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Inside a Mechanical Parking Garage 295

Posted by michael
from the at-least-the-valet-isn't-joyriding dept.
poisedleft writes "Slate has this article about a mechanical parking garage in DC. 'Despite the undeniable Jetsons cachet of the robo-garage, the Summit Grand Parc went automatic only because it had to. A 60-foot-by-106-foot lot behind the building, the only land available for a conventional garage, couldn't hold more than 14 spaces.' One potential problem for suffering city dwellers: long lines at rush hour."
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Inside a Mechanical Parking Garage

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  • Beware... (Score:5, Funny)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:00AM (#8753917)
    Cars not picked up in time to avoid having racked up more charges for being parked than they're worth are automatically loaded into the attached crusher...
  • Old Technology (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:00AM (#8753918)
    This sort of technology has been widely used in Japan since the early 90s.
  • Jetsons? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ejaw5 (570071) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:01AM (#8753921)
    It sure has been a long while...but IIRC when George Jetson arrived at work after dropping off Jane, Elroy and Astro his vehicle collapsed into a standard size briefcase which he took into the office.
  • Not new news (Score:5, Informative)

    by gnuman99 (746007) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:01AM (#8753923)
    I've heard of these types of parking lots being operational in places in Japan and Hong Kong for a number of years now.

    Of course, if everyone just used public transit, then public transit would be faster and we could put parks in place of parking lots. But I guess it is more convenient to sit twice as long in a grid lock...

    • Re:Not new news (Score:3, Interesting)

      by irokitt (663593)
      As if it would be more convenient for us suburban types to walk a few miles (about 4 where I am) in the rain to get to a bus stop. And since there are only a handful of buses that come near me, I would have to forgo anything in my schedule that happens before 1100 am.

      When I lived downtown, I rode the bus back and forth everywhere. But times change, fares go up, schedules get changed for more "efficiency", and the end result is that riding the bus is no longer an attractive option for me.
      • Re:Not new news (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ironica (124657) <pixel@@@boondock...org> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @02:21AM (#8754260) Journal
        As if it would be more convenient for us suburban types to walk a few miles...When I lived downtown, I rode the bus back and forth everywhere.

        You chose to live in a place without accessible transit. Sure, you probably had your reasons... of course, if our public policy didn't encourage people to buy as much house as they can possibly afford, and we didn't make it so much cheaper to develop in the outskirts than in the city, your choice might have been different. But it's still the choice you made.

        Where do you work? Do you commute to a place where you're competing with tens of thousands of other people for road space? If so, then moving out to the suburbs just made everything that tiny bit worse for all of us. If you work at home or somewhere near where you live, then it makes a bit more sense.
        • Re:Not new news (Score:3, Insightful)

          by black mariah (654971)
          Okay, and for those of us that have to pay for housing, what do you suggest? People live in the suburbs because it's cheap housing. Go price some houses or apartments in a downtown area.
        • Re:Not new news (Score:5, Interesting)

          by cmacb (547347) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @04:41AM (#8754630) Homepage Journal
          "You chose to live in a place without accessible transit. Sure, you probably had your reasons..."

          No, I think you decided what you had to say before you read his post though: *They moved the route!*

          Never the less. I have lived here near DC and have used both public transit and driven to work. About an equal amount of each.

          I was inclined to use mass transit when my hours were both fixed, and normal. If your hours are unpredictable, as many are these days, you can get screwed. Parking lots that feed the metro system here in DC fill up between 8AM and 9AM. Shortly after that the busses go into a reduced schedule, then stop running completely in many places except for the morning and afternoon rush. Makes perfect sense doesn't it? Using mass transit with even a slightly shifted schedule here is almost impossible. The system runs at full capacity for a couple hours every morning and afternoon and then dries up almost completely, simply because there is no way to get to it.

          But that doesn't stop people from saying data-free things like "if more people would just use mass transit, things would be so much better".

          Most of these systems run at a loss. They almost all were built on a model that said they could run profitably if ridership were "X" and now in most cases ridership is "2X" or more.

          Thats not to mention recent finding that there is little or no preparedness for terrorism in these systems. Guess what? They "forgot" to deal with that issue, and now they will need more money for that. They also "forgot" what they did with millions of dollars in parking fees for the system, and yes, they will need more money(!) to automate their money tracking system better so they don't lose so much money in the future. Maybe.

