Friday, February 12, 2016

PPA aims for launch of pay-by-cell system next summer

Mike McCue uses the parking meter in center city on March 22, 2010. (Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)
Mike McCue uses the parking meter in center city on March 22, 2010. (Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)

The Philadelphia Parking Authority is hoping to have a pay-by-cell system for metered parking up and running by next summer.

Other municipalities, including Allentown, Pa., and Camden, N.J., already have the technology in place. The mobile payment option is also already available within Philadelphia city limits: 19 privately held city lots owned by Parkway Corporation provide drivers the option.

The PPA will introduce technology enabling drivers to feed the meter from their phones “hopefully by next summer,” PPA spokesman Martin O’Rourke said Wednesday in an email.

The agency on Tuesday issued a request for information “to gather information and explore available options” from vendors about the mobile payment systems currently available. Responses are due July 31.

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  • The PPA hopes to use the information as a basis to issue a request for proposal, a more formal document generally used to select a vendor, by the end of the year, O’Rourke said.

    More details about what the program might look like were not available.

    Camden last August expanded its pay-by-cell service citywide after a successful pilot program in the University District.

    Allentown is currently testing the technology in parts of the city with a 90-day pilot that will be expanded if it generates use, according to a report from The Morning Call.

    Both Allentown and Camden, as well as several other municipalities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have contracted with New York-based platform provider MobileNOW! LLC.

    After registering online, patrons can add money to their meter via credit card by using a smart phone app or by making a phone call and following the prompts. Customers can also remotely extend their parking session without returning to their car and receive text alerts when their time is almost up.

    In many cities with pay-by-cell parking systems, the time purchased through mobile devices does not show up on the meter, and customers are not issued paper receipts to display on their dashboard.

    Parking enforcement agents must instead use handheld devices to access a database and confirm in real time that drivers have paid.

    For that reason, some cities using similar mobile payment technology have reportedly encountered hiccups.

    Since Chicago launched smart phone app ParkChicago last April, 317 legally-parked cars have been erroneously ticketed, according to a report from The Chicago Tribune.

    Representatives for the city and parking system operator alternately blamed the glitch on a “learning curve” for enforcement agents and connectivity issues surrounding the devices agents are supposed to use to check a parking database before they ticket cars, the paper reported. staff writer Emily Babay contributed to this report.

    Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

    Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.
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