INDIANAPOLIS — Dozens of Blue Indy electric cars, their batteries, and other hardware sit stacked at a westside scrapyard awaiting a trip to the shredder. The rest of the Blue Indy fleet is headed to Los Angeles for an electric car sharing program there.
After over six years and $6 million in taxpayer funding, the Blue Indy transportation experiment has ended in Indianapolis.
The Bollore Group, Blue Indy’s corporate owner, admitted that even with 3,000 memberships and significant subsidies of its construction and operation, the service never caught on in Indianapolis, and as a result, no revenues were ever shared with the city.
Along with splitting the cost of underground infrastructure work with IPL, the city also took 450 parking spaces out of rotation, resulting in contract give-backs to Park Indy, its private parking contractor. The city faces the potential of buying Blue Indy’s electrical hardware and kiosks at the 91 sites where the company has been literally free to do business for most of the last decade.
Blue Indy was welcomed to Indianapolis by then-Mayor Greg Ballard, who also launched Vision Fleet, an electrical municipal car-sharing program that was also scrapped after a few years.
Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration will begin seeking input in June from Blue Indy neighbors on their visions for the suddenly freed up parking spaces in front of their homes and businesses.
“There seems to be consensus the transportation industry is evolving at a rapid pace,” said Mackenzie Higgins, policy analyst for the city. “So I’m excited to see what the options are for the use. I think a lot of them will be transit oriented, particularly on electric vehicle car sharing charge points, etc., but I also think there’s an opportunity for innovative community specific needs. An example I’ll give is a micro-grocer that could be installed in the Blue Indy stations, plugging itself in to the electric underground, charging generators so they could provide fresh fruit and produce in a food desert.”
The city has until September 21 to determine if it will buy the Blue Indy aboveground charging stations.
Along Massachusetts Avenue, merchants and restaurant owners said they were pleased with the demise of Blue Indy and the potential of reclaiming metered street parking.
“It’s made it difficult to get as many shoppers in,” said Amanda Mauer Taflinger, owner of Homespun Modern Handmade. “This took away the bulk of our customer parking, and it eliminated a lot of people just being able to stop in, run in, run back out, so it’s definitely put a crimp in things for us.”
“I think it was a good idea, but I can’t say I’m sorry to see them go,” she said, preferring to see curbside loading or takeout delivery zones established in the now-vacant Blue Indy parking spaces, or perhaps leaving the electric charging hardware in place. “A lot of shoppers who shop on Mass Ave probably have hybrids or electric cars, so I don’t think it would be a terrible idea, but I don’t think it would get as much use if they did half of them as that.”