          These systems become huge bureaucratic sinkholes, with nobody really claiming responsibility for anything that happens. In the end, taxpayers anywhere in the vicinity of these systems end up footing the bill for all the waste, and politicians who get chauffeured to work utter platitudes about increasing ridership to solve all problems.

          Is the answer for everyone to get a low gas mileage SUV and drive 75 miles to work every day? No. But there are lots of alternatives. Fuel efficient cars. Car pooling. An for the vast majority of information/office workers, simply STAY HOME. Our problems with this are way more cultural than technological. Very few people who work for the federal government can work at home. They have to show up. To see, and be seen by all the other people who show up. Never mind what they accomplish, or fail to accomplish. They were there for roll call, now where is the paycheck?

          Many people who live only a few hours from these urban eye-sores drive economy cars, work a few miles away at the hardware store or coffee shop. They don't breath polluted air. They don't drink lead contaminated water (that DC city officials "forgot" to tell anyone about).

          The solution to many of these problems is to stop cramming people into high rise buildings where they live and bussing them to high rise building where they work. That model fails to produce quality of life wherever it has been tried worldwide.
          • Re:Not new news (Score:3, Interesting)

            by weave (48069) *

            The solution to many of these problems is to stop cramming people into high rise buildings where they live and bussing them to high rise building where they work. That model fails to produce quality of life wherever it has been tried worldwide.

            That certainly fits the description of Manhattan and quite a few people disagree with your sentiment based on what the market will bear for housing on the island. Density can also bring some advantages as well as disadvantages. People prefer different things.

            For

          • Re:Not new news (Score:5, Interesting)

            by frdmfghtr (603968) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @07:39AM (#8755104)
            I have lived here near DC and have used both public transit and driven to work. About an equal amount of each.

            I wish I could say the same...

            My daily commute from Virginia to DC is about 9 miles one-way across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Anybody who has lived in the DC/VA/MD area knows what a PITA that route can be. I also drive a hybrid, so I get great gas mileage and super-ultra-low emissions. I'm not just saying that; the car is rated as a SULEV. So when I sit in rush-hour traffic, I'm generally not burning any gas.

            One day I rode the bus/train to work because (a) My car was somewhere else and (b) I wanted to know how long it would take in case I had to do it repeatedly.

            My findings?

            When I leave the house at 6:30am, I get to work around 6:50. At 45 MPG and 90 miles/week, that's two gallons of gas. At $1.75/gallon, that's $3.50 work of fuel I burn in my commute every week. Per mile, my commute costs me 3.8 cents per mile in fuel.

            If, OTOH, I take the metro, I have to leave the house at 6:30 via the free shuttle from my place to the closest metro station, take the train into DC, transfer to another train, ride to another station, transfer to a bus, and ride the bus to the stop outside the office. That trip runs me about $2.75 ONE WAY and takes two hours. Total cost: $22.50 per week in metro fares. Now, taking into account that the run also covers roughly 3x the distance, that comes to about 8.3 cents per mile.

            So, riding mass transit costs me about twice what it costs me to drive myself on a per-mile basis, or over SIX TIMES what in costs me in absolute terms; but that's of course made up for by the fact that the commute takes six times as long.

            Fortunately I don't pay for parking, so I do have a big advantage there. If I paid for parking, then the story changes dramatically.

            In short--I'll continue to drive myself to work in the morning.

            Not to say that there aren't other times I'll take the metro to other places because of the convenience of not having to pay for parking or even finding a spot; I don't drive into downtown DC unless I have to, because traffic is a g-- d--- nightmare.
            • Re:Not new news (Score:2, Insightful)

              by LetterJ (3524)
              Your calculations would be fine, except you ignore the costs of the car itself, repairs or depreciation, maintenance, insurance, etc. While, at 40mpg, your costs are probably lower than average, there's a reason that the IRS gives ~$0.30/mile as the actual costs of driving. It's because most Americans have just taken for granted that they have a car payment and insurance payment every month and don't even consider those costs when making these kinds of comparisons.
            • So, riding mass transit costs me about twice what it costs me to drive myself on a per-mile basis, or over SIX TIMES what in costs me in absolute terms;

              Except for the price of the car/insurance/maintenance, of course.

