City to consider purchase of Blue Indy’s assets

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The city of Indianapolis will have up to 90 days after Blue Indy ceases operations to decide whether to purchase the electric-car-sharing service’s assets, which means it could be August before the fate of the service’s charging stations is clear.

Last month, Blue Indy announced it was pulling the plug on its Indianapolis fleet, just more than four years after launching in the city in September 2015.

The company said it would remain in operation until May 21, but would gradually reduce the number of cars it has operating beginning in March.

As of August, Blue Indy had 92 stations and 200 cars across the city, including at the airport and some of the universities. Many of them are downtown and some are in neighborhoods.

Thomas Cook, Mayor Joe Hogsett’s chief of staff, told media Wednesday morning that the city will have a 90-day period after Blue Indy is done operating to determine whether it will exercise a purchase option for assets as laid out in an agreement with the company.

The contract requires the city to pay the “fair market value” for the assets, which would be determined through two or more appraisals.

Cook said while Blue Indy’s decision to cease operations was not shocking to city officials, it did come with no warning. For now, the city is focused on meetings with key stakeholders before making any decision, he said.

If the city chooses not to purchase the stations, Blue Indy would be required to remove the assets.

Blue Indy and its charging stations have created some controversy in Indianapolis. Besides questioning a city investment of $6 million in the service, some critics took issue with the amount of prime public parking Blue Indy stations and cars took up for the charging stations, especially downtown.

In return for its $6 million investment, Blue Indy promised to share profits with the city—once its own $40 million investment was recouped and Indianapolis Power & Light recovered 125% of the more than $3 million in ratepayer hikes that made the charging stations possible. IPL initially filed a $12.3 million cost-recovery request to pay for installations but the request was denied by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

The Blue Indy deal was reached at the end of former Republican Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration and spurred a lawsuit from the Marion County auditor, a Democrat, that was eventually dismissed.

The service for years struggled to reach membership goals.

When the Paris-based company backed by French billionaire Vincent Bollore launched in Indianapolis, it predicted that it would be operating profitably by this year, with at least 15,000 members, 200 stations and 500 cars. As of August, it had just 3,000 active members.

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13 thoughts on “City to consider purchase of Blue Indy’s assets

  1. Don’t buy it Indianapolis! Give us back our parking spaces!!! All this investment and occupation of valuable parking space to benefit a mere 3000 people. Makes no sense. While I am in favor of electric and hybrid vehicles (I have 3 Prius’), this program is not the way to do it!

    1. Those parking spaces are a drop in the bucket. Kills me when people complain about having to walk more than a block someplace after parking.

    2. There is virtually nowhere in Indy that has a parking problem. There is, however, a problem with suburban motorists turning into helpless babies when they have to park more than one block away from their destination or pay a few dollars for parking.

      Sincerely, someone who has lived in close proximity to a few different BlueIndy stations.

  2. As one of the 3,000 active members I am sad to see Blue Indy potentially shut down. I live on the Northside and work downtown and used the service multiple times a month. I would Uber to Broadripple and then take a Blue Indy Downtown. This would cut my cost by 60% compared to taking Uber all the way downtown (also much faster than the redline). I would also take Blue Indy to the Airport from downtown. However, I did notice the flaws of the service. One of the best things Blue Indy did was introduce Buy One Hour Get One Hour free. This would allow users to go to grocery stores and run errands. However, the fact that there were no stations at Target or Meijer at Glendale was a big mistake. I also would have expanded to the Suburbs. I would not have the same setup in the Suburbs as there is downtown, but I would have one or two larger stations in each city. I would have these larger Stations at 96th and Meridian, Carmel City Center, Fishers Downtown, Park 100, etc. I would also allow for daily rentals. If we had friends or family in town, we would have rented one for the day. We could have taken an Uber to one of these larger stations, and then taken the Blue car to the airport or downtown. I hope a private company partners with the City to purchase this service, as it will require thinking outside the box for this service to be profitable.

  3. I do not have a dog in the hunt, however, history has shown many, many times that when government gets into a business, that business becomes a money pit since the people making the decisions have no skin in the game and thus no incentive to make a profit. They will get their city paid salaries and pensions even while the money pit gets deeper. Let this be a lesson for the future. If a business wants to start something and asks for city funding, tell the business to ask a bank for a loan. If they can’t get a bank loan, that is big clue as to the viability of the business. There are a lot of other places that need funding that helps all citizens, not just the people that use these vehicles. Those other places are police, fire, streets…..

  4. The city needs to keep this going. Much better investment and much more of a futuristic transportation option than the bus lines. Busses are just not the transportation model of the future, period, end of story.

    1. City should buy some of the assets, and Buses and mass transportation IS the future, in Seattle, Austin, Portland and other cities moving forward. Individual cars are past peak and declining.

  5. I would like to know what assets there are? Looks to me like the ratepayers of IPL paid for the charging stations. What did the 6 million the city spent go towards?

  6. Scott B. could not be more wrong. Apparently he doesn’t get downtown much. Try to get a parking space within 5 blocks of the City-County Building during the day. It’s awful. There are scores of Blue Indy spots, filled by little cars that were never driven, within a close walk of the CCB. Plus, let’s not forget that under the idiotic parking contract Mayor Ballard pushed through the Council, we have to pay the private vendor, ParkIndy, as if those spaces were continually occupied when when parking spaces that are taken out of circulation. So there would be considerable savings to the City if the spots are taken back.

    I won’t even get into the downtown vendors that lost business due to spots in front of their establishment being taken by Blue Indy.

    We absolutely need those parking spaces back.

    1. Hi, Scott B. here. I live a half-mile north of downtown and spend a large amount of my time there (and I often use my car to park there when running errands). I’ll die on the hill that downtown has *too much* parking already. A massive amount of the downtown cityscape is parking garages and surface lots… to the detriment of tax revenue that could be gained from more lucrative structures/businesses, to the detriment of urban connectivity and walkability, and to the detriment of having a more interesting and engaging city.

      Again: There is virtually nowhere in Indy that has a parking problem. There is, however, a problem with suburban motorists turning into helpless babies when they have to park more than one block away from their destination or pay a few dollars for parking.

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