Santa Rosa is gearing up to take a couple of parking meters for a test drive this week.
The city is set to roll out two new styles of single-space parking meters in the 600 block of 4th Street downtown to help determine which is the best fit for downtown.
The month-long pilot project, prompted by a petition from downtown merchants critical of the paper-based parking kiosks, is designed to see which units the public prefers and which work best with the city’s internal systems.
Two rival parking meter manufacturers — IPS Group of San Diego and Duncan Solutions of Milwaukee — submitted bids to the city that were very similar, prompting the city to stage the parking meter face-off.
“We really thought it was necessary to see the equipment in operation and let the public use it so we can make sure we make the best choice,” said Kim Nadeau, the city’s parking coordinator.
Twenty meters from each company were installed last week but remain covered with plastic bags until tests can be completed allowing the units to go live, probably on Wednesday, Nadeau said.
Most are installed side-by-side in two-meter housings, allowing their features to be easily compared.
The units are very similar.
Both accept credit and debit cards and coins. Both have digital screens displaying how much time remains. Both are solar powered. And both flash to alert meter readers when the time is expired.
There are differences, though.
The Duncan Solutions meters have a curved top, reminiscent of the classic parking meters and other single-space meters installed in other parts of the downtown.
The IPS meters have a more modern look, sporting a diamond-shaped head.
Another difference is in the system used to detect whether a vehicle is in a parking space.
The Duncan system has a radar-based sensor located on the pole. The IPS system uses a hockey-puck-sized magnetic sensor embedded in the ground.