A Rehash: What Was Wrong With The Monorail

A week ago, while talking about the viaduct, a friend said to me “If only we had just built the monorail…”

A few days later, when he regained consciousness and they took him out of the ICU (joking! joking!), I had calmed down. I gave him a list of why the monorail would never have worked, was a bad idea in the first place, and would probably have ended up half-built and bankrupt:

First, putting your technology choice in your law is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. Your law should always say something like “high capacity transit” or “fixed guideway transit” – something flexible – that way you don’t get backed into a corner. There were very few initial bids for the monorail – and only one that held up for long. This is not a standardized transportation system – there are many competing technologies for both trains and guideways. They’re generally proprietary – only one vendor will sell you the trains to go on your tracks. That means single bids, which kind of defeats the purpose of competitive bidding, don’t you think?

Second, don’t claim your fantastical technology will “pay for itself”. Seriously, that was how this all started – “it will be profitable”, we were told, “companies will be falling all over themselves to get the contract”. Yeah, and my buddies in Baghdad don’t know where to put all the floral arrangements. The original monorail group started out with that claim, then moved to $18-36 million a mile with operating costs recovered through fares (still no chance in hell), then more like $50-100 million a mile… eventually it became clear that it was, actually, a transit system, and that transit systems do, indeed, cost money. Too late: making all those crazy claims killed their credibility.

Third, and maybe even most importantly: This was supposed to be grassroots, bringing people together. Instead, it became an anti-light-rail festival of lies, alienating the support of transit users and people with brains everywhere. “Light rail can’t climb a grade”, they said, when the stretch we’ve built along SR-518 is as steep as their Hitachi monorail could do. “Light rail isn’t elevated”, they said… I hope everyone on this blog realizes the humor in that statement. “Light rail is so expensive”, they said (and I’m leaving out their capital letters and exclamation points) – but it turns out that the differences in cost between light rail and monorail are negligible. They poked fun at their base supporters, and it cost them.

Fourth, to cut costs, they planned to use single tracking and switches over the West Seattle Bridge (and they eventually cut Ballard from their plan entirely). Switches, for monorail, are huge, cumbersome devices that take many times longer than standard rail switches to actually switch over. The maximum frequency of trains over the bridge would have been choked off by switch actions between every set of trains. Even after making that decision, the monorail agency still advertised three minute headways – when they would have been physically impossible.

The rose-colored glasses the monorail agency looked through at every issue bit them time and again. They claimed that their real estate costs would be low because they “only had to pay for posts in the ground”, that their columns would be “thinner than light rail” (they weren’t), and that they would offer a “quieter, smoother ride” – they wouldn’t have. I’m not even discussing the financing plan – it was astounding. Along every step of the way, the agency lied, taking advantage of Sound Transit’s bad position at the time to hit as hard as they could at light rail, rather than collaborating. Oh, yeah, and they spent more on advertising alone than they were bringing in. …And their projections for car ownership (their funding source was an MVET) were far too high.

I’m glad they’re gone. There was no opportunity for mass transit there – they failed so many times in so many arenas that I hope that’s clear. All they did was confuse the public and spend our money. Yeah, I know, Ballard and West Seattle residents feel cheated – but it’s like Publishers’ Clearinghouse – you weren’t actually going to win a million dollars. We don’t have the tax base in Seattle alone, especially not just with an MVET, to build mass transit in that corridor.

We will. Once light rail is built northward to the county line, those will be the next logical places for Sound Transit to build using North King money.

About Ben Schiendelman

Ben Schiendelman joined in 2007 to better consolidate news and information about our upcoming transit expansions, and to build a better base to further grow our system. He previously wrote the blog Higher Frequency, and worked on the 2008 Mass Transit Now campaign. Ben refuses to own a driver's license.




Comments

  1. Alex Garcia says:

    Even with all those problems, I still think the Monorail would have taken us alot further then we are now. It would have given us a base to grow from. As for cost, I think we need to just face that any mass transportation system is going to cost alot.

