Burj Khalifa, located in Dubai, is the tallest building in the world. It reaches 830m high and has 310,000m2 (3,300,000 ft2) of floor area.[1] So why have I superimposed it 4 times on the Vancouver skyline? To help illustrate the performance of our rapid transit systems.


Note: I exercised great care to keep Burj Khalifa proportionally accurate. The Living Shangri-La building was used for comparison measurements. (Original photo by Joyce Fan)

In Vancouver there are two rapid transit lines that travel downtown, the Expo Line and the Canada line. The current number of passengers they transport downtown during the peak hour are found in Table 1 below. The capacities they can ultimately reach with fleet and station upgrades are also listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Transit line capacities (people / hour)
Expo line 15,300[2] 25,700[2]
Canada Line 6,100[3] 15,000[3]
TOTAL 21,400 40,700

Now what if all of those people were to drive instead? For comparison we can look at the parking required for an equivalent number of personal vehicles. The typical area per off street parking space, including access aisles, is 30m2.[4] Using this figure we find that a parking structure with floor area equivalent to Burj Khalifa would provide 10,300 parking spaces.[5]

As an illustration, over two parking structures the size of Burj Khalifa would be needed to accommodate the parked vahicles if the people who currently took rapid transit downtown during the peak hour were to drive instead. Four of these structures would be required to provide parking equivalent to the ultimate capacity of the transit lines. The results of the analysis are shown in Table 2 below.

Table 2. Number of Burj Khalifa sized parking structures to accommodate an equivalent hour of vehicle flow
Expo line 1.5[6] 2.5
Canada Line 0.6 1.5
TOTAL 2.1 4.0

Keep in mind that this is looking at the hourly inbound traffic. The number of structures required to handle the total daily inbound volume would be more substantial. This analysis is also not taking into consideration the stations outside downtown or the capacities of the outbound tracks.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burj_Khalifa
2. SNC-Lavalin (2010).Expo Line Upgrade Strategy. p. 22.
3. Chan, K. (2014, August 14). Short Platforms And Trains: Is The Skytrain Canada Line Under Built And Nearing Capacity? VanCityBuzz
4. “Parking lots and parking structures typically have about 330 square feet per space (half for the parked car, and half for the access aisles)” – Shoup, D. (2005). The High Cost of Free Parking (p. 221).
5. 310,000 / 30 = 10,300
6. 15,300 / 10,300 = 1.5