              One member of a family routinely using alternate transport (bus/bike/carpool) allows a two car family to become a one car family. With the attendant huge financial savings.
        • Yea another one. Yet another the suburbs are bad live liek a sardine int he city and ride public transportation next to the bum with lice (over egagerating but you get the point) How about this we make it more atractive for business to move out into the burbs so people in the country can find good work. Throw some high speed trains making few stops fromt he city to these little complexes so the city folk can work someplace nice.

          Persoanly I'm a work at my own office near my house/home at client site consu
        • Re:Not new news (Score:2, Informative)

          by Katharine (303681)
          Ironica wrote: You chose to live in a place without accessible transit.

          And what if you are married and both of you have jobs, one in the city, and one in the 'burbs? Depending on the geography, it may not be possible to live somewhere where both can get to work by public transit.
      • As if it would be more convenient for us suburban types to walk a few miles (about 4 where I am) in the rain to get to a bus stop.

        Of course, that would be daft. But 4 miles is a perfectly nice distance to do by bicycle.

      • Re:Not new news (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Feanturi (99866) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @04:08AM (#8754555)
        As if it would be more convenient for us suburban types to walk a few miles (about 4 where I am) in the rain to get to a bus stop. And since there are only a handful of buses that come near me, I would have to forgo anything in my schedule that happens before 1100 am.

        I think the assumption was that if everyone was using public transit, it would be faster, not only because there would be less traffic. It would also be because ridership would be so high they could afford more buses, tighter routes, and shorter waits. More shelters too for your rainy wait.

        One of the main reasons so many bus systems are crappy or deemed inadequate by potential users is because there just aren't enough users to support to level of service we'd like to see. Remember, somebody has to pay all those drivers every day, and fuel and maintain all of those buses. That's why your rates go up and the schedules get messed with. If everyone was taking the bus everywhere, you would likely see dramatic improvements in service, and rates could possibly relax as well.
    • Re:Not new news (Score:3, Insightful)

      by prockcore (543967)
      Of course, if everyone just used public transit, then public transit would be faster and we could put parks in place of parking lots.

      How would public transit be faster for 90% of the US? I take the freeway to work, I drive 15 miles each way, it takes me 15 minutes.. that's an average of 60 mph door-to-door.

      If I took the bus or some rail system, it would take me more than hour because, unlike mass transit, I don't have to stop every mile to pick up and drop off passengers.
      • Re:Not new news (Score:2, Interesting)

        by johnw (3725)
        You *average* 60 mph on a 15 mile journey door to door?! Allowing for the necessary slow parts at each end that means you must be doing well over 100 mph in the middle.
        • not really. I live a block from a parkway, speed limit is 50mph. I take the parkway for 2 miles to the freeway, where the speed limit is 75mph, I stay on the freeway for 12 miles and then get off onto a street where the speed limit is 45mph. I drive on that street for a mile and a half and turn into my work's parking lot.

          Obeying the speed limit the trip takes 13 minutes. Add in another 2 minutes for stoplight on the last street (the only place this a stoplight on my entire route) and walking from the p
      • Re:Not new news (Score:2, Informative)

        by linhux (104645)
        I have 90 miles to my office. It takes me about 75 minutes to get there, with public transport. That includes one switch from train to bus.
    • Re:Not new news (Score:3, Interesting)

      There are some people for whom public transit isn't an option. You ever think about taking an 80lb concert grand harp on a train or bus? No, I didn't think so. I know several professional harpists that would have that limitation. String bass would be tricky too. Oh, and what about chefs carrying their knives? What do they do when they can't carry their tools of the trade around because of antiterrorist paranoia? The Boy Scouts, heading on a camping trip, each needing around 60lb of gear? There are plenty of
      • I made it to Boy Scouts with a load of gear once (25 kilos/55 lbs). The Bus driver gave me crap about it, but I did it. But a harp, that would be tricky.
      • A harp would indeed be trouble, but a bass isn't that big of a deal. I've got a book recommending when you fly with a bass to get an extra seat for it, and stick it neck down in the seat next to you. As long as it's not a full bus, you wouldn't have much trouble.

        It's probably easier than jamming it into a compact sedan.

