Among the dozens of problems the average Indian faces, traffic congestion on the roads is one that creates a condition of constant hassle in our lives, almost every day. What’s worse, with the growing economic prosperity, increasing disposable incomes, and availability of cheap and swift financing, the number of vehicles on the road is surging at a rollicking pace. Not only is this worsening the trouble of congestion on the roads, but also extending the problem to the country’s parking lots. There are high-raised commercial buildings, shopping malls, IT parks, and multi-storey apartments dotting the cities in large numbers that are also facing severe shortage of parking space. Sky-high parking rates, unavailability of parking space, endless queues of cars parked along sidewalks and in front residential community gates all are very real problems these days. The population of cars in these humongous structures more or less equal to the head-counts here invites the need for multi-level car parking systems that can make the entire process simple and serve as an efficacious solution.
In fact, securing adequate parking space, implementing safe and successful car parking rules, exploring innovative automated parking systems all these have become inescapable aspects of urban planning in the 21st century.
Multilevel Car Parking Systems (MLCPs) A Solution
Thankfully, technology and innovation in the niche industry space of automated and multilevel parking systems are addressing the problem of clogging parking spaces. The solutions – multilevel car parking systems, abbreviated as MLCPs. The concept refers to the system of automatically parking and retrieving vehicles using an extensive intelligent system of lifts, pallets, and sensors. Delivering advantages such as time and fuel savings, space saving, and safety, MLCPs are the long term solution to not only the country’s, but also the world’s parking problems.
How it Works?
An automated car parking system also called as automated parking garage, robotic parking or simply a building of cars allow, approximately, twenty cars to be stored in the same footprint as that of the parking space occupied by four cars in normal parking conditions.
These systems can be erected on an empty space or sandwiched between buildings. They come in various sizes and can be selected based on the available space. It involves use of cameras, computers, sensors and mechanical components for its functioning.
An automated car parking system can be of two kinds with a horizontal platform or with vertical lift. The difference lies in the way in which the car is transported from the entry point to the parking spot. Be it any kind, the car is taken to the multi-storied garage and placed on the ramp. Once done, the driver signs out after applying the parking brake. Now, the sensor begins to analyze the vehicle its size, shape, and other aspects needed for its records.
Once the driver exits the building, the mechanical arm gears up to function. It analyses the available parking spaces and identifies the best suited spot for the car to get parked. The car is then moved and positioned on the appropriate parking space with the help of electro-mechanical components either vertically or horizontally.
It hardly takes two and a half minutes for the entire process, beginning at the point of entry to positioning the car. Further, turntables installed in the system eliminate the need for the driver to reverse the car while taking back.
These cars are recognized with the help of a card or a key containing codes. The codes get scanned at the time of taking the car back. Once scanned, the car gets selected and brought back with the help of mechanical arms.
Automated car parking systems do not require the car engine running when the car is moved into the building and hence reduces co2 emission and fuel consumption. What adds a tinge of disappointment at rare times is scratching of cars because of mechanical gizmo, and there are possibilities for one to receive a neighbour’s car, which again are cases of rarity.
The Prime Advantages of MLCPs
MLCPs offer some significant advantages over traditional car parking systems and technologies. Here’s a run-down:
– Existing car parking space can be utilized optimally
– Operational costs and maintenance costs are remarkably low
– Because of pre-fabrication, construction costs are on the lower side
– MLCPs are environment friendly, and free up space for landscaping
– Car owners can park their vehicles quicker, and in a safer manner be-cause of intelligent MLCPs
Here’s a detailed discussion on the most important types of multilevel car parking systems available in India.
Stack Parking Systems
Stack systems offer a flexible parking solution by two vehicles to be parked in the space of one by stacking one vehicle over the other. These systems comprise of a platform with curved ends, fabricated to let cars roll on and off stacks conveniently. Operating control dashboards can be implemented in the garage, in the basement, or even outside the parking facility.
The basic working mechanism of these systems is centered on electro mechanically or hydraulically controlled pallets, which can be raised to a higher level once a car is parked on them, freeing up space for another vehicle under the previously parked raised vehicle. Most stack type MLCPs are built to accommodate cars at two levels, and offer remarkable advantages such as low power consumption, ease of maintenance, and simplicity of operations. These systems are ideal for residential complexes, and multiplexes, and equally viable for indoor and outdoor parking spaces.
