Monorail crossing ship canal
Visualization of Ballard Ship Canal monorail crossing (CenTran)

[See update at the end of this post. –Ed.]

On the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Center Monorail, a new group called the Century Transportation Authority (CenTran) is making an attempt at building a Ballard to West Seattle monorail line by forming a city transportation authority and building on the work done by its predecessor Seattle Popular Monorail Authority (SPMA). According to a press release from the group’s founder, Elizabeth Campbell, published on the West Seattle Blog, 3,600 signatures are required to put the authority’s creation to a public vote in August 2012. CenTran does not yet have a financing plan but aims to create one that is “up-to-date” and “viable”. It is working with the city’s high capacity transit planning effort. It estimates the line will be in operation by December 2018.

CenTran is also seeking to fill positions on its board. Among current members of its interim board are Elizabeth Campbell, known for advocating a Viaduct rebuild and Paul Toliver, a former Metro Transit director and SPMA board member.

The proposed line will be fully grade separated, 16 miles long with 18 stations and cost $1.4 to $2 billion. The alignment resembles the cancelled Green Line with several key differences. The line would run along 24th Ave NW or 15th Ave NW from Crown Hill through central Ballard. Then it will cross the Ship Canal in a new transit/pedestrian drawbridge next to the Ballard Bridge. Instead of going through downtown on 2nd Avenue, the line will run along Alaskan Way on the waterfront. A personal rapid transit (PRT) system will provide circulation from waterfront monorail stations to downtown destinations. From the waterfront, it proceeds to 1st Ave S by the stadiums and over the Duwamish on the West Seattle Bridge, continuing on an alignment similar to the original Green Line to Morgan Junction, with an extension to High Point and Westwood Village.

Reactions on neighborhood blogs in West Seattle and Ballard were mixed, with some expressing support and some thinking of it as an early April Fools joke. CenTran must apply lessons learned from the failure of the original monorail project if it is going to succeed at its goals. I do not know whether this group will work with other community advocacy efforts to build more rail in Seattle like Seattle Subway and the Ballard Spur. [UPDATE: Seattle Subway’s Ben Schiendelman confirms that this group has not contacted his movement, which now includes the Ballard Spur group.]

Full disclosure: I turned down a request from Campbell to hire me to produce maps for an undisclosed project (which might not be related to the monorail proposal) in September 2011. I also volunteered my time to design Seattle Subway’s map.

156 Replies to “CenTran Proposes a Ballard-West Seattle Monorail”

  1. This is the same flawed approach that killed the SPMA project: identifying the solution and then finding a problem for it to solve. Why build a line from Ballard to W Seattle? Is there identified travel demand? If so, define what that demand is and where it’s going (in so doing, build consensus that the problem needs to be solved) and THEN evaluate which mode of travel (monorail included) will best address it (in so doing, build consensus in support of funding and building the solution).

    (I am a professional Transportation Planner in NYC)

      1. Yes – but the line proposed here doesn’t go downtown. It goes to the waterfront, at the bottom of a hill.

      2. The waterfront is downtown. Just because it is not your preferred location does not make it not downtown.

      1. In addition, previous studies already identified “elevated transit” as the best option for the Ballard to Downtown corridor.

      2. More than ten years ago, before downtown started growing like crazy again.

  2. How many votes is Seattle to have on the monorail? I think they’ve had enough.

  3. I was on the original ETC board (which turned into the SPMA). As much as I would like to see something like this, it won’t happen as long as our elected representatives insist on sending it to a public vote every year or so. And let’s face it, once citizen activists (with the best of intentions) turn over such a project to the “professional transit planners,” it will change, grow and morph beyond all recognition.

    And unless there’s a miracle in Olympia and at City Hall — on the order of taking the waterfront tunnel money and giving it to this project — this will never be affordable. “CenTran does not yet have a financing plan…” If so, I regret that it’s DOA.

    1. I think the achievable option is to accelerate Sound Transit – which is exactly what Seattle Subway is working toward.

  4. Maybe this will get the public’s attention and ST will put a stop in at Dravus/Interbay for the Sounder Northline….otherwise, pathetic.

