Santa Rosa is preparing to install high-tech parking meters from two rival companies to help it decide which system is best equipped to replace the much-maligned downtown parking kiosks.

City workers recently began installing poles along the 600 block of Fourth Street that will soon house the new devices, which are meant to be easier to use.

The city opted for a 30-day trial because a selection panel couldn't decide between two finalists bidding for the right to supply the city with 215 new single-space meters, explained Kim Nadeau, the head of the city's parking division.

"Because they were so close, we wanted to make sure we had absolutely the most information before we went forward with a recommendation," Nadeau said.

The two finalists are IPS Group of San Diego and Duncan Solutions of Milwaukee. The meters are expected to go live in mid-September.

Each company has agreed to supply the city with 20 parking units at no cost so it can evaluate both the user experience and the back-office software, Nadeau said.

The units are solar powered, accept coins and credit cards, and, unlike the kiosks, do not require a drivers to return to their vehicles to place a slip of paper in the dashboard.

In addition to the meters, the companies are each providing five sensors that can detect when a car is located in a space, Nadeau said.

In May, the City Council agreed to explore replacing about 30 kiosks with new single-space meters after downtown merchants submitted petitions signed by more than 2,000 people expressing a preference for modern single-space meters.

The city estimated the cost of the new meters at about $172,000. The actual cost won't be known until the successful bidder is selected.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or On Twitter @citybeater.