  2. Ben Schiendelman says:

    I don’t think I was clear enough. It would never have been built. Never. Those bonds wouldn’t have been viable, they were being junk rated, and the city wouldn’t have put their name behind them.

  3. Andrew Cencini says:

    “anti-light rail festival of lies”

    your invective is poetry, thank you for making my day with this statement!

  4. Matt the Engineer says:

    What I’m sensing in your post is what you accused the monorailists of – making it a light rail OR monorail issue. So it looks like we will get light rail. That’s a good thing. Regional transportation is bogged down and we need mass-transit solutions.

    But what do we do about local transit? The fact is that the monorail was never competing with light rail – they are serving two different markets. The most functional cities I’ve been to have a rapid way of getting around town.

    I’m ok with all of your arguments – it doesn’t have to be a monorail and it can be handled differently. But what do you propose we put in its place? (waits for the unfortunate and unsatisfying answer: gridlocked busses and streetcars)

  5. Ben Schiendelman says:

    The monorail project was built on anger that Sound Transit wasn’t doing what some city residents wanted it to. Most of those people hated light rail – they were trying to build support on the back of anti-Sound Transit sentiment. Go read some of their old statements to the press – there was a lot of “unlike light rail” and “monorail is better” – all the way up to the end. They didn’t even intend to build a transfer stop between the two systems aside from Westlake.

    I propose we build mass transit – and I mean light rail or subway – in the same corridor. As soon as we build the spine northbound to the county line, any further Sound Transit ballot measures would have a lot of North King money available for building to Ballard and West Seattle.

  6. The monorail project was always secretive, and run by a bunch of dreamers bamboozling the public.

  7. I was a monorail supporter, but your criticisms make a lot of sense in hindsight.

    One thing, though. You say that light rail to Ballard and West Seattle will be the “next logical places…once the North King subarea is built out.” What do you mean by this? Ballard and West Seattle are in North King and are part of any full build-out of the subarea. Were you just talking about the initial line going north from downtown to Northgate? If so, I agree with you. I don’t agree if you mean that the line north of Northgate is more important than West Seattle or Ballard.

    The light rail priorities within North King as I see them are:

    *UW
    * (TIE) Northgate and cross-lake over I-90 to East King
    * (TIE) Ballard and West Seattle following the monorail Green Line route
    * Northlake to Snohomish County
    * West-East Ballard-UW line
    * 99 corridor
    * Lake City Way/Bothell Way
    * West Seattle toward Burien (to continue in South King to the airport)

    This complete system would server connections to the north, east, and south, and both the west, east, and central portions of the city itself. If you figure 10 years per stage or so, this is a 50+-year plan. I’d like to see that accelerated by putting a new stage on the ballot every two years. Then we could have the whole system in about 25 years.

  8. Ben Schiendelman says:

    cas, I actually went back and rephrased. I mean after the northern Link segment hits the county line.

    Bellevue will be done *long* before that, so I’m not even worrying about it.

  9. Brian Bundridge says:

    There is one thing that the Monorail has an advantage of that Link does not; Speed and construction time.

    Unless the entire Link line from West Seattle to Burien is elevated, the Monorail does have a speed advantage and this is where it comes in as a cheaper investment though not near the numbers that SMP was thinking.

    Also, any Light-Rail that is built within the street/at-grade within (concrete/aspault covered rails) is restricted to the ROAD speed limit. If it is regular ballast and railroad ties (standard railroad construction) but with road way splitting the right of way (Drive down MLK way to see the above examples of this) the route is allowed 5mph above the posted road speed limit.

    If the right of way was blocked off in such a way (think 10 foot fence or jersey barrier) on either side of the roadway, then the trains could go 55mph.

    So yes, the Monorail would be much faster to build and operate and it is also cheaper maintain (no track maintenance), that I will give it. I still hold a firm grip that the Monorail would be the best solution but the routing needs to be rethought greatly.

  10. daimajin says:

    cas,
    I reckon we won’t get a ballard-west seattle line proposal on the ballot until at very least after the airport segment opens, possibly only after U-Link, and after ST2 passes.