    Yeah, it is wishful thinking.

  5. This is really, really dumb. They want to resurrect the old SMP monofail plan and build it for about 25% less than the SMP couldn’t build it for? It’s impossible and a guaranteed failure. They can’t be serious.

    But, at a requirement of only 3600 signatures (really?) I suspect this will make the ballot. Hopefully the Seattle voters have been properly educated after the SMP boondoggle and will vote this POC down.

    This is a really dumb idea and deserves no part in serious transportation discussions.

    1. Personally I think the decision to make it a monorail proposal stems from the fact that this statute to create an independent agency after collecting a tiny number of signatures is still on the books. It just specifies “a monorail public transportation function” all of the place.

      If the Legislature would be so kind as to strike “monorail” every place it appears in RCW 35.95A, then it would be a great vehicle for building rapid transit. For one thing, it still has MVET authority.

      1. The legislature doesn’t have to. The statute defines “monorail” as “fixed guideway rail that is not light rail”. Go look in the definitions. You can build a subway system with it. :)

      2. “Public monorail transportation facilities” means a transportation system that utilizes train cars running on a guideway, together with the necessary passenger stations, terminals, parking facilities, related facilities or other properties, and facilities necessary and appropriate for passenger and vehicular access to and from people-moving systems, not including fixed guideway light rail systems.

        Huh, didn’t see that. The politics here is mind-bogglingly stupid.

  6. Although there’s a lot to dislike about this proposal, I’m so desperate for something decent in this corridor that I’d be happy to support them if they can get it done. The only real dealbreaker is the fact that there are exactly zero decent transfer points to light rail.

    Realistically, the best output to hope for is enthusiasm, which can be harnessed by Seattle Subway to build a consensus for decent transit in the corridor.

    1. Hope is not a plan. And neither is desire.

      This proposal has zero chance of success, but it appears that we will once again waste valuable time and effort discussing the merits of something that is little more than a fantasy.

      This is a waste of time.

    2. Why must it be a Monorail? That is pointless in my opinion, both from a technical perspective and a political perspective. Emulating the monorail is not a plus.

      1. They claim they’re able to keep some value from the plans we all spent so much money on. Seems an off-the-shelf rail project would be a better idea. That said, I’m with Martin. Something’s better than nothing, and if that’s a gondola, a monorail, a subway, or pneumatic tubes I’m in.

    3. Martin, I sympathize about the emotion, but much life experience, including the last monorail effort, indicates that desperation is a more dangerous motivation than rage. Especially on engineering projects.

      Everything about this proposal says “Burn Before Reading,” starting with the delusional cost estimate and time frame. Along the proposed route, you don’t get 16 miles of plastic police tape for two billion in six years.

      And like we need another brand new agency! Answerable to whom? Elected how? Financed how? Under whose control, and with what back-stop in case of setbacks?

      And let’s understand one plain fact: “Monorail” means “One Rail”, with all the structural and operational difficulties that has put the vast majority of the world’s rail systems on two rails since the invention of railroads.

      With thirty years in Ballard and the hope of thirty more, I want some decent transit too. But anybody who would give this proposal anymore time than it takes to pitch the paper into recycling doesn’t belong making transit decisions in any capacity.

      Put your talents to something real, Martin, as you’ve always done up to now. And Paul Tolliver, I’m looking forward to earliest opportunity to tell you in person that the transit experience we shared all those years should make you ashamed of yourself.

      Mark Dublin

      1. “two rails or nothing”

        I beg to respectfully disagree. There are a lot of advantages to a single track system. The first being that the train grips the track better than a train which sits on top. So in the event of an earthquake, it’s more likely that the train will remain attached to the track.

  7. Seems like a way for Elizabeth Campbell to make sure her signature gatherers keep getting paid.

      1. I have a question for you Elizabeth:

        I was a huge proponent of the original monorail plan. I felt it was the most effective way to create a high speed, high capacity transit system across the city. Obviously, it ultimately failed and we were left to build a regional light rail system.

        That said, why, after the initial parts of said light rail are already built, should we create a new line with different technology? Why not advocate for this line to be the next phase of light rail?

