How Indianapolis Fixed Its Parking Problems

Parking in most US cities can be a drag. If you're lucky enough to find an unoccupied spot, you still have to find enough change to fill up the meter. Then, if your errand takes longer than expected, you run the risk of getting a ticket.

Maintaining parking meters is no picnic for city governments either. Coins need to removed and batteries need to be replaced frequently. On top of all that, because parking meter rates in most cities haven't changed for decades, meters typically don't generate much revenue.

Things are different in Indianapolis. A couple of years ago, the city partnered with a division of Xerox to take over management of the city's parking meter system. ParkIndy replaced all the old meters with new meters that accept credit cards. Even better, drivers with smart phones can now download apps that make it easy to pay for parking, extend the parking time and even find an open spot. Sure, parking at meters is a little more expensive, but the experience for drivers in Indianapolis is much improved.

The best part about this public-private partnership is that the arrangement will help the city's bottom line. The old system generated less than $100,000 in 2010. In 2011, the new parking meters generated more than one million dollars. Over the course of the 50-year lease, the city will make upwards of $350 million.

Approximately 3 minutes. Produced by Paul Feine and Alex Manning.

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  • some guy||

    The best part about this public-private partnership is that the arrangement will help the city's bottom line.

    This is NOT the best part. This isn't even a GOOD part.

  • robc||

    A land tax (which this is, sorta) is better than typical taxes, so if the city could 100% fund themselves with parking fees and eliminate payroll taxes and the like, Im fine with it.

  • some guy||

    The problem I have is that the city almost certainly used eminent domain and tax dollars to obtain the land for those parking spaces in the first place.

    I'd much rather see the city return the land to its rightful owners. Failing that, the city should somehow divide the land evenly among the local property owners. Then the spots could be handled by a private-private partnership, the best kind.

  • Sam Grove||

    "I'm stunned by the number of government officials that who don't seem to like the word "profit"."

    It's because their minds are polluted with Marxist thought.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Eh, progressives too, all that ilk who think most people are too primitive and savage to think for themselves without greed entering the picture. Only an elite few are so evolved as to think altruistically for everybody. Any other motive is so far removed from conceivability that it is scary and must be stomped out lest it infect the minds they are trying so hard to educate and guide.

    It pisses me off always, but especially annoys me when laws are written with special exemptions for non-profits, like Colorado's marijuana initiative (I think it's them). If anything, I think non-profits are more suspect and less beneficial than for-profit companies.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Parking on streets in front of businesses should be at discretion of the businesses. Streets are, in fact, owned by adjacent property owners.

  • robc||

    Not always so.

    My property boundary ends at the street, not at the midpoint.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    DR&S probably means that, as defined by a libertarian system of property rights - not the fiat, statutory system your boundaries are under - that streets are owned by the adjacent property owners.

  • some guy||

    Streets are rarely owned by businesses. Typically they are owned by the city/county. Just take a look at the property lines. Most private neighborhoods and business parks own their own roads, but if the city/county maintains the road, they almost always own it. The same usually goes for sidewalks.

    Don't even get me started on easements...

  • DarrenW||

    Being a resident of Indianapolis, I applaud the city's use of this parking system. It does work well, though the kiosk interface is poorly designed and confusing. Just about any time of day you'll find people gathered around the kiosks looking confused as they try to figure out the interface.

    The increased revenue (versus the old coin-based meters) isn't surprising. In addition to the parking rate increase, there's also no parking "overlap" when you use the mobile app to pay for your parking spot. In other words, if I pay for two hours and only use one, that additional hour can't be used by the next person in that spot. One can not find a meter "with time on it" and avoid paying.

    There's also a "transaction fee" of $0.25 when you pay for parking as well as when you use your mobile device to add additional time to your spot. I have found that few people I talk to here in Indianapolis know that the fee exists or that it is applied for extensions as well as the initial parking transaction.

    I'm not complaining about the system. Indeed, I think the Mayor did the right thing in implementing it. And the parking here in Indy is still a lot cheaper than almost any other city I visit.

