Hoboken Back in the Headlines
With apologies to my friends in the automated parking industry, I bring this sad story to your attention. Well, I'm not alone; there have been a dozen articles written in local and national papers about the problems in Hoboken, NJ, in the past few weeks. Things aren't going well at this automated facility.
The back story:
Gerhard Haag and Robotic Parking got a contract to build an automated garage in Hoboken. It was the perfect application for the technology. Everyone was excited. Thus began an almost seven-year litany of issues, problems, lawsuits, blame, success and failure.
Don't think for a moment that Gerhard is the only one at fault in this story. There is plenty of blame to go around. It includes the general contractor, the mayor at the time, the parking authority, the local power company, the designer, the consultant, the architect, the person writing the specifications, the weather, and well, virtually everyone involved in the project deserves some part of the blame.
The project was way behind completion -- almost two years. When done, everyone was arguing as to whether or not it worked as it was supposed to, and who is to supply personnel to run it.
This is one of those situations where there is no absolute right or wrong. The issue is that even today, problems exist and from time to time folks have to wait a few hours to get their cars out. There is also the odd vehicle that is dropped from the third floor. Not good.
Naturally, the city is running for the hills, hiding behind contracts and lawyers. Gerhard is frustrated, of course, because he thinks the owner should begin to take some responsibility for what he bought.
And there you have it -- the reason a niche industry in our business is stalled and having such difficulty getting going. It is a classic case of what can go wrong in a project.
I remember years ago at a meeting of the Automated and Mechanical Parking Association, when rumblings of the problems at Hoboken were starting, Arturo Ressi of Trevipark spoke out strongly. "We manufacturers should do whatever it takes to make Hoboken work. Gerhard needs our support and should get it."
Ah, the great Italian solution. All for one and one for all (or was that the Three Musketeers?). Of course, Gerhard didn't get it. Most of the other manufacturers really were looking for him to fail. Arturo was right, of course. The less-than-stellar performance of the Hoboken garage has put many other projects on hold. Gerhard's competitors send me articles about the problems in Hoboken. They roll their eyes and chuckle about the issues.
What is most sad is that Gerhard Haag was the only manufacturer that put his money where his mouth is. He built a test system in Ohio. He showed people how it would work. And he got the deal. Of course, he didn't know how to work in an environment like Hoboken. Power, influence, politics, money and perhaps a bit of rubbing right up against the law were involved. Not a good place to cut your teeth on a new technology and in a country where the customs are foreign.
The result is a stalled technology. Virtually no other automated systems have been installed in the U.S. They work all over the world, but no one wants to be the first one here. (OK, there is one running in DC, and 50,000 that are going to break ground "next month.")
One can only hope that this gets sorted out. But knowing all the players on all sides personally, I'm not holding my breath. Competitors are laughing at Robotic's problems. Little do they realize that they are joined at the hip.
Article Abstract from December, 2005