    1. It would seem that she has learned a couple of tricks from Tim Eyman and knows how to use the initiative system to keep her self in the media spotlight. I wonder where her funding is coming from???

      This is not a serious proposal – and even the people making it must know that.

      1. Seriously? When you take the time to rise from you screen name and get to know me personally, you can make the comments about some thing about me. But other than that, why be rude and make snide remarks? There is a transportation debate on, not a personality contest running. What skillset could you bring to the mix? We’re forming our technical advisory panel, and a stakeholders group, send your interest and info to and well see what the fit is.

      2. This is not a serious transportation proposal, and there will be no serious transportation debate about it.

        If you want a serious debate, put out a serious proposal. But if you put out something like this, expect comments like you are getting.

        I.e. you will reap what you sow. Please start by sowing something serious.

  8. I was so excited about this until I found out that Elizabeth Campbell is leading it. She has like zero friends in city hall. Talk about the wrong messenger.

  9. That’s where you are wrong. Politics makes for strange bedfellows. Instead of devolving to personal affronts, go positive, what will your contribution be to this effort?

    1. Go for it Girl and ‘Rise above it all’
      The tourist alone will fill the damn thing up going along the waterfront.

      1. I bet it will even “turn a profit”. Har har….

        How many times must we be dragged through the mud by these “citizen transit activists?” This was a disaster when the SMP tried it, and it will be a disaster again.

        I want serious transportation progress in this city – not perpetual failures.

      2. Maybe I’m missing the context of your remark, and I’m certainly not supportive of this proposal, but I couldn’t help thinking when you said “Citizen Transit Activists”, — Pot meet Kettle…

    2. My contribution to this will be “none”. This is a total waste of time and effort.

    1. Ummm…. I don’t think you are supposed to be cutting/pasteing private correspondence on open forums/boots without permission. If not illegal/against the rules it is certainly in poor form.

    2. I’ll bet Oran is glad he spent the time posting about this today – something about biting the hand…

      1. In her defense, he did mention full disclosure in the introductory statement, but wasn’t totally honest. I’m enjoying this debate but I can’t help to wonder some of you on here have a personal vendetta against the monorail rather than an open and factual debate. I say whatever’s the most affordable” “grade separated” system for this corridor should get built be it Monorail, Light Rail or some other technology. Can someone please post a cost analysis between the two (Light Rail vs. Monorail) as a total “grade separated” system for 16 miles.

      2. Marcus, a monorail that bypasses the job center and proposes an unfunded podcar system is a non-starter.

      3. You have no expectation of privacy once you sent your email out Oran. You invoked SDOT on the debate so the public has a right to know what you’re doing here.

      4. Elizabeth, when a bunch of people call you out for doing something unprofessional, it doesn’t matter what you think – you screwed up.

    3. It is inappropriate to post private correspondence to a public forum. It’s a breach of etiquette and of trust, and it is in very poor form.

      1. “Marcus, a monorail that bypasses the job center and proposes an unfunded podcar system is a non-starter.”

        Not to be rude, but the process seems to already have started. But again, can someone post an cost analysis of a fully “grade separated” system for 16 miles for Light Rail, Monorail and even include an Hybrid Automated People Mover System Train similar to the system in Vancouver(Canada Line) and Atlanta’s new Consolidated Rental Car Facility(Mitsubishi Crystal City Mover).

      2. Marcus, there is no process here. Anyone can put up a website and write an initiative, but that doesn’t make their idea any less insane.

        In 2002, the monorail claimed their line would be some $85 million a mile. It turned out that it costs close to double that. After ten years of inflation, these people claim the costs would be even cheaper than bad projections from 2002.

        Why on earth are you taking this seriously?

      3. Marcus, a true cost analysis takes a lot of time and work. That’s what the high capacity transit study that the city and Sound Transit are working on is supposed to provide.

    4. Oh wow. Talk about professional.

      I can just see the headlines: “Failed Mayoral Candidate and Activist Posts Private Correspondence.”

