Indianapolis deployed an all-electric car share system called Blue Indy, adopted from and operated by the company that runs Paris’ system.
Blue Indy has a station at the airport, and they are pretty aggressively marketing it as a transport option there.
I decided to give it a try. I always thought car share systems required you to pre-register, but apparently not. Blue Indy sells day passes, and you can be from out of state and still do it.
At IND Airport, there’s a kiosk at the entry of the parking garage after you leave baggage claim (right by car rental). You basically Skype with an agent live, giving him your name, address, and cell phone number; scanning in your drivers license; then swiping a credit card. They print out a credit card sized paper card that’s your pass for the day. It operates like an RFID touch card.
The cars are on level five. I Periscoped myself figuring out how to use it. The video is below. It took me ten minutes, but you could probably do it in next to no time once you have it figured out. If the video doesn’t show for you, click over to watch on YouTube.
I only had a couple of problems. First, I didn’t listen right and forgot to swipe at the main kiosk first. I had thought (incorrectly), I could just grab a car. Also, I thought I could pick the car I wanted, but I either missed me that or they just assigned you one. There’s a light on top of the charging stand by each car, and it turned purple for me to check it out. I won’t bother detailing the process since you can watch for yourself.
The signage is overall pretty good. The car has a transponder that opens the gate to get out of garage level five where the cars are (something I didn’t catch in the presentation). Also, there’s a dedicated Blue Indy exit lane at the toll booth.
The cars are small hatchbacks as you can see. Very basic, no frills. Manual seat adjust, trunk release, etc. An odd mix of high and low tech. The air conditioning is adequate but not especially cold. The radio sounds nice. There’s a navigation system, and you can push a button in the car to talk to a Blue Indy rep at any time. The car is also personalized to you when you check it out, so your name is in lights on the nav screen.
The speedometer is a separate thing mounted on the top of the dashboard. Mine was highly pixelated and need to be smacked on the side periodically to clear up. That’s kind of a big deal since if it isn’t working, you don’t know how fast you’re going.
But that was the only issue I had with the car itself, which handled fine. It had no problem cruising at 65 on the expressway. I noticed that it doesn’t coast. If you take your foot off the gas, it actively slows as if braking – maybe recharging itself. There’s no Park gear, but rather you leave it in neutral and activate the manual parking brake.
I screwed up when I took it back. I parked it in a spot, but didn’t get a text telling me my rental was over. I talked to the rep live at the kiosk. As it turns out, that spot had been reserved. You can only park in spots where the charging station is green. Apparently mine was purple, indicating reserved. They let me park there anyway. I’m not sure how you reserve a space, though supposedly you can do it through the navigation system in the car.
This wasn’t actually where I wanted to park. I’d wanted the station on the next block, but the only two free spaces there were being blocked by a UPS truck.
I suspect this a chronic problem downtown.
The price tag was $18.25 – cheaper than a cab and comparable to Uber. There’s a $6 airport surcharge for arrivals – not sure about departures. I’m told it comes through separately a couple days later. So potentially you can tack another six bucks on that.
Regardless, if you find yourself traveling to Indy, there’s no reason not to take one of these out for a spin, whether you are at the airport or no. It’s the perfect way to get from downtown to, say, PRINTtEXT at 52nd and College Ave, which is one of the world’s great magazine stores and a must visit if you’re in town. I’d never driven an all-electric vehicle on the road before, so it was fun to get the chance.