Rate increase adds to downtown parking issues

Drivers are still trying to figure out the new payment system.

People are still figuring out the city's new parking meters and now the price to park is about to go up again.

January 1st rates in the downtown core, Broad Ripple and along Mass Avenue will jump 50 percent going from $1 an hour to $1.50. Meters elsewhere in the city will go from 75 cents to $1 an hour.

It's the second increase in less than a year and part of the privatization deal the city entered into last year with Dallas-based ACS, a Xerox Company (and its Indianapolis-based partners, Denison Global Parking, Sease Gerig & Associates and Evens Time.)

The price increase not top of mind when Eyewitness News approached Kelly Waltman along Mass Avenue.

"I'm trying to figure out how to use this machine," Waltman said as she stood puzzled before the pay box. "Okay, so you enter the parking space, so 1-7-7-0, enter. Uh oh, this is my second try...I dunno, do I put my credit card in now?"

Waltman wasn't the only one we saw struggling to master the meter.

Another man hovered over the pay box with this wife telling her, "I think I just bought 25 cents worth...I think we have until 1:13."

Ty Tegarden, who walks along Mass Ave. to his job every day at the downtown YMCA, said, "All the time I see people looking at the screen, wondering 'What do I do? Which spot do I go to? Am I doing this correctly?' They're afraid they're going to get a ticket."

"There is a get to know you time to understand operation of the pay boxes, but once you get it down they're easy to use," Mayoral Spokesman Marc Lotter said about the confusion.

The first year of the parking privatization has brought several changes - from the new high-tech meters (which take credit and debit cards) to longer hours and the higher rates.

"It's consistent with rates in other cities, we're looking to stay competitive," Lotter said, noting rates in Indianapolis had not been raised in 30-plus years.

He said through September, the meter deal had brought in roughly $3.5 million, a million of which went to the city. Lotter said that's more than year's past.

"The big difference with that is, we also had the expense in managing the meters, maintaining them and enforcing the meters and we now have none of that," he said.

The city is also pulling in more revenue because the hours of operation were extended to Saturday and until 9 pm.

Natalie Canull, who owns Mass Ave Toys, said, "I don't get it. I just do not get it."

Canull said raising rates again is not good for business.

"We spend a lot on advertising, trying to get customers to come downtown from the north and it's like they're punished," she said. "They have to pay high fees to park and it's hard to park. Sometimes you have to drive in circles."

She noted the new "Star Wars system" meters have confused a lot of her older customers.

Jennifer Dennis, the manager of nearby Global Gifts, agrees the new pay stations aren't very "user friendly," but feels some of the changes have helped.

"The longer hours have helped with turnover," she said. "I just hope the higher rates don't keep people away."

Asked about the rate hike, Melinda Kidd of Indianapolis said, "I think $1.50 is fine," but she also said, "That's because I usually shop up north at Keystone at the Crossing."

But her daughter Morgan said she felt that anyone who shopped downtown regularly or worked downtown "might find having to pay more an issue."

As for the man trying to figure out the pay box with his wife - do higher rates bother him?

"No, not really," he said. "Just the whole thing bothers me, the whole concept."

Waltman was definitely in his camp.

Still trying to figure out the machine, she asked, "Don't you get something after you pay? A receipt? That's what they do in Florida. I think you need a Masters degree to work one of these, so that's not me, I just have a college degree."