  11. It always amazes me that transit can be so heartfelt of an issue to Seattle. We’re trying to document the whole process, and would like to invite your comments at http://www.monorailmovie.com as well.

  12. I thought monorails could do 10% grades where lrt could do like 5%.

  13. Ben Schiendelman says:

    michael, it was a flat-out lie. The Hitachi system was limited to 7%, so is Link. In *dry weather*, monorail can climb a steeper grade, but you can’t build a monorail assuming dry weather. :)

    Brian – The Hitachi monorail system (the only bid we even got) is limited to 55mph by its tire system. Link is being limited to 55mph by Sound Transit, but the cars can do 65mph, and similar systems can be built to run at up to 100mph (new light railways in Germany).

    No track maintenance? That’s apples to oranges – proprietary tires have to be replaced regularly.

    I haven’t seen any monorail systems built faster than comparable light rail systems. The light rail elevated guideway was built just as quickly as any recent monorail construction.

    You CANNOT compare at-grade light rail to elevated monorail. You MUST compare elevated light rail to elevated monorail. When you make that comparison, they are comparable in nearly all areas.

  14. First, there was no secretive bamboozling; the Monorail folks were transparent to a fault.
    Second, public transportation is not a “for profit venture”, nor are our roads.
    Secondly, mass transit is not meant to reduce congestion; it’s purpose is to give people an option out of congestion.
    Fourth, comparing financing on construction costs was the back door tactic of those opposing the monorail. Tell me of any other major public project, prior to the monorail, where this arguement took place. It was a Seattle first.
    Finally, and most importantly, explain to me how a city could flush a viable mass transit system down the toilet where all the studies (geologic/H20/traffic/engineering) were complete, voter approval was confirmed 4 times, properties were secured and all that needed to take place was for track to be laid.
    Now we’re spending $200,000. to study the use of rail into West Seattle (King County).
    The engineering was sound; you just had to take the blinders off.
    It’s the drone of Nimby’s such as this blog that cause me 25 minute commutes in the morning just to get on the I-5.
    Give it a rest, you won. Now live in the filth you contributed to.

    • Anandakos says:

      SVA,

      No rail to West Seattle, of any technology; give it up. It’s not dense enough now, and it’s far too nice a place to densify sufficiently. The express buses that use SR99 are completely sufficient. RapidRide is going to improve that nicely.

      Also, your auto commute is going to be improved by the replacement of the Spokane Street structure. Yes, it will be temporarily painful, but it will make a big difference.

      P.S. Unless you want to Californicate Seattle, it’s not “the I-5″….. Just “I-5″ will do nicely, thank you. Up here in the laid back Northwest we don’t objectify our roads.

  15. Ben Schiendelman says:

    sva… 5 to 1 financing has never been attempted for a public project that I’m aware of. Certainly not in the last 50 years. That’s why the standard 2.2 to 1 (30 year bond) financing model for Sound Transit has not really come up in the news.

    Every one of the 4 votes was for a different thing. I’m sorry if you believe otherwise, but I documented it back at Higher Frequency. In the fourth vote, in fact, people thought they were voting against the monorail! (It was a recall vote, so “no” was to keep the project).

    The bid wasn’t even confirmed, because SMP didn’t have enough money for it. With construction costs increasing and car ownership decreasing, they would have been bust before they ever laid track.

    sva, it’s your approach that killed the project. Just believing everything was going to be okay.

  16. Ben Schiendelman says:

    You know what’s really sad? The more I read that comment, the more it reminds me of the SMP. SVA, did you work for SMP?

  17. Ben Schiendelman says:

    Oh, man, and NIMBYs? You clearly haven’t even read the blog. I would do *anything* to get rail built faster.

  18. Your point about unstandardized technology is great and was sorely overlooked IMO. We don’t need lock-in 30 years from now when we have to do an expensive retrofit or conversion just to do repair. Or to be tied to a single vendor for 30 years who might go out of business in the meantime.