      • Re:Not new news (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ironica (124657)
        You ever think about taking an 80lb concert grand harp on a train or bus? No, I didn't think so. I know several professional harpists that would have that limitation. String bass would be tricky too.

        Your examples, by and large, would have issues using a standard car as well. Transporting a harp or string bass or 60 lbs of camping equipment is difficult no matter how you do it. But this is a small fraction of the population. Boy Scouts going on camping trips and professional musicians do not contribute
        • I live in Fort Worth. If I have to go to Dallas, I can either driver there or take the DART train. Problem with the train is that there is only one stop even remotely close to here, about 10 miles away. Add in that the last train to run back this direction is at 5:00PM and it's a bit easier to understand why not many people use it.
        • Your examples, by and large, would have issues using a standard car as well.

          What about a week's worth of groceries? How do you take them on the bus? There's a reason why no one cooks in new york... they can't get their groceries home.
          • You don't buy a weeks groceries at a time. You buy what you need for today and tomorrow. Then go shopping again in two or three days. If you need to get alot of groceries you call a cab(I don't know about in the big US cities but around here they even help you load and unload the cars).
    • I just got back from Japan and I did see a number of these structures despite the fact that it is often faster to get from point A to B by train. I suspect it's the same problem as here though. Mass transit is fine if you just have the the AB trip. If there are lots of other stops the car looks a lot better.
      And like here, I'm sure a lot of it is status symbolism.
    • Re:Not new news (Score:3, Informative)

      by coastwalker (307620)
      http://www.trevipark.co.uk/after-intro.html

      Seems we have plenty of these automated garages in Europe also, I used to commute on the train past the one in Stockholm every day. There is a windows media player clip on the site which shows the vehicle driven into the system and returned rotated ready to drive away. Plenty of pictures also. Says the retrival time is 50 seconds.

      One cool aspect of these storage silos is that you could plant one under an existing car park and put trees and grass in the place of t
    • Of course, if everyone just used public transit, then public transit would be faster and we could put parks in place of parking lots. But I guess it is more convenient to sit twice as long in a grid lock...
      It certainly is when you figure that on the way home kids are picked up, groceries shopped for, etc... etc... For the average commuter the drive to/from work is a multitasking operation, something well nigh impossible with public transit.
  • Also, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rasafras (637995) <tamas AT pha DOT jhu DOT edu> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:03AM (#8753929) Homepage
    Your car is much harder to steal. Two layers of security, not just one - but it is a cool hacking challenge. Any takers?
    • Re:Also, (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mrseigen (518390) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:08AM (#8753953) Homepage Journal
      I think a spoofed magnetic card might be a valid way to attack this system, however the fact that all the access terminals are in very public places will deter most people from tampering with it (like ATMs in malls).

      The question is: who's legally responsible when the computer driving this thing screws up and drops your car a couple storeys?
      • I don't think anyone is responsible, because I doubt the mechanism is physically capable of dropping the car. I suppose simple mechanical failure could happen at any time, though, but then there wouldn't be any question of blame.
      • or more appropriately, their insurance company pays.

        Caddy takes plunge at high-tech garage [njo.com]

        The other high tech parking garage that they alluded to in the subject article is located in Hoboken, NJ, a stone's throw from NYC. In this particular case, a Cadillac DeVille was pushed off its pallet and smashed into oblivion due to the trunk popping open during retrieval. The trunk apparently clipped the machinery or something like that. Heh. The Hoboken municipal garage, by the way, is very similar to what
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:04AM (#8753932)
    This sounds great for dog owners. Not only can you park and leave your dog in the shady underground, no animal rights people will be able to get to your windshield to leave a flier explaining what a bastard you are.
    • The system is designed to require that the user declare no pets nor small children are in the car...

      Which apparently means that it's safe to allow teenagers to ride in the machine?!?
      • The FIRST thing that made me think of was that I'd have to try staying in the car and riding it into the bowels.

        The problem with questions ensuring you're not doing something wrong is that they're actually suggesting all these cool things you can try.

        • Hide in the trunk, then after the car is loaded in, fold the seat down, climb out and break into the other cars, steal some things you like, load them into your car and have your friend recall the vehicle. Sounds fairly easy to pull off.
    • no animal rights people will be able to get to your windshield to leave a flier explaining what a bastard you are.