Top MLCP product and service providers in India recommend stack MLCPs because of the low construction costs involved in implementation of these systems, quick parking in and parking out of vehicles, and inherent security and safety features of these systems. The low maintenance costs (as little as Rs. 1000 a month) further add to the viability of these systems. A good stack system MLCP implementation has a life cycle of 15-20 years, which can be extended to 30 years by pro-per and timely maintenance. For residential and commercial complexes with valet services, stack system MLCPs can prove to be all the more viable.
Puzzle Car Parking Systems
These car parking systems are based on a matrix system, and the vehicles to be parked are moved vertically as well as horizontally, till the time the car that’s to be moved out comes to the exit level. Such systems offer the flexibility of being implemented on rooftops, in basements, at pen grounds, under stilts, in driveways, and at terraces. A matrix of car parking spaces, divided in columns and rows, is built. For instance, a 5 x 5 matrix based puzzle MLCP system can accommodate 25 vehicles at a time. A few spaces are kept vacant, so that the same can allow a parked vehicle to be moved out, via the horizontal and vertical movement of the platforms. All vehicles remain independent of each other in a puzzle car parking system.
Advanced puzzle car parking systems require the driver to move the vehicle to the designated empty space, and retrieve the vehicle just by punching a smartcard at a terminal upon return. Costs of installation of such systems are low, enabling commercial spaces and residential complexes to opt for puzzle car parking systems as an affordable solution. Pre-fabricated steel structures are operated through PLCs, to implement such systems. Puzzle car parking systems can be semi automated or fully automated, offer convenient drive in and drive out are enabled with multiple entry and exit points, which reduce parking time, and have minimal operational and maintenance costs. By using corrosion resistant steel palettes, puzzle car parking system vendors can extend the lifecycles of these systems to 25+ years.
However, these MLCPs have a few disadvantages also. Because of the time required for the horizontal and vertical movements of platforms, the retrieval time in-creases, which is one of the disadvantages of this system. Also, the system complexity increases with every floor added to the matrix. The regular movement of platforms makes it a noisy system, thus reducing its appeal for residential projects.
Tower Parking Systems
Drawing a lot from puzzle parking systems, the tower system based MLCPs comprise of automated storage systems and car elevators that enable the vertical movement of vehicles. Also, a transfer device (called a shuttle) is implemented to enable horizontal movement of vehicles. By implementing a tower car parking system, limited ground space can be used to accommodate a significantly high number of vehicles. A standard tower parking system allows for parking of 30+ vehicles for just the space of 3 vehicles on ground.
The tower parking system offers substantial advantages, some of which are outlined here
– The cost of implementation of tower car parking systems is low, which makes it ideal for parking solutions involving higher number of vehicles.
– The system leverages vertical space for vehicle parking, eliminating chances of car theft.
– The average retrieval time for vehicles is as little as 60 seconds for 20 vehicles, and 100 seconds for 50 vehicles.
– By including smart card and password systems into the tower parking system, the whole parking mechanism can be automated to a great extent.
– Whereas in pallet based systems, the vehicle cannot be retrieved during re-pairs, whereas in a tower car parking system, the vehicle can be retrieved even during repairs.
– Availability of individual control gives users a sense of control and confidence with the system.
– The time for construction of the system is also low.
– For every 10 meters of available vertical space, the tower car paring system’s capacity can be scaled up.
A Comparison of the 3 Major MLCPs
– Stack and puzzle parking systems are more reasonable in terms of capital investment requirements, although the tower parking system itself is an investment with reasonable capital investment.
– The costs of maintenance are lower in stack and tower parking systems as compared to puzzle parking systems, because the latter involves lots of moving parts.
– In terms of technology, security, and reliability, the tower system supersedes the others.
– Whereas stack and puzzle parking systems allow for doubling or tripling the parking spaces’ capacity, the tower system truly maximizes the space utilization of a parking facility.
– The retrieval times are lowest in tower parking systems, and highest in puzzle parking systems.
– The operational costs of tower parking systems are higher as compared to other systems, pegged at Rs. 5/ operation, as compared to Rs. 0.5/ operation for puzzle and stack parking systems.
– Whereas the maintenance costs or stack and puzzle based parking systems are 3-4% of the capital investment, the same reduces to 2-3% of capital investment.
