Parking Spaces Out Of Thin Air

THE PARKING NIGHTMARE for urban motorists just might have a solution. Conscious of the challenge of tight city spaces, a Miami company has come up with a Ferris-wheel-like machine that stores cars. This removes the need for vast lots or multistory garages--which often can cost a million or more in a cramped downtown. The VertiPark, as the thing is called, costs about $10,000 per auto berth, so for a standard 32-car tower, that's a mere $320,000.

The tower, developed by Miami-based CompuTower Technologies, allows you to park at the ground level. Then, with the push of a button, the machine raises your car so there's an empty compartment for the next vehicle.

Vertical parking isn't anything new. The Big Three auto makers have used similar parking towers to store cars at their plants. But the National Parking Assn., the trade group for parking facilities, credits CompuTower with commercializing the concept. Thus far, the company has been able to swing big deals for the VertiPark only overseas, with a $10.5 million contract in Mexico and a $23.5 million joint venture in Taiwan.

In the U.S., smaller-scale operations can be found outside a Honolulu office building, a Las Vegas casino, and New York's venerable Yankee Stadium. When the tower was put into service last year, the idea was for ballpark employees to use it because of congestion in the lot. Alas, that's not a problem of late, although the Yankees say that they might take more towers if needed.

By Oluwabunmi Shabi

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