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Bloomington using meters downtown

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Columbus officials don’t have to look far to learn a strategy for installing downtown parking meters.

Reaction was mixed in August when the city of Bloomington went live with 1,500 meters in its downtown, Deputy Director of Public Works Andrea Roberts said.

“Some people loved it, some people hated it,” Roberts said. “Some businesses said it opened up spaces for customers, some said it didn’t.”

Bloomington based its rollout on a 2007 parking study that was updated in 2012.

Like Columbus, Bloomington had parking meters at one time but took them out, opting instead for timed free parking and parking monitors to issue tickets.

Using information from its consultant study, Roberts traveled to Chicago, Indianapolis and Muncie to learn more about metered parking there and to study how Ball State University in Muncie was affected by a metered system.

The city’s parking enforcement employees were asked to map where they thought the meters should go, which was evaluated by the city street and engineering departments. The city then sought bids for multispace, single-space and combination meters and subcontracting for installation.

After opening the bids, city officials chose single-space meters and spent about $1 million for the equipment and installation. It took about eight weeks to install the meters. City officials spent some time working with downtown business owners and organizations to promote the new system and encourage compliance.

The city did a soft opening for two weeks, refraining from issuing tickets, until Bloomington residents were familiar with the new system, Roberts said.

The cost to park is $1 an hour, with Bloomington’s meters accepting cash, credit card and a phone app tied to the system.

The former parking enforcement staff now is responsible for issuing tickets for meter violations.

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