By Ian Bush

By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Your smartphone could be a new line of defense against those dreaded parking tickets in Philadelphia. It’s thanks to a free app that’s being released this week by the same agency that doles out those violations.

When you think of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, you probably don’t think of saving money (it’s usually quite the opposite). But the PPA on Thursday will go live with a new app that could help you avoid falling victim to their enforcement officers.

“There will be less tickets issued for meter and kiosk violations as people use this app,” says Vince Fenerty, PPA executive director. “We expect that.”

It’s called meterUP, and lets you pay to park and extend your time in a street space, all from the comfort of your iPhone or Android.

Begin your parking session by typing in the zone number as marked on stickers and signs on or near the kiosks and meters. The app takes your license plate and a credit card number, and tacks on a one-cent fee per transaction.

(video:) “When you have seven minutes left, you’ll receive a text message notifying you that your meter’s almost up.  You can hit the extend button to put more time on your parking without returning to your vehicle.”

You only get charged for as much time as you park — so if lunch runs shorter than you thought, you can ‘stop’ the time and you only pay to the nearest 15-minute increment. If you want to go past the posted time limit, that’s OK — but the parking cost doubles each time you exceed the limit.  meterUP won’t charge you to park in a space that’s free, and will alert you to rush hour zones or other restrictions.

(credit: Ian Bush/KYW)

(credit: Ian Bush/KYW)

The six-month, first phase of the rollout starts Thursday on streets from 4th to 20th, Arch to Locust; along Columbus Boulevard from Race to Spring Garden; at the Torresdale SEPTA station; and at the Parking Authority lot at 8th and Chestnut.  The first 5,000 people who use meterUP get a free hour of parking.

The Nutter administration had raised concerns that the ease of extending a parking session on the app would lead to fewer violations being issued and therefore less money going to the cash-strapped Philadelphia school district. But Fenerty says the PPA believes the project will be “revenue-neutral.”

“We did tell council that if we thought it was not revenue-neutral that we would do an analysis and we would go back and maybe the parking rates would have to go up,” he explains. “But that is a good time away yet. We have to do an analysis and see if there is a loss of revenue… we have a plan down the line exactly how we’ll remedy it if it isn’t working.”