    But another good reason the SMP lost popularity is as you put it, the SMP people were basically full of shit. I recall confronting one of them at a festival booth a few summers ago. They gave me all the lines — light rail can’t do this, can’t do that. Now, I’m from Boston, where a 100-year-old successful light rail runs underground, above ground, elevated, street level, you name it. When they said “light rail’s not elevated”, I pointed out three places where it is. “But it’s more expensive, it’s more expensive”, I was chided. Eventually they let themselves get distracted by someone else and completely ignored me.

    Public works projects cannot be built solely on cult-like religious worship.

    • Anandakos says:

      Romulus, the bottom line with monorail is that the switches are TERRIBLE, as Ben pointed out. Not only are they slow to cycle, but they are extremely dangerous. When approaching an elevated monorail switch from the “frog” end, if the straddle beam is “open” (e.g. lined for the other route) the train is facing a GAP….

      Don’t say “automatic interlocking will de-energize the power rails. Sometime something will go wrong and an in-service train will fly into the gap and plummet to the ground. The Disney monorails are all loops for this very reason. They only have switches at the maintenance facility and when a train passes through one of the three switches giving access to the maintenance facility via various routes, the operator has to manually override a mandatory stop command issued by the computer to the train. They can only go 5 miles an hour in override mode.

      Such a restriction is necessary because of the possibility of entering the gap, but it would destroy headways.

  19. Ben Schiendelman says:

    Oh, man, romulus – was it the booth they had in volunteer park at the pride parade? 2004, I think? The guy there was exceptionally clueless.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Yes, SVA, Ben got it right. The monorail financial plan failed because it relied on Junk Bonds, at the highest rates of interest to make the plan “work.”

    Why were junk bonds necessary? Because the monorail board overestimated tax revenues and underestimated system costs — simple as that.

    It took them 10 months of behind-closed-doors tinkering, putting lipstick on the pig, before they went public with the plan. And when the public saw the numbers, they were livid.

    Compare all that with Sound Transit, which sells its highly-rated bonds at low interest rates. This because it conservatively estimates its revenues and costs, and not fast and loose like the monorail did.

  21. May I remind people that Ben also believes the South Lake Union Street Car is a great idea.

  22. Ben Schiendelman says:

    sam, the south lake union streetcar is a great beginning. Extending it up Eastlake to the UW will serve an underserved corridor.

    Maybe you haven’t seen the studies of development around the Portland Streetcar, and how developers regard it? Streetcars are great for creating infill density.

  23. *SIGH* Ben, I could take apart every single paragraph you wrote. Believe me when I quite honestly say that you clearly misunderstand much of what went on.

    That said, I don’t really care to take the time. Most voters were obviously similarly confused.

    It doesn’t matter now. Monorail was killed by the folks who wanted it killed. Some of us wasted 5-10 years of our lives on it, and we’re done mourning. It’s hardly the first time that a good idea has gone down the tubes due to politics and confusing citizens.

  24. Ben Schiendelman says:

    michael, if you can take apart any of my arguments, please do. I don’t respond well to the “argument from authority” logical fallacy you’re using. The SMP failed on so many counts, and ignored so many problems, that even a few of the dozen issues I’ve brought up could have killed the project.

    How do you suppose the SMP would have responded to the construction cost increases that nearly killed Central Link? Monorail can’t be made cheaper by running at-grade.

  25. OKay, Ben, I’m in a better spot today to respond if you insist…

    1) We didn’t put our technology choice in the law just because we were a bunch of monorail freaks. There was already work done, some by the city’s transportation folks, to look at the best transportation modes for this corridor, and they pointed to elevated transit as the optimal solution. Limiting options after that point, simply allowed for more system design work to be accomplished.

    2) While proprietary tech was a concern of some critics, it was pointed out that Disney’s monorails are built today by a different manufacturer, local talent in the Puget Sound region is capable of such work, and the City actually owns the specs to the existing Seattle Center monorail which could be opened up for anyone.

