BlueIndy public record request gives insight on closure

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INDIANAPOLIS, IND. –BlueIndy’s electric car-sharing service is coming to an end due to financial difficulties.

Kayla Sullivan has been investigating BlueIndy's profitability for months and found a significant deficit. When she interviewed  BlueIndy Vice President James Delgado in September, the company denied our requests for financial documents.

Since then, we received this document that shows BlueIndy had a deficit of more than 22 million dollars in 2017.

As we waited for more recent data from the city, BlueIndy announced its closure.

“Give it some time and have some patience in terms of whether this is a success or not,” said Delgado, back in that September interview.

Now, the company is announcing it will stop services in May.

“In concept, mobility options is not a bad thing. I support the idea of there being alternate modes of transit for people,” said Indianapolis City-County Council Vice President Zach Adamson when we interviewed him in October about this topic.

Adamson said he never supported the deal with BlueIndy, though, saying it didn’t make sense here.

“These car share programs are highly successful in cities that are very high density but very low geography,” explained Adamson.

Indianapolis is quite the opposite. Its population is spread out over a large area. Yet, BlueIndy and the Mayor of Indianapolis at the time, Greg Ballard, were confident this program would succeed.

"We don't expect it to fail, anyway. Bollore has got most of the risk in this, obviously, and they've got a great model that seems to work. So they're just bringing it here," said Ballard. "We’re very lucky to be the North American entry point for this; that’s a real coup for us. I like saying Paris, London and Indy — I like saying that."

Bollore, the company that owns BlueIndy, invested $41 million dollars. Indianapolis put in $6 million and Indianapolis Power and Light contributed $3 million.

A public records request with the city allowed us to see BlueIndy profits through 2017.

The document shows a deficit of more than 22 million dollars, at that time. The city said 2018 and 2019 numbers have yet to be submitted. Delgado didn’t respond to our request for an interview, but this is what he had to say a few months ago.

“Although profitability is one measure of success, it’s not how we measure our overall success and our optimism about BlueIndy,” said Delgado.

Delgado argued BlueIndy was the catalyst for change in mobility because it opened the doors to more investment in alternate transportation.

“I challenge people that think that well, maybe this was a failed investment to leave their car at home for a week, get on the Red Line, use a BlueIndy car, get on Pacers Bike Share, who is expanding their network of stations, use a scooter,” said Delgado.

The BlueIndy portion of his challenge now has an expiration date of May 21. However, the city says it’s looking for new ways to use the electric infrastructure adding BlueIndy was an instrumental part of thoughtful conversations about transportation and personal mobility:

“For many years, Indianapolis residents and community leaders have been engaged in thoughtful conversations around transportation and personal mobility. BlueIndy has been an instrumental part of that conversation, helping to provide an innovative car-sharing option for Indianapolis residents with an eye toward sustainability and equity.

Over the coming months, we will work with neighbors, corporate partners, and personal mobility advocates to explore whether financially-sustainable options exist to put the electric charging infrastructure to use. While today’s announcement is unfortunate for those who have embraced Blue Indy as a transportation option, we remain steadfast in our commitment to access and equity in transportation and improved connectivity for all Marion County residents.”

IPL also released a statement on BlueIndy's closure:

Indianapolis Power & Light Company remains focused on accelerating cleaner, more efficient and cost-effective energy solutions for our 500,000 customers, and that includes maintaining and extending electric vehicle infrastructure. We believe smarter energy infrastructure and technology provide options for our customers, Indianapolis residents and visitors alike. We will evaluate the impact of BlueIndy’s decision with the goal of working with the City of Indianapolis to meet our customers’ needs.

It’s unclear whether the city or IPL will get any money back from BlueIndy.

Right now, the future of the parking spaces is also unknown.

We’ll continue asking questions, as the city explores possibilities for those spaces and charging stations.

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