PPA delays 2¢ taxi rate increase, approves new mobile app provider

The Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) Board of Directors approved Parkmobile, LLC to run MeterUp, its pay-by-mobile parking app.

The previous provider, Pango USA, suddenly stopped services in April. It’s one-cent charge per transaction proved too good to be true, said PPA Deputy Executive Director Corinne O’Connor, and the company said it couldn’t afford to continue operations in Philadelphia. Pango had hoped to monetize the customer data gleaned from app users, but apparently was unsuccessful in that endeavor.

Parkmobile users will be charged a 40¢ surcharge to use the mobile app to pay for parking, a sizeable increase but not one, O’Connor says, large enough to discourage users.

Parkmobile was one of four providers the PPA considered, and provide a third highest price. Passport Parking App bid a 21¢ surcharge, but the PPA ultimately went with Parkmobile, citing its comparative long tenure (7 years) in the relatively young mobile payment industry and strong financials.

Parkmobile currently provides parking payment-by-app services in Harrisburg, Dallas, Denver, Wildwood, and Ocean City, NJ, among others, said O’Connor. Users will be able to use Parkmobile’s existing app or can download a new MeterUp app that is replacing the old one from Pango.

Parkmobile will handle all costs. The app will deploy this fall in center City, University City and at the Torresdale, Fox Chase and Fern Rock SEPTA stations. The exact launch date has yet to be finalized.

The PPA board also delayed a two cent taxi rate increase scheduled to begin September 1st. Rates will now go up on December 1st. The PPA authorized the delay in response to requests from medallion taxi drivers and owners, who have been negotiating with vendors to update the rate meters in the cars.

The PPA board approved the increase at the request of the taxi drivers and owners, who say the increase will add up to $5- to $7-a-day in additional revenues for drivers, who have been struggling since Uber and Lyft began operations in the city.

Now, the PPA board is approving the delay at their request.

Taxi Workers Alliance President Ronald Blount requested the delay at the beginning of the PPA Board meeting. “I’ve been coming to board meetings for over ten years, and I’ve never made this request: I want to make a request for an oral resolution that our petition for the two cents be delayed for three months.”

Blount explained that older rate meters require a person to manually change the price on the device. Negotiations with vendors to do that work have been ongoing, Blount said, but they needed more time, noting that they had already talked down the vendor from $50-per-meter to $35.

Cab companies have been switching to newer, digital rate meters. Those meters can have their rates easily changed, Blount said. But most of the city’s cabs still use the older meters.

Board member Russ Wagner asked whether cab owners — not just the drivers represented by Blount — had weighed in on the matter. That prompted Taxi and Limousine Division Director Christine Kirlin to inform the board that she had received letters from cab owners representing around 80 percent of all medallion holders urging the three month delay.

In other board actions, the PPA held off on approving underwriters for a $55 million bond issuance for parkign improvements at Philadelphia International Airport and refinancing of existing debt. The board voted to table the matter and hold a special meeting before City Council reconvenes September 14th. The bond issuance is tied to other renovations at the airport, and will require three seperate ordinances from City Council beforehand. 

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