      Wonder what the offical PETA rules of conduct are... Do they spit on the unconscious guy on the ground before they put the flyer on your car, or do they wait until after?

      I know, everyone is going to feign offense, but I'm a pet owner myself, and I think some of those PETA guys need serious help. I know some that think, in lieu of animal testing (sure, everyone loves bunnies, but would they

  • Pictures and Details (Score:5, Informative)

    by nacturation (646836) <nacturation@@@gmail...com> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:05AM (#8753936) Journal
    Available here [spacesaverparking.com].
    • And linked from there, the original [woehr.de]. With all sorts of info, Flash presentations, CAD files...

      Wohr is one of the leading manufacturers of car parking systems in Germany. For the last 40 years now, since the number of cars on the roads began to increase, Wohr has been designing and installing parking systems. Okay, who stole the Umlauts?

  • by dicepackage (526497) <dicepackageNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:05AM (#8753938) Homepage
    Having some guy with a crappy car dripping oil down on your convertable.
    • How is this insightful? You think people smart enough to build something like this would forget to put a *FLOOR* between levels? Last time I checked it'd take quite a long time for some oil to seep through concrete.
      • You must not have followed the story's link to the huge automated garage in Istanbul. The picture clearly shows no floor between the levels - you can see the undersides of the cars on all the levels (unless the floor's made out of glass which wouldn't make much sense).
  • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moocowsia (589092) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:07AM (#8753950)
    If the power went out you'd be screwed.
    • Re:Well... (Score:2, Funny)

      by uspsguy (541171)
      By the time yo walk down the dark stairs of your 50 story office tower, they will probably have fixed the power anyway.
  • Links (Score:3, Informative)

    by BMIComp (87596) * on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:13AM (#8753979)
    DC Press release [spacesaverparking.com]
    Space saver company [spacesaverparking.com]
  • There isn't really anything in the article about how it works or any pictures, like here [woehr.de].

    It doesn't look like it's very accessible - if you forget your phone or a book or whatever, I wonder if can you walk down underground and get it instead of waiting for the car to come back up. Looks like you'd just get sliced by the machinery. I thought there might be a pathway around the outer walls so you could still get to your car.
    • Re:inside? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ironica (124657)
      It doesn't look like it's very accessible - if you forget your phone or a book or whatever, I wonder if can you walk down underground and get it instead of waiting for the car to come back up. Looks like you'd just get sliced by the machinery. I thought there might be a pathway around the outer walls so you could still get to your car.

      Part of the reason it works is because they don't have to put enough space between the cars for people to get in and out the doors. So, no, even if you could walk up and sa
  • car dispenser? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:17AM (#8754000) Homepage Journal
    How about something like ZipCar [zipcar.com], with hourly-rental cars distributed throughout the city/county/interstate, near mass-transit junctions? These automated dispensers would be replenished with a just-in-time supply chain. Now economies of fleet scale, including propane/CNG/electric power, can be available to the aggregated community, amortizing the capital costs across the maximum use.

    Every new building in crowded centers should build 150% of their parking capacity requirement into their architecture, and get all parked cars off our congested streets. When the spaces are filled with fuelcell vehicles, the building can autonegotiate with the vehicle owners for competitive power pricing in either direction across their charge plugs. All this possibility makes the Jetsons look like some 1960s cartoon.
    • The thing is, such a rental car system would work just as well, if not better, with cars being parked the old fashioned way. The reason why this hasn't taken off in the USA is it's a very expensive way to make up for a lack of available land... we're not as densely packed as some other parts of the world.
      • I'm not quite sure you grok zipcar. It's for people like me who think public transportation is my best friend, but when we have to go somewhere where the bus or train doesn't go, it's a godsend. There's only 2 zipcars on campus (~600 dorming out of 1600? someone fact check me >_<), but before my friends graduated, they would take them pretty much anytime they had a job interview. The cars are parked along side everything else, except they have 2 reserved parking slots, so the system doesn't requir
      • The problem with ZipCar is finding parking near mass transit junctions. The car dispenser allows reserved parking for high availability, with maximum use of the available space. Here in NYC, that's a necessity for leveraging the superior mass transit, which created our density, into a convenient intermodal transit solution through the interstices. In the countryside, people want their own cars, in their own driveways, with their own gunracks :), and probably can live without stacking. But the Earth is about
    • Re:car dispenser? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ironica (124657)
      Every new building in crowded centers should build 150% of their parking capacity requirement into their architecture, and get all parked cars off our congested streets.