  10. From a TOD perspective this plan is a wreck. It appears that most the stops downtown feature parking garages. Downtown. Prime real estate and they want parking garages. The plan also makes a hash oh the waterfront project. A project that seems to have alot of powerful people on its side.

    The people mover is a non start as well, to get to the airport a person from Ballard would have to make 3 seat changes.

    Not to mention the fuzzy math and hand waving that would pay for it.

    I do agree with them and the Seattle Subway people that these areas need service, but if this is the plan presented to the voters, I don’t think I could vote for it, and that is saying something from train geek like me

  11. I was a supporter of the Green Line back in the day, but now I’m soft on monorails and would vote no on any city plan to build on. The reason: the ride. Even modern monorails are jerky, bumpy, clunky with stations high in the air. There are better alternatives.

    But i do appreciate the effort and motivation to build rapid mass transit from Ballard and West Seattle to downtown!! It’s something we really need, but I’ll wait for a train with a full or partially dedicated ROW (streetcar or Link).

    That said, Seattle Subway hasn’t contacted me to volunteer for their effort yet. If centrans can rally the people …

    1. Jack, don’t worry – we will. We basically just made sure we were out there many months before we’d have a campaign or outreach plan. Usually campaigns don’t do that exactly because people go “oh, they must not be doing anything”, but there isn’t much for volunteers to do until we actually launch.

      The problem with launching too fast is that you end up with something like what this post is about. :)

  12. My initial thought on this as a West Seattlite was “Yes Yes Yes!” as I posted on the West Seattle Blog. But upon further reflection, there are some fundamental problems with this plan:

    First, monorails generally have rubber tires on concrete, which will always be less efficient than rail. This will increase energy usage and operating costs. Rubber tires cannot compete with the innate efficiency of steel wheels on steel rails.

    Second, there are too many stops. In the CenTran materials you can see overlapping half-mile catchment areas at several points. This will slow the system significantly. It would be faster and and cheaper to build and operate with fewer stops. Rule of thumb: if half mile catchment areas overlap, the stops are too close together.

    Third, running on Alaskan Way on the waterfront is too far from connections to light rail and major downtown bus corridors. Easy onnectivity is important, and this plan doesn’t address that. The PRT thing seems silly to me, why not integrate with the downtown streetcar system we’er building bit by bit?

    OK now. Here’s why I like this. It’s not because this system itself is a good idea, it has several flaws. But this type of organization is important to let the City of Seattle, Metro, and Sound Transit know that we’re serious about our need for mass transit within the city. Sound Tansit is building a perfectly mediocre regional light rail system, but what are we doing to push the powers that be to get moving on mass transit in the city? There are too many disparate efforts: CenTran, Seattle Subway, Metro’s not-so-rapid ride, and some vague Sound Transit idea to maybe build light rail to West Seattle sometime in the distant future. It would be best for everyone to pool their efforts and resources into one effort to build rail in Seattle.

    1. Seattle Subway isn’t a “disparate effort” from Sound Transit – it’s an effort to provide Sound Transit with funding to build more. It wouldn’t become a new transit agency, just an administrative group to fulfill CTA requirements.

      1. Thanks for the clarification. The info I could find on Seattle Subway is pretty limited.

      2. Yeah, we haven’t actually launched yet. :) We’re just soaking up support while we’re in the quiet phase.

        But if she gets on the ballot, we can’t launch.

  13. has there ever been a monorail drawbridge built/operated before?

    just asking.

    1. Why would you even want to put a drawbridge in the middle of your “high capacity” transit line??

      This is not a serious proposal.

      1. especially a drawbridge that opens on demand for marine traffic that could take an indeterminate amount of time to traverse the waterway…

        This proposal = *plonk*

  14. I enjoy how the conceptual station in Ballard at 24th & 56th is on the same site as a planned 7-story mixed-use building that already has it’s Master Use Permit. Oh, and the proposed location in West Seattle at 35th & Avalon has a soon-to-open 6-story mixed-use building on it.

    While conceptual, a serious proposal would not show stations at the parcel-level at this early point in time, let alone parcels that cannot reasonably be aquired.

