Wants to meet other Shoupistas
February, 2006Editor, Parking Today:
I've been subscribing to Parking Today for the past three or four years. Thanks for doing all the work to keep the publication afloat. I enjoy every issue. I'm writing to thank you for ceaselessly promoting Shoupism and to count me as a Shoupista. It's such a simple and elegant picture of our parking mess -- how we got into it and how we can get out of it.
I was part of the management team that founded Zipcar -- a car-sharing service that has dramatic impacts on parking (if you're not familiar with the service, check out zipcar.com). The company has outgrown me, and I am now looking for the next steps for my career. Working to implement some of Shoup's ideas seems like a lot of fun. I am looking for other parking and transportation professionals and consultants who might be interested in networking and possibly working together. As I read yet another article of yours to promote Shoupism (January 06), the thought came to me that you may have attracted other letters like mine and might know of some people I could network with. If you do, I'd appreciate your passing my name along to them and vice versa.
Consider it done. Editor.
Likes article on Hoboken
Editor, Parking Today:
Just a quick note to let you know I think your commentary in the December PT ("Hoboken Back in the Headlines") was fair, insightful and well-written. Your comments hit the nail right on the head. Oh, that it would make contact with the "powers-that-be ..."
The old saying "Build it, and they will come" has never been more true. No company has constructed a system to their own particular "ideal" specifications. Even Robotic Parking had to shuck and jive to [try to] please Hoboken, and it has cost them dearly [it appears].
If there is a company out there with the latest, greatest mousetrap (automated parking system), it is imperative they build one to their own specifications -- and advertised expectations. Beside the obvious problems you exposed, I think the primary and most critical problem is still ... funding.
Again, thank you for staying abreast of the automated parking situation and sharing it with your readers.
Doesn't Like Commentary on Hoboken
Editor, Parking Today:
Yes, your story about Hoboken is sad. But sad for the industry, Hoboken and your readers. What needs clarification are some of the statements that you make.
1. Things have not been going too well at the facility, for a long time. It took all of 1999, 2000 (to September), then most if not all of 2001. It wasn't until sometime in October 2001 when vehicles started in.
2. But the facility could take only 25, or maybe it was 60, vehicles a week. Then it was operation stop at around 200.
3. Gerhard Haag and Robotic Parking never ever had any signed agreement with Hoboken to build anything.
4. Robotics, however, stated that they designed their garage.
5. The agreement (bid documents) were with the parking authority (autonomous body) and the general contractor. Robotic was a subcontractor to the general.
7. The bid stipulated, and all parties were bound by it, to conclude the job within 365 days. As you will note above, it took almost over three years to even move a car.
8. Yes, there is a lot of blame, but let's be objective, if we can. Hoboken decided to move ahead with an automated facility. We were informed, and it is in writing, that the facility would not require an attendant. Today, there are at least two-plus attendants on duty.
9. You state every person deserves some part of the blame. But the major portion are from the perspective of the parking authority.
10. Haag is mentioned only once, and he should be mentioned as Haag and the authority, Haag and the contractor, etc.
11. That does not mean that the opposite of Haag bears all the blame.
12. Haag was responsible from day one, for the specs and for everything relating to the so-called technology that he supposedly had.
13. If that were the case, then why almost three years? They fiddled while Hoboken burned for months and for months at triple time (24/7).
14. The only personnel that the authority was ready to supply were clerks to act as customer relations and keep the facility clean.
15. And this is what we anticipated from day one, not from day 900.
16. Odd vehicle dropped -- Robotic blamed the owner of the vehicle, who has yet to be paid for the total damage to his Cadillac. These are rare, but then Robotic blames personnel. Then who is to blame for a jacket left on a pallet that then tied up the facility for over two hours recently?
Yes, he had an idea and a patent. Read his patent; I did. It is fine, but it contains no technology. Well, why did his technician say to me we do not use GE?
Yes, John, it is a disaster. Too bad, because there are companies out there that have the technology to install automated parking.
Former Commissioner of the Parking Authority
And Robotic Parking responds to PT's Commentary:
Editor, Parking Today:
From your opening apology, it seems that Gerhard Haag is not the only one with the customary "arrows in the back" that all pioneers seem destined to experience. You helped pioneer the concept and Gerhard is unarguably a pioneer -- arrows and all.
Your drum roll for a requiem may be a bit premature, but your points about the difficulties in Hoboken are mostly well-taken, particularly your apt understatement: "not a good place to cut your teeth on a new technology and in a country where the customs are foreign."
There is no question that automated parking is the wave of the future. Its potential positive impact on urban land use is too great to be postponed forever. Those who persist will be amply rewarded -- Robotic Parking and competitors included.
One point on the Hoboken scene that has not received a lot of attention is the differentiation between building and operating the garage. Building the garage is Business to Business (B to B), and is an environment in which Gerhard has demonstrated a high degree of competence over the years.
Operating the garage is Business to Consumer (B to C), and has a different set of dynamics. We "wire heads" have to realize that fully and learn from our clients if we are to ultimately succeed.
In Hoboken, we have Business to Government to Consumer, and that inevitably adds in local politics with all its inherent joys and wonderful challenges. One possibility to improve this is for the patrons to own the garage. That way:
1) They have direct control over the contract with Robotic Parking and therefore the level of service they receive.
2) They can be the beneficiaries of the increased property values resulting from having an apartment or home that comes with an included parking space -- particularly valuable in Hoboken.
We have suggested this to the relevant city officials several times. Some patrons seem to favor the idea. But whatever happens, the important person in the picture is the garage patron. Hundreds of thousands of successful transactions for three years with a relatively tiny percentage of unsuccessful transactions do not make up for one mishap or one client who has to wait for a car.
But we haven't given up, and we have our best people there working on making sure the customer experience is optimum. They are succeeding. We may err occasionally, but we will continue to make this garage work. And, as you point out, those that are joined at the hip with us will all benefit.
All the best!
Robotic Parking Board of Directors