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Moving Quickly with Automated Parking Systems

Posted on January, 25 2024

New York City is known for pioneering residential amenities that soon become must-haves. The latest? Automated parking systems, which solve many of the problems that have arisen with traditional parking garages.

With an automated, or robotic, parking system, a driver can pull up to the garage and leave their car at the entrance platform. The car is whisked away by the robotic system into the parking structure and taken to a parking space on any level of the structure. When the driver wishes to retrieve the car, they simply punch in their ticket number in a ground-level kiosk and the car is delivered to them.

This system revolutionizes parking as New Yorkers have come to know it:

  • Because humans don’t have to park or move cars, vehicles can be packed much more compactly within the structure – including multiple levels deep in what we would normally allocate for one parking level. This means automated parking garages can hold the same number of cars in far less space.
  • The garages do not need to be staffed.
  • The potential for accidents within the garage is reduced or even eliminated.

Partly because the technology is so new, automated parking structures in NYC need to go through a special site-specific materials approvals process with the Department of Buildings (DOB) Office of Technical Certification and Research (OTCR). The application requires substantial documentation, including how the parking system will be installed in the building and how the system will be maintained over time.

As with any application, the DOB will review it and there will be some amount of back and forth between the applicant and the assigned reviewer. If all goes well, DOB OTCR will grant conditional acceptance. This allows the automated parking structure to be built. Once the build is complete and the system is fully installed, an additional submission to the DOB is required. Except for testing, the structure cannot be used until the DOB grants final approval.

In our work on these applications, we’ve found that the initial OTCR approval period can be lengthy because of the amount of technical information required. The paramount concern for both the project owner and the DOB is the safety of the people using the structure, so it’s important that the people involved in reviewing and approving the applications understand the technology and how it works. While these systems have been used in Europe for years, they are relatively new to the U.S. market and it will take some time before the approvals process can move more quickly.

We recommend that if owners are even considering including an automated parking structure in their residential building, they reach out for assistance as soon as possible. This will help avoid delays and ensure that applicable code provisions are taken into account in the planning and design phases.