At last Thursday’s meeting of Bloomington’s parking commission, some video footage was rolled for the group. It showed a street view from a vehicle as it navigated from 10th Street near Indiana University’s Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences building, northward onto Walnut Grove, around the curve, west onto Cottage Grove.
The two streets north of 10th were parked up most everywhere a car would fit. “These are people who are currently parking for free on city-owned property,” Bloomington’s parking services director, Michelle Wahl told commissioners.
Wahl wants to try a one-year pilot program with the city’s current pay-by-smartphone vendor, ParkMobile, to require payment for parking on Walnut Grove and Cottage Grove. ParkMobile would be the only payment option.
The Beacon asked Wahl early this week what the point of charging for parking would be for those streets—to promote turnover, or to generate revenue for the city? Wahl said it is both. Wahl said the university has parking by permit only in areas close to the two streets, and the availability of free parking for those streets did not make sense in that context.
Based on the discussion at the commission’s Thursday meeting, it appears that imposing paid parking of any kind at that location would require an ordinance change.
ParkMobile can already be used to pay for Bloomington’s metered parking spaces. But the idea for the two “Grove” streets is not to install meters, or even mark off spaces on the street, Wahl said. The only infrastructure that would be put in would be signs alerting motorists to the fact that they have to pay—using the smartphone app, ParkMobile.
The signs would be paid for by ParkMobile, because it’s a new, trial area, Wahl said. The only expense for the city would be the poles to which the signs are affixed.
Wahl said she’s visited the area four or five times and it’s been bumper-to-bumper parking each time, probably over 100 cars, she said.
The city’s parking enforcement supervisor, RayeAnn Cox, said enforcement is done by putting a license plate number into the app—if a car is paid up they don’t get a ticket, if they’re aren’t they do. Some literature could be put on windshields for a couple weeks before any ticketing was done Cox said.
Commissioner Steve Volan, who is the city council’s appointee to the commission, commented on the idea that no meters would be used and that people would be expected to pay with a smart-phone app only: “All I’ll say is, in Belgrade, Serbia in the mid-90s, where they’d never had parking control before, they went straight to pay-by-phone. And I feel like this is the future.”
Part of the conversation at the parking commission’s meeting was the vandalization of downtown parking meters the day before that caused around $5,000 in damage. But it didn’t seem to factor into the argument for a meter-less approach for the Walnut Grove and Cottage Grove locations.
About the campus affiliates who’ll be using the spaces—university students and staff—Wahl said said, “it’s not a demographic that cannot use technology.” Wahl said that Indiana University is trying out two places with meter-less paid parking where the only payment option is ParkMobile.
According to director of IU parking operations, Amanda Turnipseed, the two locations where coin-type meters have been replaced with ParkMobile signage are: in the circle drive of Forest Residence Hall: and in the lot just west of Stone Belt off 10th and the bypass. The university is still testing out the nuances of the ParkMobile-only system, she said.
The idea is not to replace all Bloomington parking meters with ParkMobile, but there are are additional places in the city where the completely meter-less system could be used, Cox said.
Asked to name some examples, Cox gave the 200-300 S. Washington block. “It’s ‘apartment city’ down through there,” she said. Instead of 2-hour limited parking, which wastes her staff’s time having to go check on cars, it could be converted to ParkMobile-only payment, Cox said.
Wahl suggested the Trades District co-working space, Dimension Mill, as another place ParkMobile could be deployed as the only payment option. Volan said, “If they can’t use pay-by-phone technology, nobody can.” (At least by reputation, those who use Dimension Mill as co-working space, often work in digital technology-related fields.)
Wahl wanted to know if the trial could be done based on the city’s ability to impose a traffic-control order for 180-days. Volan said his “gut reaction” was that an ordinance would be required. The 180-day orders would work for no-parking or removal of no-parking, but he figured charging for parking in a new place would need an ordinance change.
The commissioners voted unanimously in favor a recommendation to impose paid parking on Walnut Grove and Cottage Grove.
Volan cautioned that the city council’s schedule is relatively full right now, so it might not be able to act on the recommendation very quickly.
On Wednesday, the council is concluding its fourth and final hearing on the presentations of the unified development ordinance, with at least a half dozen more sessions likely to be dedicated to the UDO before the end of the year.