Parking meters generate half as much income as expected

Because of the city’s frequently broken parking meters, Hailey O’Malley was late to class, Emma Hearn lost three quarters and a Laughing Planet customer got his car towed.

Also because of parking meters, the City of Bloomington may have lost almost half a million dollars.

On Feb. 5, Mayor John Hamilton held a press conference to discuss the city’s parking meter problem.

In 2013, Bloomington bought 1,500 parking meters from a vendor 
named IPS.

The cost of this purchase was $1,865,175. In addition, the city paid for refurbished housings and IPS tracking software.

The city continues to pay a monthly IPS processing fee for data collection, and about $5,000 a month for credit card processing.

The projected annual revenue generated from this investment was estimated to be $1,063,000, but city officials announced this week this prediction was far from reality.

According to the City of Bloomington website, the actual annual net revenue generated in 2014 and 2015 was only $495,000 — less than half of what the city had expected.

“Since installation, nearly every meter has failed to work properly,” according to the website.

The IT department has reported, since installation, the city has experienced about 277 parking meter problems each month. This equates to a failure rate of 18 percent.

Some of the problems include frozen keypads, broken backlighting, rust and dead batteries.

When O’Malley, an IU senior, was trying to get to class, she said there was only one spot open on Kirkwood Avenue and the meter wouldn’t accept her credit card.

“I had to drive around and around and around to find another meter and I ended up being late,” 
she said.

Hearn, also a senior, tried to park at a spot on the square. The machine ate her money and added no time to the meter. Hearn said having to pay for parking sometimes deters her from going places around the city.

Bloomington began working with IPS to fix the problem in 2013.

City officials have held weekly conferences with the company and company, officials came in from San Francisco to survey the problem.

Last semester, IPS paid for the vast majority of the meters to be sent back to California, diagnosed, repaired and returned to Bloomington.

“In the month since completion of this effort last 
December, another 78 meters have experienced problems, which is a 5 percent failure rate,” the site said. “We believe this is still too high and IPS agrees.”

Some businesses have also been upset by the 

Hannah Wilkinson, a worker at the Laughing Planet, said the parking meters are one of the main complaints she hears from customers.

She did say, however, that the meters have helped bring more customers in by not allowing people to leave their cars in one spot all day.

Pourhouse manager Tyler Gress called the meters a “nuisance.”

“The city should just do more to incentivize foot traffic instead,” he said, suggesting more bike lanes and an increased emphasis on bike safety.

The city plans to continue to work closely with IPS to fix the problem under extended warranty.

If the problems persist, the website said Bloomington “is willing to investigate other options.”

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