The city doubled parking-meter rates in Center City this week. You'll be shocked -

shocked!

- to learn that people who park at those meters are unhappy.

"Everything is going up except the money you earn," Sharese Bass said as she plucked a $36 parking ticket from the windshield of a white Subaru yesterday morning, about 10 minutes after the meter had expired.

"I know the city is broke," she said, "but what the heck? This is way more than anybody can afford."

A 33-year-old student at the Empire Beauty School on Chestnut Street, Bass does not even own a car. She had caught a ride with her friend Jacqueline Rivera and was sharing the job of running out to feed the meter.

"If you miss one minute, they will still give you a ticket. They're like vultures," said Rivera, who was wrapping a client's hair around pink rollers when her friend delivered the bad news - and the long white envelope with a blue band and the word violation.

"Usually I take the train," she said, vowing that from now on she'd stick to public transportation.

"If she's in school all day, she doesn't need a metered space," said Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation. "There actually is a rhyme and reason for all this."

Though she said she regretted inflicting pain on struggling students such as Rivera, Cutler said that if higher parking rates and stiff fines persuade people to put their cars in garages or leave them at home - well, let's be honest, she won't regret the pain all that much.

The rate hikes are part of a multi-prong attack on gridlock, Cutler said. Eventually, she said, roads will be clearer, buses will breeze along, delivery trucks won't be double-parked, and you won't have to waste an hour and a half-tank circling to find a spot when you only need to run in to shop for a couple of hours or go to the bank or have lunch with a friend.

"If you're going to be in the city all day, it's a better deal to be on public transit, or, if you do need a car and you're going to park longer than an hour or two, you need to go into a garage," she said.

Cutler said she hoped the meter hike would benefit businessmen like Alan Romisher.

So far, he's not feeling the love.

Yesterday, Romisher, a commercial food salesman, had a meeting in Center City. He found what seemed like a perfect two-hour spot on Chestnut between 17th and 18th Streets.

But his clients arrived an hour late, and halfway through the meeting his time ran out.

"There it is," Romisher said when he went back to his car and found the ticket on his windshield. "It's a beauty."

He opened the ticket, checked the fine - $36 - and groaned: "They're making it impossible to do business in this city."

It was the third time this week that Romisher, who lives in Queen Village, had found a personal greeting from the Philadelphia Parking Authority waiting for him on his windshield.

He said he knew the city's reasoning: "The parking lots charge so much, so at $2 an hour it's a bargain, and if you park on the street, you should -"

Translation: Blah blah blah blah blah.

He said he'd like to see the city issue stickers for salesmen, granting special dispensation if they overstay their metered welcome.

Told of his discontent, Cutler said - as Romisher had predicted - that the difference between $1 an hour and $2 an hour for a metered spot was not exactly a deal-breaker for a businessman. (And she noted that even at the lower meter rates, Romisher would have been ticketed for running out of time.)

Cutler believes that in time, however, Romisher will actually be grateful: "I am making that salesman's life easier."

Once the plan is fully launched sometime this summer and the rates in Center City and University City jump to $3 an hour, she said, meter hogs will cede their spots to salesmen like Romisher, there will be more places for bicyclists and motorcycles to park, and smoother traffic will make more people want to take the bus.

It may be quite a while yet before she can expect any thank-you notes.

"I'll be calling up to fight this," Romisher said, slipping the ticket in his briefcase. "You don't have to worry."