By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Get ready for the cost of parking at meters in Philadelphia’s neighborhood commercial districts to go up, following a City Council committee vote yesterday.

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Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Parking Authority will be exploring the idea of being able to pay the meter with your cell phone.

City Council’s Streets and Services Committee okayed a rate change for all 8,000 meters in Philadelphia, from 50 cents an hour to $1.00 an hour.

Assuming it is approved by the full Council, the change would likely come in July.

These old-style meters are still used outside of center city and University City, and Parking Authority deputy executive director Rick Dickson told the committee that the goal of the rate hike is to increase turnover so the spaces aren’t tied up all day.

“We try to find a balance between reasonable rates that people can afford, but having them high enough that they create that turnover that creates those parking opportunities,” Dickson (at right in photo) said.

Councilwoman Cindy Bass, whose district includes parts of Germantown Avenue, voiced the fear that businesses could be hurt by the rate hike.

“I have some great concerns about that, because I do think in some areas it may be a deterrent (to shoppers),” she said.

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But Dickson said businesses may benefit by the rate hike.

“It’s even more detrimental to business when (shoppers) get to a commercial area and look for a place to park and can’t find one, because the rates are so cheap that there’s never enough turnover to bring more business in,” he said.

Parking Authority executive director Vince Fennerty (at left in photo) agreed:

“If we raise the rates, it will open up the parking.  If it’s a dollar an hour, then it becomes eight dollars a day.  You’ll think about parking on the side street.  And that’s what we’re hoping is going to happen.”

Also approved was a rate hike for multi-space kiosks in the outlying areas of center city and in University City.   Those rates would go up to $2.50 an hour, which matches the rate at core center city kiosks.

It’s estimated that the hikes would bring in an additional $7.5 million per year, which would go to the cash-starved school district.

The rate hikes comes as the Philadelphia Parking Authority phases out its smartcard program.  But Fennerty told the committee that they are exploring newer technologies, including ones that would allow you to use a credit card at a meter, or pay with your phone.

He said a request for proposals for a pilot program would go out to vendors in about six months.

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