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Test driving Philly's new parking app

So I tried the new Philadelphia Parking Authority app Wednesday morning. I've been out of town since the app debuted and I'm hesitant to say I've been excited to try it, because that makes it sound like I have a real dearth of good things in life to anticipate. But, yeah, I was looking forward to trying it.  Wednesday was my first chance.

First off, I'll admit I used a tip suggested by Philly Voice that allowed me to game the system somewhat. The new app, MeterUP, by the New York company Pango, is designed to discourage people from parking their vehicles in one place for an entire day, so rates double when you use the maximum amount of time allowed and then reup. So if a two hour parking space costs $6, getting another consecutive two hours costs $12.

I tried to get around that fee bump by using the app to pay for a minimal amount of time, 75 cents for 15 minutes, which got my vehicle on the app's map. I then paid for a full two hours with the kiosk. I didn't pay for another two hours through the app until the kiosk tag expired, so I avoided the doubled fee.

Getting the app set up was a little tricky. The first step was entering my personal information, like my license plate and credit card numbers. The app claims to have a function that scans credit cards and enters them automatically. I couldn't get that to work at all. Maybe it was a problem with the app. Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to photograph my credit card while it lay on the uneven surface of my car's glove compartment. I don't know. In any case I had to punch in my credit card digits manually.

Once I had my account established, though, the app was pretty straightforward. A map showed me where my car was parked at 8th and Arch streets,

and once I punched in the zone code displayed on the nearest kiosk it gave me 15 minute increments to select.

After I arrived at work, it accurately showed where I was in relation to my car.

I forget where I park all the time, so this is super helpful.

I also got text messages alerting me that my time was expiring. One criticism of the app I've heard is that it makes it might make it really easy for the parking authority to know when a person's parking time has expired. They're irritatingly good at that as it is, and receiving a real time update on parkers' statuses, which this app does provide, could potentially make them even more efficient. I tested it by letting my spot go unpaid for about a half hour. When I left work, there was no ticket on my windshield, so there's that.

Will I use this regularly? Hard to say. I live less than a mile from the Inquirer's offices on Market Street in a neighborhood replete with restaurants and shops. I don't drive much. Also, the convenience of not having to use the kiosk is negated by the fact that I'd have to walk pretty close to the kiosk anyway to read the zone number. But… as I mentioned, on this particular stop I paid with the kiosk first. I slid my card in several times before it registered. I tried to put in the amount of time I'd be parking and some of the buttons didn't work. It felt like I waited an eternity, with another guy standing behind me, before it spat out my parking tag. Avoiding time spent parked in front of that machine through a few taps on my phone sounds pretty good.