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Parking issues, steel prices jeopardize Missoula's downtown student housing project - What about Robotic Parking?!

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July 24, 2016View for printing

"There is an alternative, and that is mechanical parking." Geoff Badenoch

Robotic Parking provides almost 3.5 times the number of parking spaces in roughly the same volume (as traditional concrete parking structures)."


"MRA must decide how much it wants to prioritize parking in the Front Street district, and how much the public should be involved."

By Martin Kidston

Full Story: ... ng-project/


The Farran Group is also the developer behind the Riverfront Triangle project, and are also asking for public funding for parking in that project, too.

Redevelopment has taken on a "go big or go home" approach these years. In other words, rather than growing or redeveloping in an organic, planned, gradual way, involving a lot of diverse local current interests, redevelopment projects have become mega-million dollar enterprises controlled by a very few individuals. The private sector redevelopment partner builds the stuff that makes it and its partners money and pushes off the cost of providing huge inventories of parking onto the public. Why would the public go for that? Well, there is the implied promise that the new private development will pay more in new taxes to support the cost of building and operating that parking. And there is the additional economic activity that is spun off from the big redevelopment projects which will create economic opportunities for others. So the logic goes.

So, what are we asking to pay for made with the expensive Chinese steel? A traditional, concrete parking ramp. Having supervised the construction of two such structures, I can tell you they are a multi-generational commitment of precious urban core land to the purpose of warehousing cars. There is an alternative, and that is mechanical parking

This approach uses the well-tested, computerized technology used in industry to move pallets of material and products around factories and warehouses. One benefit of this approach is more cars can be parked on a smaller footprint meaning the developer retains more taxable, profit-generating real estate. As a machine, mechanical parking can be relocated if needed, and the land it occupies can be re-purposed much easier and much more cheaply than a huge concrete structure.

Mechanical parking is a different way of doing parking, and it has a lot of public beneficial aspects that recommend its serious consideration. Will that be done? Probably not, because it is an approach that is different and has a lot of variables that need to be evaluated. That will require that the developer and the public allow another set of assumptions come into play. It is easier to simply ask the public to build what the developer wants without thinking deeply and critically about whether another concrete structured parking solution is best for our community. This consideration, though, is not an absurd notion, especially if the product is paid for by the public. It is a decision we will live with for a couple of generations or more.

Geoff Badenoch


Concrete Ramp vs. Robotic Parking

Robotic Parking provides almost 3.5 times the number of parking spaces in roughly the same volume."

Reader Comments:

Missoula owes itself every opportunity to investigate all options for public parking, especially if it provides a way to modify it in the near future as people will probably not own their cars and autonomous cars will not require structured parking facilities.

We are leaving the "carcatecture" era. No longer will our lives, architecture and travel be dominated by the individually owned car which now sits idle for 90% of its life. We shouldn't put up another cement monolith that will have a very short life span.

Let's plan for the future for once...

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