Vancouver Gets First Robot Parking Garage in Canada

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The future is here.

A downtown condo building is the first in Canada to boast a robotic parking garage, which is just as cool as it sounds.  When drivers pull in, they get out of their cars and swipe a special access card.  Vehicles are then automatically lowered and parked in a five-floor garage below the building – with no one at the wheel.

The 240-space robotic parking garage at 838 West Hastings Street is the largest of its kind in North America and the first in Canada, according to the Vancouver Sun.  It sits below the new Jameson House building, a 38-storey luxury high-rise completed in 2011.  Because the building is so narrow (just the size of two, single-family lots), underground parking space was severely limited.  So the architects got creative. 

A conventional garage would have required 12 levels (Imagine getting a spot at the bottom of that?).  To save drivers time, designers instead installed a state-of-the-art, mechanical parking system comprised of pneumatic lifts, electric motors and special sliding rails in the floor (like the kind used at car washes).

After you pull into the entrance bay, exit your car and swipe an access card, the vehicle is automatically weighed and measured.  It’s then lowered through the floor and ferried to the lower levels of the underground parking garage, which functions as a kind of “supersized auto filing cabinet,” according to the Sun article.

When it’s time to retrieve the vehicle, you swipe the access card again and – within a minute or so – your vehicle surfaces, ready to go.

Advantages include no dinged doors or fender benders in the garage, since there are no human beings or other drivers in the parking lot.  Plus, the system cuts down on exhaust fumes and enables packing more vehicles in less space.

The downsides?  Well, apparently it doesn’t always work.  One resident complains that the robotic parking system breaks down pretty regularly, leaving drivers stranded – for as long as an hour – without their vehicles.  Plus, there’s obviously an extra cost involved.  Spaces in the lot cost $56,000, which is approximately twice as much as the going rate for conventional spots in new downtown condos.

Would you pay extra for a robotic parking spot?  Is the convenience worth the cost?  Let us know!

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4 Responses to Vancouver Gets First Robot Parking Garage in Canada

  1. Samantha

    Emailed this article to my boyfriend, who is an architect. He had some interesting points:

    “It’s cool, they’ve had them in places Taiwan and Japan for years, I remember seeing them, but the cost is a real problem from a developer’s point of view. Twice the price only makes sense if you’re trying to make a statement (as it seems that they are,) or if the lot is unworkable with a conventional system.

    The biggest problem with these systems, from an operational standpoint, is that they only have 5 access points, which only carry one car at a time. Unlike elevators which can squeeze 10-15 people in during peek hours who follow each other out the car ramps, people have to cue up and wait the couple minutes each to retrieve their car. This can be a real bottleneck at 8:30am.

    It would be frustrating if the system had a power failure. In conventional garages, you can manually open the doors until you get power back, but with this system, you have no manual option.

    FInally, they claim that this system eliminates emissions by not running vehicle engines while they are being put in place, but I have to point out the the environmental hypocrisy of devoting so many resources (steel, computer control systems, hydraulics all of which have a very high cost) to this system. Furthermore, propagating a system of getting around a city (driving cars) that is generally considered a dead end both from an urban design perspective as well as an environmental one is not exactly environmental. That statement seems like a pretty huge post rationalization and one that ignores some significant factors.

    Like I said, neat system, but for the reasons above, I wouldn’t expect to see many of these any time soon.”

    • Samantha – That comment was awesome. Many thanks to your boyfriend.

  2. Don Monahan

    This is not the biggest automated garage in North America. The biggest one is in Towson, MD at 409 spaces.

  3. Thanks for sharing this information here with us.