Bloomington says no more free parking at 150 on-street spaces, new wrinkle is pay-by-phone only

Bloomington is adding around 150 more spaces to its on-street pay-to-park system, according to a news release.

That addition bumps by about 10 percent the number of on-street parking spaces where an hourly rate is charged. The city currently has about 1,500 parking meters, which are installed throughout most of the downtown area.

But the new pay-to-park on-street spaces don’t include a parking meter. Instead of a meter where coins or a credit card can be used to pay the $1 hourly rate, the new pay-to-park spaces have signs posted indicating that they are “pay by app parking only.”

It’s the same ParkMobile app  that drivers can already use to pay for any of the existing spaces that have parking meters. The difference for the new spaces is that ParkMobile is the only option.

That means parking on College Avenue and Walnut Street between 11th and 17th streets will now cost $1 an hour. The same goes for sections of Walnut Grove Street and Cottage Grove Avenue near the Indiana University campus.

Some of the signage for the new spaces is in place, but according to parking services director Michelle Wahl, the hours and days of enforcement still need to be added to the sign posts. Enforcement days and times will be the same as for spots with meters: Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Wahl told The Square Beacon that enforcement will have a “soft” rollout, which means that drivers won’t see tickets on their windshields on the very first day after the installation of signs is complete. But a brief period of warnings will be followed by citations, just like other locations where drivers are supposed to pay hourly to park on the street.

The city’s press release issued last week highlights the fact that the payment system doesn’t require touching a parking meter. Instead, according to the release, people will have an “opportunity to use a contactless approach to find, reserve, and pay for parking at over 150 spots in two app-only parking zones in Bloomington.”

Adding allowable locations for parking meters requires enactment of an ordinance by the city council to amend Schedule U in the city code. The Walnut Grove and Cottage Grove locations were added as parking meter locations in August this year, after consideration by the parking commission a year ago.

A year ago, Wahl said the two streets near campus 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.”

The idea in those locations is to promote turnover, and to generate revenue for the city, Wahl said. She 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.

The spaces on College Avenue and Walnut Street were added through an ordinance enacted two years ago, according to Wahl.

No parking meters were installed at the time for several reasons, according to Wahl. Among those reasons is the narrowness of the sidewalks. And for several spots, under the railroad bridge, the solar-powered system used by the city’s standard parking meters would not work.

Among the benefits of the pay-by-app system is that there are no meters that are susceptible to vandalism. A year ago, about 125 parking meters around the courthouse square were damaged by vandals who used a combination of spray foam and paint.

Under state law, revenue from parking meters has to go into a special parking meter fund, and the expenditures made from that fund are limited to certain purposes. Most of those purposes provide direct support to the infrastructure of the parking meter system. [IC 36-9-12-4]

Given that there are no meters installed for the new pay-to-park spaces, would it be allowed for Bloomington not to deposit parking app revenue into the parking meter fund and elude the restrictions on expenditures from that fund?

According to city attorney Mike Rouker, Bloomington treats pay-by-app only spaces as “metered” spaces, even if no physical parking meter is installed at the parking space.

Rouker added, “I don’t know whether or not the state believes utilizing a pay-by-application only system obviates the need to deposit revenues into the parking meter fund. For Bloomington, that question is immaterial, as the City deposits pay-by-application only revenues into its parking meter fund.”

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