Magazine

Hoboken Automated Garage ReOpens Amid Fanfare

The trouble-plagued automated garage in Hoboken, NJ, reopened in December and was formally acknowledged at a ceremony in mid-January. The city garage, which had new software and some structural modifications by an Israeli company, had been closed for 10 months for the work.
“I’ve learned you need to wait a little while before you’re the first to try something new,” joked Mayor David Roberts at the ceremony. “But in Hoboken, we like to be the first.”
According to the New Jersey Journal, the futuristic structure, which is still the largest in the nation, uses computer-controlled lifts, conveyors and shuttles to automatically park and retrieve cars. Vehicles can be parked two and three deep, and with very little headroom.
“The new, more efficient system means just a two-to-three-minute wait for customers, and even less as the computer automatically learns customers’ routines and has cars ready in advance,” said John Corea, director of the Hoboken Parking Utility.
January’s event celebrated the transfer of power from the garage’s new designer, Unitronics, to the city, although the transfer itself occurred Dec. 1. The garage reopened at a lower capacity in October and has slowly been assigning the $200-per-month spaces to people on a waiting list. The city soon hopes to offer hourly parking at the lot, using spaces temporarily vacated by the monthly cars.
“This new computer system has four and five checks and balances,” Corea said. Improvements include three backup systems, one of which is manual; more sensitive lasers to measure cars and detect motion; and 144 electronic controls throughout the system that allow one part to be fixed while the rest continue running.
Corea also pointed out the new garage is economical to operate, costing about $250,000 per year, instead of $1 million for a comparable conventional lot, due to its density of cars and the need for fewer staff. The lot, in fact, will be staffed only during peak hours. At other times, customers can call a hotline with problems, most of which can be solved remotely, he said.
As for people who fear for their cars? Corea said he gets 10 times as many complaints about damaged cars from the conventional lots, since vandalism, theft and minor fender-benders are much less likely at the automated facility.
The garage was originally opened in 2002 and became a focus of commentary about automated garages in the US. The garage came in over budget and behind schedule. The problems were attributed to issues between the general contractor, the garage designer, the city of Hoboken and lack of intervention by a heavenly deity.
The entire automated parking industry in the US suffered through the tribulations and problems related to the opening, shakeout, and initial running of the 314-space facility. About a year ago, legal entanglements cleared to the point where a new design company was brought in and changes to the original system were put in place.

Article Abstract from March, 2008




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