    3) One of the stated reasons there were fewer bids is because the City required any bidder to also take out a bond that would guarantee 100% completion as well as funds for complete removal of the system if it failed.

    4) I’s not entirely fair to take claims that it would “pay for itself” which came from the original visionary and put them together with those who said “it [could] be profitable” that actually developed the plan.

    5) Why is it that two of the only transit lines to be profitable in this country (and there aren’t many at all) are the only two urban monorails?

    6) And really poor PR aside, if we had been forced to operate with a 15% or 20% subsidy, would that have been so bad, when the average transit system in our country subsidizes 30, 40, 50+% of their Operations & Maintenance?

    7) I’m not sure what to make of your third point. Some of those statements certainly weren’t made by anyone I worked or volunteered with. And I agree with the grassroots complaint. After the vote creating a formal agency, grassroots transparency clearly went out the window. All I can say is, it wasn’t that way when I was heavily involved, and I fought long and hard against it when that changed.

    8) In fact, monorail is capable of higher grades than light rail. On the other hand, no route around here would be expected to have a grade that both technologies couldn’t manage.

    9) I agree with you on the stupidity of the single tracking ideas. However, the comments you make are simply taken from the haters. In fact, a number of monorail systems around the world use switches. A simple visit in person or to some fan websites, would show pictures of quick-operating switches in action on working urban systems.

    10) Finally, I will address the financing plan. The $11B plan which killed the agency in the media was never supposed to be the financing plan. OK? Please read that several times. The plan was never approved by the Board. It was designed as the worst case scenario; in other words, if costs ran high, interest rates didn’t work out, grants didn’t materialize, all sales taxes and utility relocation costs were required, etc. One of the reasons some monorail fans hate the Mayor so much is he is responsible for the existence of this plan in the first place, but never bothered to communicate that to the media or the public.

    In the end, the problems the monorail agency went through really aren’t any different than those that affected Link Light Rail. The key differences are that local politicians fought for light rail, and the taxing district was bigger; so they simply paused and waited for more revenues to come in.

    • THANK YOU Michael!!! My wife and I framed our Seattle Monorail poster and have it prominently displayed in our living room. And to think it WOULD have been finished in time for the oil shock, when public transportation ridership exploded.

      I rode the light rail the weekend it opened and LOVED it. Had the monorail been built, then we Ballard folks could zip downtown on the Monorail and make a quick transfer to the Light Rail and go south. Also, it’s a huge pain taking the bus to the Sounders games, as the buses are snarled in traffic. I know I sound like sour grapes…but I’m still bitter about the Monorail being killed.

      And lets be honest about the financing…the political powers that be made sure the financing would never work out. First, the state wouldn’t close the loophole that allowed 1/3 of Seattle drivers to register their cars outside the taxing district. Had Nichols and Sims (both of whom I’m otherwise big fans of) used their influence with Olympia to get this loophole closed, the SMB wouldn’t have had to shortened the line, or reduced the West Seattle crossing to a single track with switches. Mayor Nichols only had to bide his time before canceling the permit, and having the vote to kill the monorail. It’s the light rail in reverse. Light rail would have been killed years ago if it wasn’t for Mayor Nichols and Ron Sims unfailing support. If they had done the same for Monorail, which had the broad support of the public, it would have been a great compliment to our regional mass transit system.

      I would LOVE to have the light rail come to Ballard. It’s just a shame that we’ll have to wait 25 years for mass transit to come to Ballard, that should have come here already. And whether or not it made money is of no difference to me. Public transportation isn’t about making a profit – it’s about facilitating the mass movement of people throughout the city, which benefits everybody, both economically and with a better quality of life.

      I’ve never been a Light Rail vs Monorail guy. I think they’re both great technologies, and I would have voted for the green line just as enthusiastically if it had been light rail. But dammit, it seems to me that it was killed out of pure political spite, and it was just as viable a technology as light rail.

      John

  26. As somebody coming at this from a transit advocate perspective, but outside of Seattle (LA) I will give you my two cents.