  • mr simple||

    Just about any time of day you'll find people gathered around the kiosks looking confused as they try to figure out the interface.

    That just provides you with an opportunity to walk by and scoff "pfft, tourists."

  • Sevo||

    Nope.
    SF has got a similar system and watching tatt'd techies try to figger it out is amusing.

  • Scarcity||

    We got what looks like the same meter system (but not the space-finder technology) in Chicago a couple of years ago. Of course, Daley leased the meters out for decades in return for a lump sum that was used to patch over one year's budget deficit.

  • Michael Bates||

    A 50-year-lease for any public-private partnership ought to be a red flag.

  • Sevo||

    In one of the few SF gov't moves with which I agree, SF is pretty much charging for all street parking time.
    Point is, the streets are tax-payer funded goods; if you own a car you need to provide for the storage of that car. Rent or buy a garage or pay what it costs to store it on the street; it ain't free and I'm tired of paying for it.

  • Stevecsd||

    Those parking fees are going to go up astronomically in the future. It said in 2011 they collected $1,000,000 up from an average of $100,000 collected by the City. That is a tenfold increase in one year. Yet, based on the estimate of $350,000,000 over 50 years, that averages out to $7,000,000 per year. How much will they need to increase the per hour parking charge to cover that $350,000,000? Based on the 2011 collections, it will need to go up by 6-7 times the current rate. How long before the citizens start screaming over that ripoff?

  • TomD||

    The mobile app is all fine and well until Indianapolis passes the inevitable nanny law banning cell phone use by drivers...

  • Lisa_D||

    did I view this incorrectly, or am I right in thinking that not only does the city benefit financially (no problem there, mostly) but the third party does as well? If their profit incentive is from ticketing, as opposed to providing technology/meters, then there is a big problem here. Having lived in buroughs of London where the parking enforcement is privatized, there is massive abuse of this transaction. There is a huge incentive to ticket, and the people doing it know that the reprisal... what's the word, redress? of a ticket is hugely complicated in cost and time for the ticketee. It is a very bad plan. If the city gives fair tickets on a "non-profit" basis (I know that is contradictory to a parking fine), well, fair enough, but this can become a business for unscrupulous firms.

  • Systems Analyst||

    I lived in Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA and the parking situation in one of the most corrupt in our country. By keeping limiting the availability creates a huge opportunity for profit both private and municipal. The "Parking Authority" was envious of people who would park in recently vacated "metered" spaces and use the remaining time to augment their own deposits. Their solution was to install "Parking meter Kiosks" which required people to pay for parking time that was already paid for by someone for that time. Additionally "Parking enforcement" people "hover" over vehicles that are about to run out of time and to quickly write parking violation tickets for those vehicles.
    This is an example of private and municipal corporations profiting from their own "misdeeds" which is to limit parking to create a demand which they can profit from.
    Since Kiosks are automated and can accept credit cards they can also issue "refunds or credits" on unused time. As an Analyst and programmer i know that this is not difficult to implement! This will not be done due to the enormous profit of the present system.
    What many of use are doing is to keep all old receipts and to record the amount of refund rightfully due so that when a ticket has been issued we can make a counter claim of fraud or debt owed.
    So far all this has bee limited to having our parking tickets "thrown out of court" so that we can not set the residence needed to curtail this practice.

  • Systems Analyst||

    In Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA another practice used to profit from the (created) shortage of parking space is to use "Eminent Domain" to seize entire city blocks of homes and businesses.
    Since Pennsylvania only allows Eminent Domain to be used for "Public Purposes" those blocks are levelled and converted into Parking Lots which stand for a term of seven to eleven years or until such time that all claims and/or the "statute of limitations" runs out.
    After which those properties are sold to a, politically connected, private interest often for "one dollar lawful money of account".

    "If you do not know the words you can not ask the questions. If you can not ask the questions you will never find the answers!"

    Many of these properties are sold to Universities which indoctrinate students in the incorrect use of words so that solutions to many of our problems may never be found!

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