What’s All the Commotion About?
There has been a lot of talk recently about the tiny white electric cars that have been popping up all around Indianapolis. Blue Indy, a French electric car sharing company, has installed their patented car sharing service around the Indianapolis area with more stations to come by the end of the year. Currently, there are over 20 operational Blue Indy stations ranging from Fountain Square to just north of Downtown, and there have been many questions buzzing about this car share program.
I think car sharing is a very unique and interesting concept and I love that the Blue Indy cars are electric, saving users on gas while also not harming the environment. However, there have been some legal issues with Blue Indy, and many people are upset over the parking spots being taken and have proven some Blue Indy parking spots are illegal.
Still, I decided to take a ride myself to find out exactly how Blue Indy worked before forming any opinions about this service.
How to Register With Blue Indy
There are two ways to sign up for Blue Indy; enroll online or visit an enrollment kiosk. I figured signing up online was the easiest way to try it out, but found using an enrollment kiosk is actually faster. In order to operate a Blue Indy car, you will need a member card, which can be printed out immediately for your use at an enrollment kiosk. Signing up online means you have to wait for it to arrive via mail. So, I went to the enrollment station on Washington Street, where I was instantly connected via web chat with a Blue Indy representative in France.
The representative will ask for your name, phone number, address, birthday, and email address. They will then verify the information on a screen for you to confirm and send you a test email. From there you will select your Blue Indy membership plan. They range from weekly, monthly, to yearly plans, but since I was just testing it out, I purchased the daily plan (find more info on the memberships here). You will then be prompted to scan your license, confirm some information, and swipe your debit or credit card for payment. From there, your membership card will print out and you can ask your representative any additional questions before picking up your car. You will also set up a 4 digit pin to use as a password with your membership card.
Selecting Your Car
To grab a car, you’ll go to the reservation kiosk located right in front of the Blue Indy cars, wave your membership card, enter your pin, and a car will be selected for you. To unlock your car, you’ll wave your card to the left of the driver’s side mirror. The blue light will turn green once unlocked. Then, you will go to the charging station, unplug your car, wave your card over the charging station, and once that turns green you are ready to go.
Inside the Blue Indy Cars
Once you are inside of your Blue Indy car, you can adjust the air, navigational system, and mirrors as needed. I was actually surprised by how roomy these little cars are, with a spacious backseat for such a tiny vehicle. The key to your Blue Indy car will be dangling on a cord near the ignition. You will step on the brake, release the parking break, and start the car by turning the key in the ignition. Remember, this is an electric car, so you won’t actually hear the engine. I knew it would be a silent start up and ride, but it still managed to surprise me.
I had to swing by the Marsh just off of Mass Ave, so I made my way from Washington to New Jersey St. The ride was very smooth, though (as with any new car) it will take a few minutes to adjust. Parking in a regular parking lot was extremely easy due to the vehicle’s small size. Although I only picked up a few non-perishable items, I could see a plethora of boxes and bags easily fitting into the vehicle’s backseat.
Returning a Car
From there, I drove around a bit before dropping the car off at a different station on New York St. To return your car, just park in one of the designated spots (place the car into neutral to park), take all of your items out of the car, and lock it by swiping your badge to the left of the driver’s side window. The light will turn red when locked. From there, plug the charger back into the car, swipe your card over the charging station, and you’re done.
One asset about Blue Indy that I really liked was receiving an automatic text message confirming my drop off and the total amount billed to me, so I knew that my transaction was complete. This is done right after returning the vehicle. I ended up only taking 20 minutes (the typical time Blue Indy estimates its drivers will use their cars), and walked back to where I parked to finish my night out.
Blue Indy Review
After taking a test drive, here’s what I love about Blue Indy:
- Convenience – There are kiosks everywhere and more are on their way (I particularly think the ones by Uindy and Broad Ripple will do very well).
- Parking – I don’t have to figure out where I am going to park or pay for parking with so many kiosks around. If you are worried about getting a parking spot at a specific kiosk, you can even reserve it ahead of time.
- Environmentally Responsible – I love the idea of electric cars and car sharing in general, and I think this is a great addition to Indy’s ever growing public transportation system.
- Quick Enrollment – It took maybe 10 minutes to completely sign up for Blue Indy and receive my card.
Here’s what I don’t love about Blue Indy:
- The Price – While I only purchased the daily membership (full list of price details below), I could see this getting a bit more expensive for regular users. I think this is a good choice for people without cars or insurance, but for those with cars, it can quickly become an added expense. Being billed while the car is parked in a lot while you run into the store bothered me slightly. Though I only took a total of 20 minutes on my trip, if I had been held up in line, I might have had to start paying the minute rate for additional time that I had not spent in transit.
- Taxes – I rented my car for 20 minutes, and was charged $9.36 instead of $8.00. While I guessed there might be some taxes on it, I did not expect to be charged 17% sales tax! While there website does show this tax is 17%, it is unclear if this is only charged once during membership set up, or if it is charged every time.
- Locations – I love that you can park almost anywhere, but downtown Indy is so easily walked that it almost seems silly to have so many locations on top of one another. However, in the winter, I can see these multiple locations coming in handy.
- Disposable Cards – I love the convenience of a daily membership, but having to request a new card every time is a bit of a pain. I wish there was an easier way to reload your same card.
Will I use Blue Indy in the future? I am definitely not opposed to it and think it would be cheaper than taking a taxi to Broad Ripple. However, my vehicle is not much larger than the Blue Indy cars, so it seems silly not to drive myself. But if I were without transportation downtown or farther north, I could easily take Blue Indy to the Fountain Square station near my house or use it to get to my grad classes at night at Uindy.
Overall, I think Blue Indy is a welcome addition to the Indy public transportation system, though there are some minor kinks to work out. If you have been considering trying it out, I definitely recommend taking a car out for a test drive.