The Ziman Center for Real Estate Studies put on a seminar on Automated (Robotic) Parking at UCLA yesterday and I attended along with Sandra Smith, incoming president of the Canadian Parking Association. Over 120 were present, including city parking managers from Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, LA, and Long Beach.. Automated Parking is on a resurgence.
Author and Architect Shannon McDonald began the day with a survey overview of the history of elevator garages around the country. She was follow by Ryan Astrup from Park Plus who gave a non company specific review of current technologies. A panel made of Astrup, Walker’s Don Monahan, Robert Ovrom, GM of the LA Building and Safety Department, and Paula Reddish Zinnemann, who is a principal at AP Solutions.
I was pleased that Ovrom was present. He is a good representative for the city, and was able to answer many quesitions as to the difficulties of getting automated systems approved. He noted that many of the problems rested with the fire department and working closely with fire marshalls is important.
Don Monahan gave one of the most focused presentations as he successfully, I think, exploded the myth that these system are so much more expensive than traditional garages plus presented a list of the more than 16 projects currently completed or underway. When he provided PT a list in January 2010, there were essentially the same number. Although there are a couple here in Los Angeles of interest. One is being done by Unitronics at the City of West Hollywood, and the other by another firm – whose name is on a card on the floor of my closet and I will insert when I get it - at the UCLA outpatient clinic in Santa Monica.
We had a great lunch afterwards with Paula, Don Shoup, his wife, Ryan, and Shannon. The consensus was that it was a good introduction for the developers present but there was more work to be done. Paula, who calls herself a missionary, felt strongly that the industry had hurt itself with the Hoboken Fiasco, and that consultants needed to be brought into the fold, and recommend this technology when appropriate.
Then, the most exciting part of the day, we went to Santa Monica and looked at a system being installed. Its a system that uses a sort of robot that slides under the vehicle, picks it up, and then takes it to a moving elevator crane that sweeps both to the appropriate space, then the robot deposits the car in the space and returns to the crane for the next victim. The beauty of this is that there is no framework, it can be built in a standard concrete garage form, and many of the issues with the building and safety and fire department are circumvented. Plus it can be retrofit in existing structures.
I took a video but promised the manufacturer I wouldn’t distribute it since the system was not up and running and this was simply a demo. He said everything should be ready to see when the building opens in January.
Oh, Don Shoup did note that this was the first real seminar devoted to Robotic/automated parking since the one we held in New Jersey 10 years ago. He was partially right. We also held a focused seminar with presentations, demonstrations, and exhibits at PIE about four years ago in Chicago. PT has been hawking this technology since the beginning. Its nice to know the rest of the industry is catching up.