rd party fee-based chargers are including ChargePoint etc along with Tesla home chargers that are also level 2 chargers