The tests were set up by the Parking Authority to allow Robotic, the company responsible for installing the garage's automated features, to prove that they completed their contractual obligations. The tests involved automatically storing and retrieving 22 cars. All seven levels of the garage were used, and cars were positioned at the furthest, nearest, and middle locations of each level.
Since that time, neither the HPA nor Robotic has released the results of that test. Parking Authority Chairman Frank Turso said on several occasions that a joint statement would be coming shortly, but three weeks later, the HPA has made no official statement about the results. Turso was contacted Tuesday but refrained from commenting.
But Thursday, a source supplied the Reporter with a report from John Coyle, the senior vice president of Net Tech Solutions. Coyle is an engineering consultant hired by the HPA to observe the tests and report whether the contractor conforms to the contract specifications.
His report states that there were several system failures during the test, and that one system failure involved a Robotic employee being accidentally lifted in a car into a parking space on one of the garage's upper floors.
Also, according to the report, Robotic also failed to meet the contractual time requirements for retrieving cars from upper level parking spaces. It did, however, meet the time requirements for automatically lifting cars into spaces.
"What this report says is that [the garage] doesn't work," said HPA Commissioner Alan Cohen after he was asked about the report Thursday. Cohen added that there could be huge safety and liability issues if a member of the public were accidentally lifted into the garage.
Parking Authority Commissioner and Facilities Chairman Daniel DeCavaignac, who tendered his resignation from the HPA Thursday (see sidebar), said the results of the test should not be weighted too heavily.
"The engineers' report regarding the 916 Garage Performance Validation Test on May 3 was not released because it does not accurately reflect the status of the garage or the opinion of the whole HPA," said DeCavaignac. "The performance test, as tightly detailed in the original contract, is so irreparably flawed that the results are not indicative of anything significant. The test proved only one thing - the system can park and retrieve cars."
Friday, Larry Stein, a representative of and investor in Robotic, said that the test was a milestone for the company and that the garage will shortly be fully operational.
"We're prepared to demonstrate that we are in complete compliance with our contractual obligations," Stein said.
Stein added that Coyle has written what he calls "unsubstantiated" reports in the past that criticized Robotic and that this new report is nothing more than a "personal vendetta" against the company. He said he is not sure why he and Coyle got off on the wrong foot, and that the two companies don't compete for contracts.
Up, up, and away
The most dramatic system failure was the lifting of the Robotic worker into the garage. According to the report, a Ford Crown Victoria was involved in a system error that prevented immediate storage. In an attempt to resolve the problem, workers removed the car's radio antenna, which did not solve the problem.
Then, a Robotic valet attendant entered the vehicle to reposition it. According to Coyle and other eyewitnesses, the bay door closed and the elevator-like pallet transported the vehicle and the employee to storage.
"Robotic's response to this condition, as relayed to me by commissioner DeCavaignac," said the report, "was that the system does not contain sufficient server processing speed to perform the test with all the safety devices in operational mode."
Stein confirmed that the incident occurred, but said the event has been blown out of proportion.
"Under normal conditions, a person would have gone over to the window and told the attendant 'my car isn't moving,'" said Stein. He said the attendant would then stop the cycle. Stein contends that only because the employee, a trained technician, had knowledge of what might have caused the error would he try and re-enter the bay. Stein did admit, though, that the attendant made "a mistake."
Not completely automated?
Coyle's report also complains that the test may not have been performed in a fully automated mode. When finished, the computer system is supposed to store and retrieve cars without any manual input from an on-site technician.
"The legitimacy of the overall test has been compromised by the use of radio communications between the computer operator, valet attendant, and other contractor personnel located inside the garage storage area during the test," the report reads.
He recommended that for all future tests, Robotic disclose onsite personnel to eliminate the appearance of "behind the scenes processing".
Stein totally refutes any accusation that the process was not fully automated. "It's was absolutely fully automated and I would like to prove it to him," said Stein. "His experience lies solely in information control systems. He has no experience in automated parking systems. This test was a 100 percent automated."
City Council President Tony Soares said Thursday afternoon that he read Net Tech's report and was especially taken aback by the section that states the tests might not have been fully automated.
"It's all a charade," said Soares. "It's dangerous in there. There shouldn't be any rush to open it until that company gets its act together. It's unfortunate that we inherited such a huge mess from [former Mayor Anthony] Russo's administration."
Car retrieval slower than spec
Robotic did pass the test when it came to storing the 22 cars. Vehicle storage test results were recorded at an average time of 46 seconds, which satisfied the 60-second contract requirement. The maximum storage time for any single vehicle did not exceed the contractual time limit of 90 seconds.
However, things did not go as quickly when it came to retrieving the cars. According to the report, retrieval tests results were recorded at an average time of 132.43 seconds, which exceeded the 120-second contract requirement. The maximum amount of time that one car took was 270 seconds.
Stein conceded that the retrieval times were over the contractual requirements, but said that the longer times are due to construction mistakes made by a former general contractor.
"In the overall picture, 12 seconds really isn't that bad," said Stein. He added that when the building was first built, some of the steel beams were misaligned by up to a half-inch. That, according to Stein, has caused real troubles with the automation and accounts for the lag in retrieval times.
Stein also said that since this will be the first garage of this type in America, there is no benchmark standard for retrieval times. "Those times [in the contract] are really just a wish list because this garage is the first of its kind," said Stein. "We are actually going to be ones setting the realistic standard for storage and retrieval times."
Based on the results of the testing, Coyle recommended a new estimated project completion timeline.
"The results of this test have identified some existing problems that need to be addressed by the contractor," states the report. "The HPA will need to schedule additional time for its extensive testing and acceptance process."
Despite Coyle's call for delays, a press release on Robotic's web site says that patrons will be using the garage within the next two months. It states, "Several more important steps will be taken over the next two months, including selection, training, and phase-in of the cars and patrons."
Stein added he is not able to give the exact date, but that the automated portion of the garage is essentially finished.
"The bonding [the project's insurance company] is just finishing up some corrections to the steel as well as other items such as plumbing and electrical systems," he said, "but as far as the automated systems go, we are in compliance with all of our contractual obligations except [for the] 12-second disparity in retrieval times." DeCavaignac resigns from Parking Authority
Hoboken Parking Authority (HPA) Commissioner Daniel DeCavaignac submitted his resignation from the HPA Thursday. His resignation will be effective June 30.
DeCavaignac was ardent in saying that he is not resigning because of the problems at the 916 Garden St. garage. "My resignation has no correlation to the status of the 916 automated garage, and I remain available beyond June 30 to assist the HPA in opening the 916 garage," said DeCavaignac.
According to DeCavaignac, the main reason that he decided to resign was his disagreement with Mayor David Roberts and the City Council over the creation and implementation of a citywide parking policy. DeCavaignac, the City Council, and the mayor have butted heads several times over new regulations that govern the city's resident parking program.
"The successful resolution of the parking challenges in Hoboken requires that the HPA, City Council, and mayor's office work very closely together and share an agenda," he said. "The current configuration of the Board of Commissioners and HPA management have not been effective in setting and executing a plan that satisfies the mayor. I have chosen to step aside, effective June 30, to allow Mayor Roberts to reconfigure the HPA to better reflect his agenda." - Tom Jennemann