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Does New Indy Zoo Ticket System Hurt Low Income Visitors?

The new ticket system bases prices on the projected demand for the day, pushing weekday prices up and weekend prices down.

visitor feeding giraffe at Indianapolis Zoo

Photo: anonymous_object (Flickr)

A visitor feeds a giraffe at the Indianapolis Zoo.

The Indianapolis Zoo recently implemented a “dynamic pricing system,” that adjusts ticket prices based on projected demand.

Since it was put into place, the system has been receiving both positive and negative reactions. Two Indiana University professors fall on opposite sides of the debate.

Michael Rushton, a professor at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, says the pricing gives visitors more options, which is good for the customer.

Visitors can choose to go to the zoo when it is less expensive – much like going to a movie on weekday afternoon versus Friday night.

“People on a budget or people who don’t want to spend that much for it can look for, ‘well when are the days when the prices are lower,’ and go on that day,” he says.

Kim Donahue, IU Kelley School of Business marketing lecturer, disagrees.

“That ignores the fact that most people on limited incomes do not have flexibility built into their schedule,” she says.

While Donahue says she sees the benefit of dynamic pricing, a Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job lends only to weekend visits, which are now pricier.

She says that means people with lower-income, who typically have less flexible jobs than others, are impacted more heavily by the price changes.

Zoo officials, though, are happy with the new system which they say helps balance crowd sizes throughout the week. They encourage visitors to book visits online and ahead of time to get the best pricing available.

Weekly adult pass prices vary from about $15 during the week to as much as $30 on the weekends.

Alex Dierckman

Alex Dierckman is a reporter and anchor for WFIU/WTIU News and Indiana Newsdesk. She has been with the station since 2012. From Carmel, Indiana, Alex is excited to report and deliver the news in her home state. You can follow her on Twitter @alexdierckman.

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