There’s an article in the Boston Globe touting automated parking and the new garage that is to be build in Beantown. Its an interesting story, and it seems that most of the details come from the manufacturer. Although I doubt the numbers, and that is probably a misunderstanding between the reporter who doesn’t know the industry, and his sources, Its a benign story. Read it here:.
I’m the first person to support the industry and its activities. However a close reading of the article supports my theory that there have been a lot of false starts in automated parking and this may just be one. Note the line that says the systems are "under consideration."
With all due respect to Robotic parking and Parking Solutions and their PR groups, we have reached the point with automated parking in the US where "under consideration" simply means that. The articles confirms what I have been saying for years, that there are only two automated systems running in the US, one in DC and one in Hoboken.
Those that follow this blog know that I love automated parking and am very disappointed that the politics of a small city in New Jersey can cause the pain that has been inflicted on our industry. I think that the time is long past for these systems, and I firmly believe that from what the article says the proposed system in Boston is appropriate for the technology.
However, I will repeat my long ending refrain.
1. Automated parking is only appropriate in places where standard garages are inappropriate.
2. Automated parking has, unfortunately, been oversold by its manufacturers. It is not reasonable for any system over 100 spaces to be run without an on site attendant, at least during the busiest times of the day. My understanding is that in Japan, where these machines are everywhere, all of them are staffed at all times when they are open. This may also be true in Europe, although I have no facts on that assertion.
3. The manufacturers have either been misquoted, or misunderstood in pricing these garages. The numbers in this article (10,000-15,000 a space) are not realistic. They probably include the gains from having to use less land or the like. This is legitimate, but should be pointed out. These were the numbers that were quoted 10 years ago. And at least one industry insider who has a successful installation tells me that they are off by 25-50%.)
4. Owners should not expect more than the equipment can provide. Where I’m told some systems can product a vehicle less than a minute after its requested, simple logic tells me that if you request 15 or 20 vehicles at the same time (as would be the case in the morning when people are leaving for work or in the evening when a theater lets out) that the 20th car will not arrive in a minute or less. Sorry, just don’t believe it. This isn’t bad, its just seem to be a fact. Once Again if you read the article carefully, you will discover that those quoted were pushing the envelope a bit in thier "car return" estimates." If you can get a car in three minutes, that means you can get 20 cars in an hour. So, if you have two retreival systems you can get 40 cars in an hour, not 80. But even assuming you do a car in 2 minutes, thats 30 an hour or 60 with two systems. All that being said. If you are the 60th car, you will wait an hour. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it will take an hour to get your car, but certainly if six people show up at the same time, at it takes two mintues to get a car from each retrival system. Someone is going to wait six minutes, not two. Somebody tell me how I’m wrong.
5. These work best when the user group is trained, as in condo projects or in 100% contract (monthly) parking. One newbie attempting to retrieve or drop off their car for the first time could wreak havoc with the return times.
6. Automated garages are automatic valet systems. They bring all the security and convenience of a valet operation without the staff. If one expects to have their car in 15 minutes from a valet, its unrealistic to expect it in one minute from an automated system.
7. There are many benefits of an automated garage. They don’t compete with a standard concrete facility. One shouldn’t attempt to sell them against them.
There are more, but its early.
I dearly hope that the article in on target, and that in December of 06 another automated garage will begin construction. I don’t recommend any breath holding, however. There’s a lot of activity that takes place between the verbal and the written word.