Santa Rosa shoppers make their parking meter pick

  • Skilled maintenance worker with the City of Santa Rosa, Chuck Jones, left, and product support engineer with IPS Group, Inc., Panya Lim install a new type of parking meter to be tested along Fourth Street in Santa Rosa on Friday, September 13, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

A clear winner has emerged from Santa Rosa's one-month trial of two rival manufacturers of high-tech parking meters.

There's just one problem — it's going to cost the city even more than expected to roll out the new technology downtown.

The pilot project in the 600 block of Fourth Street downtown clearly showed that IPS Group of San Diego was the favorite of the public and city staff alike, besting Duncan Solutions of Milwaukee, said Kim Nadeau, the city's parking coordinator.

Drivers preferred IPS's larger, easier to read screens while city staff reported they were easier to maintain and empty of coins. It was also easier to spot meter violations.

But while the units were well received by the public and staff, people spent 9 percent less using the meters over the 30-day trial period than they had the prior year.

"I was very surprised," Nadeau said. "I didn't think we'd see a 9 percent revenue decrease."

That means that in addition to spending $258,000 to expand the program to 219 meters over six downtown blocks, the new meters will probably mean about a $55,000 drop in annual meter revenue, Nadeau said.

"There is a cost associated with that convenience and this is the cost," Nadeau said.

The recommendation heads to the City Council on Tuesday.

It's possible drivers using the new single-space meters spent less than the kiosk-based system because people using the kiosks were willing to buy more time knowing they could take it with them, Nadeau said.

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