Remedy for Parking Ills Finds Few Takers

Itar-TassThe city is hoping smart-parking towers will ease parking problems.
Mayor Yury Luzhkov intends to erect dozens of metal towers that can hold up to 12 cars each in an attempt to ease a growing shortage of parking space in Moscow.

But the first "smart-parking tower," which was unveiled to great fanfare in June, could be easily mistaken for misplaced scaffolding. The South Korean-built tower is standing empty in a parking lot as City Hall waits for a Moscow plant to churn out cheaper versions.

Occupying the width of two cars, a tower fits up to 12 vehicles on rotating platforms that look something like a Ferris wheel for the workaday world. When a car rolls to the structure's apex, it can be as high as 13.5 meters above the ground.

And with more than 100,000 cars per year entering a city pool of more than 3 million vehicles, 12 parking spaces for the price of two sounds like a deal.

Luzhkov decided to embrace that deal when he opened the first smart-parking tower -- a gangly, blue-metal structure -- at the Kuntsevo Techtsentr car dealership in June.

"We've decided to begin serial production of these parking structures, to place them alongside apartment buildings and, as they say, to evolve upward in our automobile-parking," Luzhkov said at the time.

The tower, purchased from South Korean company DongYang for $80,000, has not been used since. Eager to install cheaper towers, City Hall in June instructed the Tushino Machine-Building Plant, which produces many of the city's buses, to develop and start producing its own towers by April next year.

The plant's technical director, Alexander Shalimov, estimated that each tower would cost 2 million rubles, saving the city about $5,000 per tower from the imported price.

It is unclear how much it will cost to park in a tower.

The mechanical principle behind them is similar to that of the carousels in Gorky Park, said Maria Protsenko, a spokeswoman for City Hall's transportation and infrastructure department. "You press a button, a platform comes down, the car goes onto it, the driver parks his car, puts on the emergency brake and gets out," she explained.

As for the danger of a car getting stuck 13 meters above the ground, Protsenko said repairmen would be on call around the clock and she would not mind parking her car in a tower. "But I should say I don't have a car myself," she added.

After Luzhkov's remarks, many city district leaders promised to order the towers for their areas. Oleg Gostenov, the prefect of the Southern Administrative District, said at least one tower would be built in each of his district's 16 neighborhoods by year's end. But the 192 spaces offered by the towers will be a small slice of the 11,000 parking spaces he hopes to create in his district this year.

Protsenko said the city's architecture department would determine how many towers to order and where to place them, while taking into account the wishes of district administrations and residents.

The feasibility of erecting the first towers by year's end is unclear. The Tushino plant said the towers were being designed to withstand Moscow's harsh climate and, while there may be a few ready this year, it is not rushing to go into production.

"What's the point of releasing them in December?" said Shalimov, the director. "You park your car on a tower in December, and when you get it out in April, it's rusted over and covered in grime."

Shalimov added, however, that the towers could be covered up to protect cars.

The first tower appears to have confused at least one person, an on-duty police officer who was guarding the car dealership's lot on a recent afternoon.

"It's entirely unclear what that thing is," said the officer, who refused to give his name. "It's been sitting there unused for two months. I have no idea what it's for. ... Beautification, maybe."