      The problem is, all kinds of research has shown that parking (and highways, roads, all private transportation infrastructure) operates on an "if you build it, they will come" principle. If you build 150% of "capacity," one of two things will happen: either a third of your parking spaces will be empty even during Christmas Eve shopping fre
      • That info is fascinating, and I plan to use it in my work here with the NY City Council - thanks. Of course, Americans operate on the "if you let them, they'll do it" principle, especially when "it" means drive - and everything that comes with it. So the complete system must be considered, or the constraining bottleneck becomes the breaking point. In NYC, street parking feeds back into traffic congestion; people abandon their cars wherever there's a spot, narrowing arteries more where there's more traffic.
  • Hoboken, NJ has one as well, it took forever to build and I don't hear anyone talking about it, but it's still a cool concept. Only dropped cars a couple of times too. (much less than 0.01% error given how often it pushes n pulls cars...)
    • Re:zerg (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LostCluster (625375) *
      Only dropped cars a couple of times too. (much less than 0.01% error given how often it pushes n pulls cars...)

      I'd consider that kind of error ratio perfectly acceptable, compared to the number of human fender-benders that happen in a typical parking garage setup. Sure, sucks to be the owner of the dropped car... but insurance will pay for that.
  • by Durindana (442090) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:28AM (#8754064)
    Like a robotic vacuum cleaner or a remote-control lawn mower, the automated parking garage is an object that adds almost nothing to the original.


    Moron. Just because America is "not lacking in parking spaces" doesn't mean an auto-carpark isn't a massive improvement over the traditional, enormously wasteful (of space and money) parking lot. Sprawl and pollution, for starters, would be significantly less than the major, major insurmountable problems they are now in virtually all American cities if we could do away with our dependence on plentiful free parking.
    • by donutello (88309) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:51AM (#8754176) Homepage
      Moron.
      You would think that someone who goes around declaring others as "morons" would at least display some rudimentary amount of intelligence themselves.

      Just because America is "not lacking in parking spaces" doesn't mean an auto-carpark isn't a massive improvement over the traditional, enormously wasteful (of space and money) parking lot.
      In most American cities, the auto-park is a solution looking for a problem. The machinery itself is fairly complex to build and maintain. The average cost of a parking spot in the auto-park is $25,000. In most American cities, the average cost of a parking spot is a lot less than that. Now you tell me which is the "waste of money".

      Sprawl and pollution, for starters, would be significantly less than the major, major insurmountable problems they are now in virtually all American cities if we could do away with our dependence on plentiful free parking.
      Huhh?? What does expensive stack parking have to do with pollution? I hope you're not suggesting that the extra 100 yards a car has to drive in your average parking lot is a measurable source of pollution. Ditto for sprawl.

      Stack parking does make sense in places where real estate is very expensive - Manhattan, for example. However, the value proposition is just not there for the majority of places. Once the value proposition gets there, there will be more of these around.
      • by be-fan (61476) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @02:30AM (#8754286)
        I dunno about the other bits, but I can vouch for the sprawl one. Have you ever been to Atlanta? The city, which was designed to be driver-friendly, is ONE GIANT PARKING LOT. Seriously, you have have WalMarts with football-field sized parking slots out front. And back. And on the sides. Now, because land is so cheap, giant parking lots are probably more cost-effective, but it does make the city look like a post-apocalyptic nightmare.

        IMHO, the Europeans built their cities right. Paris is half the land area of Atlanta, and utterly undrivable. However, that doesn't mean much, because there are close to 400 metro stations in the cities, plus another 150 RER stations for the suburbs. Washington DC is almost as compact (and nearly as undrivable), but its subway pales in comparison.
        • by Xzzy (111297) <sether @ t r u 7 h .org> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @02:57AM (#8754370) Homepage
          That's more a product of evolution than planning, I'd think. Cities in europe got their start when everyone travelled by foot. Cities in America caught the tailend of that, and as the population spread westward transportation got easier, culminating with the auto.

