Former JDF soldiers offer solution to parking woes

Former JDF soldiers offer solution to parking woes

BY VERNON DAVIDSON
Executive editor — publications
davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

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THREE retired Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) officers have combined their expertise in engineering and finance to provide what they insist is a viable solution to parking space problems plaguing motorists, especially in major urban centres, across Jamaica.

“This is a game-changer, a national development project,” Lt Colonel Stacey Thompson told the Jamaica Observer.

Thompson and his partners — Major Winston Dwyer and Lt Colonel Richard Sadler — are the principals of Abacus Safe Park, which, the trio explained, has secured exclusive distributorship rights from an overseas manufacturer for vertical rotary parking systems in the Caribbean and North America.

“As engineers, our role in life is to solve problems. We saw a problem in the parking situation in Jamaica and around the Caribbean, and other parts of the world as well, so we formed a nice team to really tackle this problem,” said Thompson, who is CEO of the company.

Thompson said he and Sadler were both integral to the formation of the JDF's Engineering Regiment, while Dwyer, who was a pilot, has wide experience in business and banking.

According to Thompson, the idea to introduce the vertical rotary parking system to Jamaica came to him after he converted Abacus — a computer company he and his wife formed in 1986 — into a non-profit organisation. That conversion came after Abacus switched from the computer industry to the provision of cable television service.

Thompson, who opted not to name the overseas manufacturer, said after winning the exclusive distributorship, they brought in a demonstration unit and had it assembled by Jamaican engineers.

“It's located in Swallowfield, just across from the [motor vehicle] examination depot,” Thompson explained.

Basically, the system allows automated parking on a mechanical frame that is like a multi-storey parking garage. Cars are stacked vertically to maximise the number of parking spaces while minimising land usage.

Abacus's demonstration unit can accommodate six cars; however, most units on the market fit as many as 16 cars, with each vehicle occupying space that would normally be occupied by two cars, or sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in a regular parking lot or garage. The benefit of that space is the reduction of the possibility of vehicles being scratched or bumped.

The system, which is motorised or can be operated manually if there is a power cut, facilitates motorists parking and retrieving their cars with the use of a smart card.

According to Thompson, the system is not new, as it was in use in Chicago, New York, and Detroit in the 1940s.

“But it was not safe. There were cases where vehicles fell off. I think because of that they kind of scrapped it. But then came the Chinese and the Koreans with this new technology, where they have a lot of electronics in there — anti-fall, anti-swing, laser sensors, making sure that doors are closed, that vehicles are in the right position, etc,” he told the Observer.

Among the other safety features are: Emergency braking unit; safety operation confirmation device; over-position — long/wide vehicle photoelectric detection devices; driver, car doors detection devices; parking position detection devices; vehicle in place prompt system; front screen for prompt information; alignment beams and vehicle in position lights; car plate identity — LPR camera; CCTV surveillance cameras; and remote monitoring and maintenance tools.

“So there are a lot of safety features in there,” Thompson said, adding that a point-of-sale system can be installed to accommodate payment by debit card.

The Abacus team made clear that they were not in the business of operating the parking systems.

“What we are doing is distributing... We are not going to operate them, that is not our intention. We want to stick to our core thing, which is to give excellent parts, maintenance, quality service, to make sure that you have 100 per cent reliability, operability, and so forth. So that creates opportunities for other companies or individuals who want to put them up and operate them, and that way you get the multiplier [effect],” said Thompson.

“It offers business opportunities, employment and also business development,” added Dwyer, who suggested that the system would be attractive to operators of supermarkets, car dealerships, insurance companies, airports, hospitals, private parking garages, stadia, and other companies that need space for staff and customer parking.

“If somebody has a little piece of land in Santa Cruz, there are opportunities to earn from providing parking space,” Thompson interjected.

The Abacus principals also pointed out that another benefit will be having the systems assembled here, thus providing employment for Jamaicans whose work will be monitored by the company to ensure it meets the required standards.

In that regard, they have have partnered with veteran civil engineer Carvell Stewart to ensure proper construction of the systems.

“One of the critical things is, having put it up at point A, you can pull it down and put it somewhere else, except that the base will be there,” said Dwyer.

In response to a query about the cost, Thompson said a rough estimate to construct the base for a 16-car unit is “somewhere around $2.5 million at this time”.

The full multi-storey parking system, Sadler added, would cost about $38 million.

“I showed this to an architect in Jamaica and he immediately did a mental calculation [and said] if you had to build a parking garage [of the same size], basically it would cost twice as much. So really, it makes sense,” he said. “If you're thinking of saving money and having more efficiencies, then it's a no-brainer.”

Asked to give a time for roll-out of the system, Thompson said: “As soon as possible; tomorrow morning. I mean, if somebody signs now we're ready to go.”


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