In her Sept. 4 column [Privatizing parking meters is a mistake we’re stuck with], academic and scholar Sheila Kennedy revived her assault on one of Mayor Greg Ballard’s signature achievements: the ParkIndy initiative.
Mrs. Kennedy’s partisan broadside omitted the most salient point about ParkIndy: Ballard took thousands and turned it into millions.
Prior to the 2010 agreement, the city’s parking meters produced just several hundred thousand dollars in annual revenue; in the 10 years since ParkIndy was implemented, the city has realized nearly $30 million.
ParkIndy also replaced meters dating from the 1950s with modern technology that completely redefined the customer experience. Gone are the days of hunting for change in your car; we replaced it with smartphones and e-payments.
Additionally, meters were free from Friday night through Monday morning so that out-of-town visitors could park free over a weekend, using up valuable space, and frustrating local businesses who wanted their customers to be able to park nearby.
City government, moreover, no longer incurs expenses like salaries, pensions, and maintenance. ParkIndy is responsible for all costs associated with personnel, operations, and keeping the technology current.
Mrs. Kennedy’s point about “the lure of $20 million in upfront payments” being a driver of the deal is missing one critical insight: ParkIndy officials offered the city significantly more upfront money.
Ballard rightly declined. He wanted to leave the vast majority of the proceeds to future administrations and instead opted for a greater ongoing revenue share.
Cities like Chicago took all their money upfront, spent it on other items, and now have nothing to show for it. Ballard rejected this approach.
Finally, a clause in the contract allows for renegotiation every 10 years; I applaud the Hogsett administration for recently letting ParkIndy continue its benefits to the city (and for its decision to close Mass Ave in the first place).
Previous administrations had the opportunity to upgrade our meters to increase revenue but let them remain antiquated and underperforming. Ballard stressed innovation while drastically increasing our infrastructure investment.
Mrs. Kennedy was never a fan of the Ballard administration, but the voters were. Elected leaders should take comfort in knowing Indianapolis voters reward action and innovation.
Robert Vane (Vane served as Ballard’s deputy chief of staff.)