    Apart from the problems inherent in monorail systems (huge swtiches, small cars), the overriding point here, that should be repeated is: you’re going to save money by using only ONE modality. Two different modalities means keeping more parts in stock, having more mechanics on the payroll, etc.

    And especially if one of the modalities involves proprietary technology, manufactured by only one company. What if that company goes out of business? Then you are left holding the bag. I know what you’re thinking: Hitatchi won’t go out of business! They have been around forever. Tell that to Bear-Stearns.

    So, yes, it was an “either-or” proposition, and light rail was the right choice. Off-the-shelf technology, made by many manufacturers, which drives down prices. The rail portion is interchangeable with all railroad installations, including non-electric ones, which further drives down price.

    And with the pot of federal money with construction of new projects limited, costs have to be kept in whatever manner possible.

    Light rail can be elevated just about as easily as monorail. The stations are the same size, and the rail guideways are only somewhat larger. Supporting structures are about the same size also.

    Don’t worry, Seattle, you did the right thing by kicking monorail to the curb.

    • If Hitachi goes out of business, Scomi will make the parts. Their entire business model is designed on open-sourced and orphaned-work monorail technologies.

  27. Ben Schiendelman says:

    1) Elevated transit doesn’t mean monorail. Both monorail and light rail can be elevated, and what’s silly here is that we’ve BUILT elevated light rail in Seattle already, so this shouldn’t even be a rational talking point.

    2) Proprietary equipment is still more expensive, even if yes, Disney can find two manufacturers (mostly because Alweg is long gone, I think).

    3) Perhaps that was a bad idea?

    4) The monorail leadership made a huge mistake saying that it could pay for itself at all – and it’s not just something that was early on, it continued well after the second public vote.

    5) I’m not aware of a single profitable monorail. Seattle’s monorail is not profitable anymore – poor design caused a fire and a crash that the owners aren’t paying for! Vegas certainly isn’t profitable.

    6) Nobody was suggesting a 10-15% operating subsidy. Elevated was suggesting about the same operating subsidy as Link light rail…

    7) The light rail bashing started at the top. Arguments otherwise are ridiculous, and easily debunked. Check out my old history of the monorail project at Higher Frequency (higherfrequency.blogspot.com), where I link to many articles about the monorail that should prove that point.

    8) The Hitachi system was limited to 7%, in the bid documents. Our light rail has been built with a maximum grade of 7%. “Monorails” aren’t the bid we got, we got a bid from Hitachi.

    9) The Hitachi switches took 60 seconds. As with your comment on the grades, I don’t care what other people have done, because we weren’t doing that.

    10) The Mayor wasn’t in charge of PR for the monorail. If the monorail agency wanted to point out that the $11B was worst case, they could have used some of that advertising money to do so. They didn’t.

    If the monorail went through all these issues and the light rail did too, why did we have to pass a light rail plan once, but SMP/Elevated had to put forth plans THREE TIMES? I think the reason is simple: Sound Transit’s ballot measures were flexible enough to handle adversity, like putting the MLK section at-grade. SMP was so wedded to the idea of monorail alone that they couldn’t do it.

    You can’t even accept responsibility for their failure, you’re simply blaming other people. It’s sad.

  28. Ben Schiendelman says:

    Scott, thanks. I think most Seattle voters do realize it was a good idea to kick the monorail to the curb (hell, they did vote that way with something like a 30% margin).

  29. Scott, I would disagree with you on the use of one modality, for two reasons:

    1) Cities with good transit systems feature a number of modes. Look at San Fran with buses, streetcars, subways, and heavy rail.

    2) The monorail was not an attempt to replace light rail. The argument made was that light rail, and its agency, are serving our region and connecting city to city. Monorail was proposed as a Seattle system, connecting neighborhoods with Downtown and each other. The two were supposed to work together, and the current light rail line being worked on is hobbled on travel time due to its need to make local stops in SE Seattle, and on its headways due to running at grade through that part of the City.

    *) And, once again, anyone can build trains to ride on a single beam, just like anyone can build trains to ride on two rails.