          Drive through any old US city like NYC or Chicago, and the highways will be crammed into two lanes with a confusing braid of onramps and offramps. Regions like Seattle or the SF bay on the west coast have massive 8 lane highways and a number of tributaries (expressways, etc) feeding cars into local streets.

          That part of the world is the newest, so it benefits (though I suppose the use of "benefits" is a potential debate topic ;) the most from modern transportation.
          • Well, Atlanta has the advantage of having been burned down during the civil war, and really only built up in the last century or so, so its more like Seattle (beautiful city, btw) than New York. However, the fact remains that these "driver friendly" cities are very unasthetic. The roads are enormous, walking anywhere is downright dangerous, and there is concrete as far as the eye can see. I much prefer the more compact European cities, because unlike the compact American cities (cough, DC), they actually do
      • In most American cities, the auto-park is a solution looking for a problem. The machinery itself is fairly complex to build and maintain. The average cost of a parking spot in the auto-park is $25,000. In most American cities, the average cost of a parking spot is a lot less than that. Now you tell me which is the "waste of money".

        Hm... UCLA spent $38,000 per space to dig up the IM field and build a parking garage under it (then put the field back). Granted, that's somewhat extreme, but the typical cost
  • Robotic Parking (Score:2, Informative)

    by AndroidCat (229562)
    Robotic Parking [roboticparking.com] in Clearwater tried to make a go of it, but results seem less than promised [sptimes.com] (Jetsons again) Of course, since it's a Scientologist-run company, they'll make it go right just like Elron said it should...
  • I'll get modded down for this, but here goes:

    I've never owned a car in my life. I can't drive due to a medical condition. I've managed to get around using public transportation here in the US. Other countries have better systems of public transport.

    Cars are a very dangerous form of transportation. We need better ways of addressing these issues. From the article, we have developed ridiculously complicated ways of dealing with part of the problem. Storing the cars. Other parts of the problem include tra
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @01:59AM (#8754202) Homepage
    Paris has a few automated parking garages. Because Paris is built on easily-tunneled limestone, it's a good place for underground garages.

    Trevipark [trevipark.co.uk], a British firm, has a nice, rather simple technology for modest size parking garages, with several installations in Italy. Trevipark is a silo with a turntable/elevator at the center. This technology is best suited for underground storage. It's elegant in that there's very little visible on the surface.

    Parksysteme [parkingsystems.de], in Germany, has been building such systems for forty years. But they haven't had many installations.

    An automated garage operated in Manhattan in the 1960s.

    None of these systems has reached ten installations.

    • Parksysteme, in Germany, has been building such systems for forty years. But they haven't had many installations.

      Some better known systems are above-ground silos that are covered in glass, so you can see the contents; car distributors (i.e. BMW) use these to at the same time store inventory and show it off (especially Smart brand cars).

      This is an example [nussbaum-lifts.de] of a cuboid based design; I think Parksysteme makes the cylindrical ones. There seem to be quite a bit of these around.
      • Nussbaum claims 70 installations, but mostly for new-car sales operations, not parking.

        The basic problem is designing and building something that can survive a hostile environment and indifferent maintenance. Trevipark has a good system for that. The basic lift is a single big hydraulic cylinder, a reliable, rugged technology used for heavy freight elevators everywhere. On top of that is a turntable, also a reliable technology. On top of the turntable is a horizontal pallet mover, probably the least rel

  • hilarious! (Score:2, Informative)

    by linhux (104645)
    You know its a German company when they have a Flash presentation such as this one [woehr.de]. Fantastic, really.
  • by mfh (56) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @02:12AM (#8754232) Homepage Journal
    Many people have commented on the fact that Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong have been implementing these systems for many years now.

    The obvious observation here is that Japan and Taiwan are island countries with limited real estate and space and spatial efficiency is at a much higher premium there than it is here. Hong Kong has a similar predicament; it is landlocked by the rest of China on three sides and an ocean on the other, and has actively secured borders. (i.e., they can't just annex land or start building strip malls and boulevards like most cities in the US and Europe)

    The only American analog I can think of off the top of my head is Manhattan, NYC, but I suspect that instead of being luddites, their motives against implementing such systems are economic in nature as they are the exception to the general American rule in terms of availability of real estate to build parking garages. Being an island nation definitely has influence on cultural and technological development.

