PARKING-METER rates in neighborhood commercial corridors have been set at 50 cents for more than 20 years, but a bill approved by a City Council committee yesterday could double it to a buck if Council passes it.

Philadelphia Parking Authority executive director Vincent Fenerty Jr. said that rate increases would benefit businesses by forcing a higher turnover rate at parking spots. Virtually all the additional money from the rate increases would go to the city's beleaguered school district. Fenerty anticipated about $10 million would go to the district this year, down from the Parking Authority's $13 million contribution last year.

"It's no secret some people aren't going to like us passing this bill. But additional money for schools is something we're interested in," Councilman Bill Greenlee said.

In the core of Center City, meter rates are set at $2.50 per hour. It's $2 per hour in the fringe area around Center City and in University City. Parking is cheaper in neighborhood commercial corridors, like Passyunk Avenue, where rates are set at 50 cents. Yesterday's bill would allow the Parking Authority to increase the rates for parking in the areas around Center City and in University City to $2.50 and $1 in neighborhoods.

"We believe this tool will permit the authority to make adjustments, which will increase parking availability, improve access to local businesses and reduce congestion," Fenerty said.

"The adjustments are modest and we believe will not provide a deterrent to shoppers and visitors in these areas."

Greenlee raised concerns over the accessibility of the parking kiosks, which can be troublesome with even a slightly crinkled dollar bill. They currently accept quarters, dollars and credit or debit cards.

Fenerty acknowledged the authority is going through "growing pains" with the kiosks and said they are working on a citywide campaign to make them more user-friendly.

If approved, motorists can expect the change to happen sometime in July. Fenerty said the authority is also exploring the ideas of integrating pay-by-phone options as well as smart cards, which are used in New York City and Washington, D.C.