By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Philadelphia Parking Authority and the Nutter administration are at odds over plans to let you pay for on-street parking with a smartphone "app."
PPA officials want to move ahead with this, but the mayor fears it will affect school district funding.
The Parking Authority hopes to choose a vendor later this month to develop a smartphone app for on-street parking payments, with testing of the app by this fall.
"This is innovation. It's about making it easier to pay the meter," notes PPA executive director Vince Fenerty (below).
But the Nutter administration wants to put the brakes on this because it could lead to fewer tickets written and a drop in the ticket revenues that go the cash-starved school district.
"It's great news for customers," Andrew Stober, with the mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, says of the proposed app. "They're far less likely to get a ticket as a result of mobile payment technology. (But) the way we've set up our revenues from the Parking Authority, that's bad news for the school district."
The city and school district share in the net proceeds of the PPA's on-street operation. Stober (below) says last year that came to about $37 million to the city, and $9.7 million to the school district.
He says the mayor wants the Parking Authority to hold off on the mobile app until its revenue impact is studied.
"At a time when we are struggling to make sure that we have the resources that we need, we need to make sure we're not digging ourselves deeper into a hole," he said. "We look forward to trying to find a way to both bring this new technology here, and not have impacts for the school district."
But Fenerty, head of the PPA, dismisses the administration's fears of a financial hit.
"I think it's preposterous," Fennerty says. "We're driving technology to make it easier for citizens to pay. I respect the Nutter administration, but I think they're wrong on this one. I'm confident that this will make up for any revenue that is lost by the non-issue of tickets."
The dispute surfaced this morning during a City Council committee hearing on the program. The Parking Authority was seeking approval of a measure that would increase the rates for drivers using a mobile app if they later add time from a remote location.
"It really helps those people that are stuck in a meeting or a doctor's appointment and can't get back to their parking space, and it's worth paying a little extra rather than get a parking ticket," noted the PPA's deputy executive director, Rick Dickson.
The PPA's mobile app plan is aggressive. Fenerty and Dickson are hoping for approval of a mobile app vendor by the Parking Authority board later this month. Dickson says they would then test the app in center city this fall, with possible citywide rollout by year's end.
"By the end of the fall we would anticipate that we would have made a decision about whether the app was successful, and then implement it citywide," says Dickson. "We think on balance it is a really positive thing for the consumer, and it will not have a negative impact on the payment that we make to the city or school district."
The Streets and Services Committee of City Council approved the measure setting rates for mobile parking payments. Fenerty, at the hearing, promised the administration an analysis of the program's financial impact.
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