Rotary Parking System
A rotary parking system encompasses a structure that resembles a merry go round, and allows for the parking of 10-12 SUV sized vehicles with the space requirements of merely two vehicles. To enable park in and park out, an empty pallet and the pallet with parked vehicle are brought down to exit level surface with the press of a button or swiping of a smart card. The time required for vehicle retrieval in this system can be as high as 2-3 minutes.
Rotary car parking systems are a good solution for residential complexes, multiplexes, medium sized commercial spaces, etc., because these systems have a capacity limit of around 12 vehicles. Also, it’s not possible to scale up existing rotary parking systems. However, addition of modules is possible to enhance the capacity of the existing parking system. Rotary parking systems can be implemented as outdoor parking solutions.
Multi Level Circulatory System
Multi Level Circulatory System use a conveyor mechanism to allow for parking of vehicles in 3 to 4 levels, thus freeing up more parking space in tight basements, especially ones without driveways. The parking entry is at the ground level, and once the vehicles are parked, the steel platforms are rotated for them to move to a horizontally lower placed level in the basement. This can increase the parking capacity by 3 to 4 times. However, be-cause of the rather long car retrieval times involved, these systems have not yet enjoyed widespread adoption.
Chess Type Parking System
Equipped with a floor mounted rolling bed system that facilitated crisscrossing movements of vehicles and pallets, the chess type parking system maximizes floor space utilization. There is no need for driveways or implementation of complex mechanisms; the system has lifts that work as exit and entry points. Such systems can handle parking capacities of up to 1000 cars, and are ideal for square and longitudinally spread out areas.
Turn Table System
Turn table systems allow for 360 degrees movement of vehicles, within small turning radii of less than 5m meters, which allows for easy park in and park out. Stand-alone and built-in turn table parking systems are already being adopted in tier-3 cities.
Cart Type Parking System
Designed to handle parking needs for up to 100 cars, the cart type parking system has ‘carts’ that can move the entire parking floor without the need of pallets. These systems are ideal for longitudinally spread out spaces.
Traction type and hydraulic car lifts can be fully computerized and automated to implement car lift empowered parking systems, which can handle capacities of up to 3 tonnes.
Stacker Type Parking System
These systems are equipped with a ‘stacker’ mechanism, which executes centralized movements, and has slots for parking on both the sides. Robotized movements are leveraged to push or pull cars from the parking bays. These systems are implemented in longitudinally spread out spaces, and have capacities of up to 300 cars.
Pit Lifting Parking System
This car parking system comprises of 3 floors, where the topmost floor is at ground level, followed by middle and ground floor at underground levels. The 3 floors are moved together to allow for park in and park out via driveways. The advantages of this system are better space utilization, low-noise operations, safety from dust, damage and theft for middle and ground floor vehicles, and low maintenance.
The Road Ahead for MLCP Markets
The implementation of odd-even car rule in New Delhi is a testimonial to the dire circumstances that the country is facing in terms of its clogged roadways and parking spaces. In such a situation, it’s critical for real estate stakeholders to shift to innovative, sustainable, affordable, and environment friendly systems such as multilevel car parking systems. Stack and puzzle based car parking systems have already witnessed significant adoption in the country, especially in the tier 1 and some tier 2 cities.
For the future, industry experts sense that tower parking systems will come to the fore, because of the fact that they can enhance the capacity of existing parking spaces by as much as 15 times. Also, the system can be implemented inside residential and commercial complexes, and are equipped with intelligent human-machine interface features. Not only are MLCPs going to play a vital role in solving car parking problems across the country’s major cities, but also have an important role in eliminating traffic congestion problems resulting from unregulated parking in by-lanes, along sidewalks, on pavements, and on cyclist tracks.
MLCPs also have a lot to contribute in terms of reducing carbon footprint on the environment, because of the ease of construction leveraging pre-fabricated platforms and pallets, and because of the fact that MLCPs free up a lot of real estate for landscaping. MLCPs are expected to draw a lot from PLCs and robotization to reduce the need for human intrusion to a great extent. Manufacturers and service vendors will look to differentiate on the basis of levels of automation, promised lifetimes of implemented solutions, warranty periods and service quality. The MLCP market has the potential of generating a lot of employment for skilled la-bourers, and is expected to percolate to the tier-3 cities of the country as the a growth wave, which sweeps across the smaller cities and towns of India.