  15. Seattle’s obsession with monorails is hard to understand. You have light rail. Branch off of that line to connect west Seattle if you need high capacity transit. This plan is just silliness.

    This isn’t Disneyland.

    1. Not really. The monorail is a rather clever coverup for the PRT crowd to finally get their system built here.
      True Genius, I would say.

  16. Serious question/concern in regards to the cost proposal. Where does the $2 billion figure come from? I see a need for at least $200M worth of bridges (based on the similar South Park Bridge costing $100M to replace), which is 10% of the total budget. Trains will cost $20M a pop, and will probably need 10, so another $200M. Planning and engineering will be about $200M (based off ULink).

    So this leaves $1.2B to build 16 miles of elevated guideway, 18 stations, AND a people mover Downtown. 7 years ago, SMP did not have a people mover, also quoted a $2B price tag, and were on their way to blow way past it before they were dissolved. How is this CenTrans group going to do better?

    1. The estimated cost is overly optimistic and unrealistic. They are basically saying we can build a grade separated line cheaper and faster than Sound Transit did for Central Link. Sound familiar?

      The big component that doesn’t yet have a number is the financing cost. That’s what doomed the Green Line and that’s what will likely doom this proposal as well.

      It’s NOT going to cost $2 billion.

      1. The other big component it doesn’t have is a ridership estimate. No direct transfer to Link, no access to the office core – I think rapidride will have more passengers.

      2. Inflating ridership estimates, minimizing cost estimates is nothing new in the transportation business. Sound Transit did it with the “Sound Move” vote, Boston with the “Big Dig.” As a follower of this stuff I usually ignore those numbers.

    2. No… Please get the facts right. SMP had a bidder with a $2 billion contract ready to be signed to build its system.

      The problem was never the COST of the system. The problem was with the FINANCING of that cost. This is a problem that will face any proposal for any technology in this corridor unless Sound Transit builds it, and only after paying off all most of its debts in our subarea.

      1. Exactly, although the debt part doesn’t make sense.

        A new revenue source for Sound Transit could get transit built to Ballard and West Seattle.

      2. Right, Ben… The new revenue source people will vote for after paying higher taxes for the seawall and the libraries and Seattle Center and fixing roads and sidewalks and…

  17. I would love to see a rail system through Ballard to downtown. But monorail isn’t it. The system is clunky. It takes a city block to shift tracks, moving tons of concrete.

    Has anybody in this organization or its predecessor ever looked at the Vancouver BC
    Skytrain? I can’t believe it is more visually intrusive than the proposed monorail.

    The major deficiency of the monorail is its inability to cross over onto the existing light rail network. A monorail means yet another system in the city. We’ll have street cars, buses, light rail, heavy rail and ferries, in addition to monorail.

    Take a ride on the New York subway system. Two of the three systems cross into each other constantly, enabling new routes and emergency bypasses. The third unfortunately uses cars of a different width, meaning station platforms don’t work.

    Sorry, monorail is for children going to Disneyland or old codgers dredging up memories of the Seattle World’s Fair.

  18. 1) No public vote.
    2) Get a San Francisco hedge fund manager to help with financing.
    3) Get a Microsoft billionaire alumni to help with financing.
    4) Get Chinese/Indian/Japanese/Korean/Russian tycoons to help with financing.
    5) No public vote.

    1. I should qualify that I voted for monorail all previous times and would vote for it again. I just don’t want to go through the beating that *right-wing* interests, *big oil/auto*, *Sound Transit* and *Downtown Seattle Assoc.* orchestrated on us in the last big fight.

      That said, CENTRAN’s time is coming very soon as streetcar transit the distance of Ballard to Downtown and West Seattle to Downtown will be far from “rapid” (as the “Link in the Valley” now shows).

      1. Tony, are you aware of the effort to get Sound Transit the funding to build subway – like University Link – in the west corridor? This scheme is clearly DOA, but Seattle Subway’s approach wouldn’t raise the ire of the DSA or Sound Transit – and the right-wing interests and big auto don’t have much play in Seattle.