  30. Ben:

    Re #3, you won’t get any complaints from me. Most supporters thought it was a stupid idea. And when one bidder asked if the requirement could be changed or they might not be able to bid, the City refused to back down, and they walked away leaving us with one bidder. That’s one stupid mistake that can’t be blamed on the agency.

    Re #4 & 5, The Seattle Center monorail is normally able to make a profit and help subsidize the Seattle Center. You can’t complain that it didn’t make money while the system was shut down. And the Las Vegas Monorail covers ALL of its O&M costs from the farebox. The reason it is considered an economic “failure” is because it was supposed to make enough profit to cover the construction as well. Even we here in Seattle didn’t try to attempt that one.

    Re #6, I don’t recall any mention of Light Rail’s subsidy for comparison. I don’t even know what ST is claiming will be the subsidy there. I do know that last time I checked, Metro subsidizes all buses within Seattle at 28%, but that number goes up to 40% system-wide.

    Re #7, the agency did not bash light rail, and the supporter groups never did while I was a part of them. We maintained the line that both would benefit each other by completing the “X” through the City that has been proposed off and on by transit planners for 40+ years. I’m still waiting…

    Re #9, Hitachi runs systems in Japan that have no travel time impact from switches.

    Overall, Ben, I’m simply trying to point out some things about the technology in general and not our specific project here. There is plenty of blame to go all around.

    However, the bottom line is that this Project was supported by voters multiple times and yet political leaders publicly let it die (and then quietly lamented its demise to me) because it was to their advantage to do so.

    The result is a loss of faith in our local government, a smack in the face of grassroots organizing, and 1/5 of the City’s population left with no rapid transit for decades except some pretty new buses, and two of the fastest growing neighborhoods facing a traffic nightmare when the Viaduct closes in a few years.

  31. Ben Schiendelman says:

    michael:

    4&5: Vegas and Seattle are both entirely inside a downtown core. I have no argument that Seattle’s monorail *did* cover its own O&M, but it does no longer. You can’t pick and choose the timeframe you want to address. Vegas no longer covers its own operating costs… ridership has been dropping.

    6: just on your operating subsidy numbers, different routes get different amounts of money. Some routes in downtown actually cover their own operating costs.

    7: example: http://higherfrequency.blogspot.com/2005/10/quick-note-about-monorail.html

    9: Hitachi systems in Japan with single track segments run with no lower than ten minute headways.

    The bottom line here is that the SMP is responsible for the lack of public confidence in transit, not anything nameless ‘officials’ did.

  32. Mike Orr says:

    The main advantage of the monorail — and the reason I supported it — was that it has to be grade separated, so there would be no monkeying around with surface routes with traffic crossings. That and the fact that an all-elevated system would have a great view, which would be a tourist draw as well as transportation.

    Many cities with light rail put it entirely on the surface with stations too close together, and they won’t hear of anything with more up-front costs. Portland, Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, and Denver all come to mind. (Although some of these do have grade separation on portions of the line.) Luckily for us, Sound Transit was forward-sighted enough to make Link mostly grade-separated with stations 1+ miles apart. But their mistakes in the Rainier Valley and SODO are going to dog the system until they elevate or tunnel those sections someday. These mistakes would have never happened with monorail.

    One problem with the monorail financing was that they weren’t going to honor transfers or passes from the rest of the system. Not many people would be willing to pay two full fares for one trip; even monorail supporters would end up taking a bus a lot of the time because of this.

    • I, too, was a monorail supporter. However, that statement can be deceiving.

      I supported a good monorail selection: Hitachi of course, but they may soon have competition with Scomi’s SUTRA.
      I supported the original route: DT path could’ve improved, though.
      I did not support: Epic-fail financial plan.
      I did not support: All the flaming “this” vs “this” blah blah.

      Although, I think we should note that alot of the supporters of the project were very passionate. Maybe if we elected better leadership from the start…

  33. James Maxwell says:

    Sorry to necro this, but I see on the Monorail Society page that the LVM has filed for Chapter 11

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