    Anyway, I suspect that entire graduate theses can be written on such a topic.
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @02:16AM (#8754247)

    NYC has had these for years; they're 3-4 spaces high, you drive into the space, the guy pushes a button, the car goes up 2-3 levels in the unit. Another car drives up, goes up 1-2. Etc until it's stacked full.

    Only problem? Well, I remember a photo of a enraged car owner screaming at a parking attendant on the day of the massive NYC blackout; they're useless in a power outage; you're not getting your car out, and that's that.

    "Oh, they must have had backup generators", you say. Ever been to NYC? Everything is done as cheaply as possible. They'd sell your car after you parked it if they thought they could get away with it. They're certainly not going to keep a backup generator around just in case there's a power outage- they're just going to tell you to walk home.

  • More projects [woehr.de] ...

    And, yes, the Bosporus [woehr.de] facility (as referenced by the article for those who did not RTFA) is also there.

    CC.
  • From the article: Because of the cost of the machinery and maintenance, each space in an automated garage costs $25,000, several thousand dollars more than a spot in a conventional lot.

    If by "conventional" you mean a surface lot, or even an above-grade parking structure, then this is more costly. But the round number usually used for calculating the cost to construct a below-grade parking structure is $30,000 per space. So this system would *save* money at $25k. It wouldn't even be that bad compared to
  • by ctar (211926) <christophertar@@@gmail...com> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @03:53AM (#8754506) Homepage
    Here in Tokyo, there must be thouands of these...Most of them go up - not down - but regardless the idea is the same. Many public parking garages work like this - 10 story buildings that probably only fit 3 or 4 cars across. And, almost all of them are protected by Halon or Carbon Dioxide gas-based fire extinguishing systems....I guess figuring that if a fire broke out inside one of these, it would quickly become a pretty big mess...

    There's a small un-lit sign above the entrance to these structures. If the system goes off, the sign lights up saying 'Halon gas released - do not enter' or something to that effect in Japanese...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2004 @04:28AM (#8754597)
    Here at Saturn, we store our body panels in a similar (nearly identical) system.

    The "paint buck" has its Smarteye tag read and the buck gets removed from the carrier and transported down one of several aisles by a rolling lift which transverses either in one direction horizontally or vertically. You get the idea.

    The ASRS (Automatic Storage & Retrieval System) makes note of where it got put and then it's off to get the next one.

    The empty paint carrier leaves and goes off to get another buck.

    When it comes time to load another job on to the line (to be sent to the General Assembly building where the panels will get put onto the spaceframe), the procedure gets repeated in reverse. The lift then finds the panel set of the desired color, gets it, puts it on the carriers that go to GA and then sends it on its way.

    BTW, The weight of the paint buck is comparable to that of a car (probably around 3000 pounds). A-yup, they are heavy. It's an "all hands on deck" event when one of these falls off of its carrier over in our building.

    Most of the time things work flawlessly, however...

    The ASRS has been known to overtravel in the past and wipe out the sprinkler heads.
    Has been known to put the buck in the wrong hole.
    Has been known to retrieve the wrong paint buck.
    Has been known to not retrieve anything.
    Has been known to dump the paint bucks off from about 60 feet up (everybody out?)
    Has been known to have the lift fail.
    Has been known to get partially stuck, forcing Maintenance folks to perform death-defying feats to get the damm things unstuck.

    So, no riding in the car when it's getting stored or retrieved.
    Beware of fire and flood.
    And eventually (probably soon) things will begin to wear out and the system will inevitably need to be serviced while it's getting your car.

    I'm sure that it will be only a matter of time before somebody's Rolls gets upended. Read the fine print on the parking spot agreement.

    John
  • If it's over 6 feet 6 inches, a sign on the back wall says you're out of luck. Anything over 5,500 pounds doesn't work either, to the dismay of one Grand Parc resident with a hefty Volvo SUV.

    The biggest Volvo SUV in production is the XC90. It stands 5.7' in height and weighs in at 4,493lbs. It's width is not any different than what you would find on any passenger car (~74").

    This is not considered a "hefty" SUV. It's lighter and smaller than my old Volvo wagon. It's actually kind of dinky when compared to

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