By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia drivers are getting an easier, high-tech way to pay for parking.  But it will also be more expensive.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority is asking for proposals to provide a mobile parking payment system so drivers can use smartphones to pay fees on the street and in some lots.

“This is something we’ve been working on for several months,” notes deputy executive director Rick Dickson, who says the Parking Authority studied the systems at work in other cities so it can evaluate the proposals, “to ensure that we have a product that is reliable at the greatest value to the public.”

The system won’t cost the Parking Authority a thing because drivers will pay a fee to the provider on top of what they pay to park.

Dickson doesn’t know yet what the fee will be.

“Part of our evaluation criteria will be to see what the level of that fee is, so that we can get the lowest possible price for the consumer while providing an effective payment mechanism that’s reliable, safe — in terms of credit card processing — and convenient for the people that are using it,” he explains.

And Dickson says the PPA would like to launch a pilot project in center city this coming July, then expand the system citywide.

The pilot program would cover parking spaces in center between 4th Street and 20th Street, from Arch to Locust, and a couple of lots operated by the PPA.  The system would work at either kiosk or meter spaces by notifying the meter readers, via their handheld ticketing devices, that a particular driver has prepaid for that car’s parking.

“We understand that people don’t come here to park,” says Dickson.  “Parking, we hope, becomes a seamless part of their trip into the city, and this is a part of our effort to try to make that easier.”