  19. While I voted yes every time for the monorail, I believe its time has passed. Any grade separated transit line from west Seattle should connect with the link light rail line in SODO and use the existing tunnel. I support grade separated transit to Ballard but integrating it with the current tunnel would be cost prohibitive.

    1. While I don’t want to turn you on to the idea of monorail, you can’t put any more trains in the downtown tunnel than will already be there when North Link and East Link are complete.

      1. Whatever technology is used for West Seattle, could easily come in over the top of the Link maintenance bay in SoDo, or run next to it, or underground nearby. Plenty of cities use multiple technologies and still manage a unified transit system, just like the First Hill Streetcar will connect to Link.

      2. Michael, there’s no problem with using more than one technology. We just have to take it through downtown, or nobody will use it.

      3. Don’t be ridiculous, Ben… That’s like suggesting no ferry rider uses a bus or Link. An elevated station on the waterfront would work just fine. It could even be part of the new ferry dock. Adding high speed transit there would help bring people in, and the connection to Link could be made in Pioneer Square or by the stadiums.

    2. Fil…

      As much as I admire Seattle Subway’s approach to dealing with the political logistics, I have yet to see a single convincing argument* that the original, branched Ballard Spur proposal wouldn’t provide more benefit for more riders at half the length and at significantly lower cost!!

      *(No, “Northgate needs peak 2-minute service” is not a convincing argument. There is simply no way to crunch the ridership estimates and determine that North Link beyond Brooklyn station needs so much service as to preclude branching.)

      1. The guy who started Ballard Spur is convinced the idea is impossible and that Seattle Subway is the way to go – he joined our board.

      2. Funny that. The map above is one I drew up before Keith drew up his. We came to all the same conclusions about cost-benefit independently.

        Now you’ve got him on some ridiculous one-track shuttle thing, firmly capping headways at 10 minutes or higher, and with costly low-ridership extensions to a mall, an isolated hospital, and the locks.

        Every city that has ever tried to save money by single-tracking urban segments has regretted it. Even Baltimore eventually shut down its light rail for months to double-track (and their ridership sucks!).

        6 miles plus downtown tunneling will cost more than 3 miles of Spur.
        And 3 miles of Spur hit many more demand centers than 3 miles of Interbay nothingness.

        Why are you so obsessed with your Interbay Maintenance Base, Ben?

      3. d.p., I don’t have time to unravel what you’ve got yourself dug into there, but I think you have a set of bad core assumptions. Keith came up with the one track shuttle himself. There is no way anyone is going to stop the FTA process to get the $600 million we need to build North Link. You’re talking about years of additional engineering and massive risk.

        And there is way, way, way too much demand at Northgate to build a spur. Everyone looks at Northgate and says “oh, there aren’t very many people there”, which is totally missing the point, which is that every bus coming south on I-5 to go either downtown or the U-district (dozens of routes) can terminate at Northgate and even with transfers provide their users a time savings.

      4. …And yet the ridership number given for Northgate is 15,000… hardly enough for 2-minute or even 4-minute 4-car trains!

        Heck, let’s be stratospheric and assume that North Link will draw 80,000 “riders” (we’ll be lucky if it draws 1/2 of that).

        Those 80,000 “riders” are actually only 40,000 two-way trips.

        And maybe 25,000 of those trips will happen at the height of the peak rush (in which case, why are we building an all-day transit mode?)

        A 4-car link train holds 850-1000, right? So 25-30 trains over the 2-hour peak would handle even our ridiculously high ridership number! Gee… that’s one train every 4 minutes…

        Which in no way prevents interlining!

      5. And “massive risk” my fanny.

        If it’s too late to design for a flying junction*, then you simply add in a level crossing, which is one of the few benefits of light rail over heavy, and which 4-minute-headway, 4-car Docklands Light Railway trains have proven feasible.

        *Is it even too late to design for a flying junction? The boring depths haven’t been firmly plotted, and a couple blocks north of Brooklyn is far enough for tunnels to rise and fall one train height.

      6. I know it’s easy to get attached to a cool idea, but you’re not self-criticizing, and you’re not applying the same level of detail to your own plan than to what’s already happening.

        Have a look here at page 5-8:

        There will already be nearly 50,000 people on trains that *get* to Northgate.

