PPA re-launches meterUp app as fallout continues from recent audit

The Philadelphia Parking Authority is making it a lot easier for drivers to pay for parking with the return of their meterUp smartphone app, which launched Monday.

But the app isn’t likely to help anyone forget that the authority is under fire for a multitude of problems, including alleged excessive salaries, after a new report emerged claiming the top PPA official will receive the largest payout ever from Philly’s infamous Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) program.

Deputy Executive Director Rick Dickson is set to collect $655,000 upon retirement in 2021, the Inquirer reported Monday. Dickson reportedly got into the program three days before City Council amended its rules in 2011 and lowered interest rates after widespread backlash against DROP. 

The program allows city employees to start receiving a city pension before they retire. Those payments go into interest-bearing accounts, and they receive the entire balance upon retirement. Dickson’s account has an interest rate of 4.5 percent, while the interest rate for new DROP applicants is around 0.85 percent, according to the Inquirer.

Dickson currently earns $208,153 a year for his role at the Authority and is expected to, after retirement, get a yearly pension of $150,000, in addition to the DROP payout. (The PPA had no comment on the story.)

Meanwhile, the PPA, despite undertaking numerous reforms after disgraced former Executive Director Vince Fenerty resigned 15 months ago, is reportedly under investigation by the FBI

A former employee told the Inquirer last week that FBI agents questioned him about the PPA’s red-light camera program. (A PPA spokesman said the FBI has not contacted the Authority. The FBI as policy does not confirm or deny any investigations.)

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale vowed he would refer the Authority to law enforcement after releasing a stinging report last week. He called the PPA “a bastion of political patronage” and called for a complete overhaul and return of the Authority to local control.

One accusation was “excessive salary increases.” Specifically, the report said that “30 senior-level management employees” collectively got a 19.4 percent pay hike – $621,000 – from July 1, 2014 to Oct. 31, 2016, “which appears to be excessive.”

The meterUp app (available on both iOs and Android) was first launched in November 2015 and then shut down in April due to “revenue shortfalls” experienced by the app’s operator.

Now it’s back as part of a partnership with Parkmobile, LLC. While currently only active at kiosks with meterUp signs, it is planned to soon expand citywide.

The app, which allows users to add more parking time from their phone without rushing to a kiosk, will “improve convenience and the overall parking experience in Philadelphia,” PPA Executive Director Clarena Tolson said in a press release.

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