The Seattle Center Monorail is once again not running.  Apparently, one train has a mysterious mechanical problem while the other is in renovation.

For all its recent technical unreliability, on the rare occasions I’ve had to ride it, I find the view of the city from that height to be astonishingly beautiful.  In practice, however, when I’m trying to get from downtown to Seattle Center, if my choice is a free transfer to the #2 or a $2 monorail ride, being thrifty wins out.

This is just idle wishing (in light of the inevitable financial issues), but it’d be nice if they could unify the fare structure and therefore honor transfers.  Maybe when the Metro fare hits $2?

7 Replies to “Monorail Problems”

  1. I’d ride it constantly if I could get a transfer. I work downtown and live up on the hill, so the only way to take it is to walk up the hill or pay twice.

  2. “This is just idle wishing (in light of the inevitable financial issues), but it’d be nice if they could unify the fare structure and therefore honor transfers.”

    I wish they would since it would convince many more of just what a crappy kind of transport this is.

  3. Elevated trains, whether they be Monorail, Light Rail, or Metro, are a double-edged sword. They also highlight a classic economics principle known as externalities.

    Pro for elevated trains is the view. Martin makes a point. It’s gorgeous from up there. This is true in general, but 10 times as true in Seattle. We live in a city with Amazing views in every direction, but especially on the west edge. I hate to bring it up (like saying Macbeth in a theatre), but if we think about the Green Line project, it essentially traveled down an amazing view corridor. The entire length of the route would have had a view, and most of it would have been a better view as you got away from the skyscrapers and could actually see over the rooftops. You want to talk about encouraging ridership. Given an elevated train along that route, why would anybody drive? People would ride it for fun (thus spreading the benefit out over more people and reducing costs).

    I bring it up, because, come ST3, we are going to be talking about light rail along that same corridor, and when we do, we will need to talk about: surface, tunnel, or elevated.

    Another major benefit of an elevated train is that it’s easy to see from the street. People don’t need a subway map, they can just see where the train is. They see the track and can follow it to a station. Finally as great as subways are, nobody really likes traveling in a dark cave underground. So riders substantially prefer an elevated train. They are also, mile for mile cheaper than tunnels.

    That’s the one edge. The other side of the issue is the thing I keep bringing up, probably to the point of driving you all crazy: Transit Oriented Development.

    While people would rather ride an elevated train, people wouldn’t rather live near one, or even walk near one. That’s the externality. As quiet as light rail is, a train is going to make noise, and an elevated train is going to cast a shadow and make the pedestrian environment around it much less desirable. Try walking along side the monorail and you’ll see what I’m talking about. As far as land values are concerned, the value of rapid transit is probably enough to overcome these externalities and be a net positive for the land near the stations, but not so for the land in between the stations, an elevated train could end up decreasing land values and development in the in-between areas.

    Density and TOD is really important, because if people can’t get to the train, they won’t ride it, plain and simple. I lived in Vancouver, BC for a year and I rode Skytrain one time, and that was to show it off to a friend who was visiting. On the other hand, I rode the bus every day. Why? Because as cool as the train is, it wasn’t where I needed to go. If we are going to get our money’s worth out of this light rail thing, we’ve got to build out the density around the stations.

    So which is better? I’m not sure, but I think it’s a great thing to be talking about, especially now, while ST3 is still in the future and we have a real chance to influence how it takes form, but if we wait until they are breaking ground, it will be too late.

    Take the Rainier Valley line for example. According to the ST staff that I have spoken to about it, one of the major motivations for going with a surface route rather than a tunnel route was that “the community” meaning the tiny fraction of the community that showed up and thought about this stuff early, said they wanted a surface solution. Obviously, cost helped make that decision, but now, a lot of people are wishing we had fought harder for grade separation when we had the chance.

    Well, we have the chance to get ST3 right, if we start thinking about, discussing, and advocating around these issues today.

    Oh yes, and what ever will happen to the monorail when we build out ST3?

    1. Your ST staff about Rainier Valley told you a lie. Just go to the Times and do some research. The Rainier Valley was FIGHTING tooth-and-nail for a tunnel but ST said that it cost too much.

  4. They don’t even need to have the same fare; the water taxi is $3 yet they somehow manage to accept transfers and passes. (And it’s even more touristy than the monorail.)

  5. Do you think the monorail will ever add a stop in Belltown (like 5th and Bell)? I think that’d be a good idea! It’d give the growing Belltown/Denny Triangle area a nice option.

  6. That photograph is beautiful.

    I think you should have the monorail website publish it on the site. The one they have is not nearly as good of a graphic.

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