        You’re talking about halving the number of trains that go to Northgate. This isn’t about the nuts and bolts of a design, it’s about $600 million on the table just going away if Sound Transit actually did something like this.

      7. Okay… 48,800 by Northgate + 15,000 at Northgate + 10,000-ish at Roosevelt = ~74,000 one-way “riders” (~37,000 actual human beings).

        Now see my number crunching above.

        You will never need closer than 4-minute headways at any time of day!

        You probably will someday need 2-minute headways between Brooklyn, Capitol Hill, and downtown. But not all of those trains need to go further north… thus the interlining!

      8. d.p.,

        Your numbers are wrong. The maximum crush load of the train is 800 people. For planning purposes, it’s 600, or about 60 train loads in each direction. And those are 2030 ridership figures, and may very well not consider much in the way of TOD at Northgate; presumably we’d like the system to scale beyond that.

        I’m not yet convinced that 2 minute frequency is possible, particularly if junctions are involved, which is what you’d need to get 4 minutes on each.

      9. If you take trains out of the tunnel to go to Ballard, you end up with 8 minute headways at Northgate. I don’t see how you keep missing this.

        And are you ever going to answer the $600 million elephant in the room? Because as long as you don’t, you’re not talking about something with one ounce of possibility.

      10. Martin, if 2-minute service is possible now even with our ridiculous bus/train blocking, why shouldn’t it not be possible with trains only? See: Brussels, Boston, and every other light-rail subway in the world.

        As for the numerical estimates, I hope for the sake of sanity that I was overestimating the proportion of ridership that would be peak-only. If ridership is actually going to be 65% peak, then we shouldn’t be building the damned thing at all!

        Ben, no. I’m talking about 4+4, not 8+8. And if demand were unequal, you could have 2/3 of trains going one way and 1/3 of trains going the other.

        And I’m accepting the Lynnwood-Shoreline estimates, even though most reasonable people would call them fantasies.

        As for the “$600 million elephant”, the answer is: Don’t change anything that’s already designed, so you don’t risk the money. But do start thinking about future integration now, so that you don’t screw yourself down the line! (Seattle doesn’t have the greatest track record on this.)

      11. d.p., you’re now changing your plan just so that my arguments can’t stick. Just stop.

      12. Didn’t change a thing. You kept saying my plan limited North trains to 8 minutes, and I kept correcting you. You’re either disingenuous or have problems with reading comprehension.

        Anyway, I’m done. See ya!

      13. You sure don’t seem done. :)

        You can’t do any of what you keep asking be done without changing the design of North Link enough to lose $600 million. It’s a non-starter.

  20. Just like to add to the chorus here:

    The benefits of a Light rail/Subway system far outweigh those of a monorail. I could list them, but I believe most of us already know. It’s important now more than ever to support the Seattle Subway organization.

    1. It’s more important to support increased density and rapid transit, not necessarily a Seattle Subway. I don’t want to have all my transit travel in slow and crowded buses and slow and crowded light rail trains stuck on surface streets or to have to travel in underground tunnels with no enjoyable views.

      Public transit should literally be elevated above the auto and with abundant city views.

      1. Tony, people *vote against* density. But they *vote for* transit. If you want density, build serious mass transit so that the chorus of people who want to live next door to it overwhelm the fight against density.

        Will you really give up a great transportation system just because you can’t see out the window?

      2. Gas prices alone have helped change long-standing perceptions about how people want to live their lives so I don’t think that people are voting against density today as they might have in the past.

      3. there is no reason why light rail cannot be elevated like monorail and no reason why you couldn’t run a monorail in a tunnel.

      4. Tony, are you completely unaware of the giant fights about density this blog writes about every few days?

      5. Density is already coming to Seattle neighborhoods by sheer pressure of things that are beyond current residents control. Many people might not like it but many people DO. It’s already happening and will continue.

      6. A Seattle Subway line would be underground through downtown, and elevated through SoDo and to W. Seattle, before going underground again. Outside the city proper, Link will be elevated or surface in most places.

        IRT your statement about light rail ‘stuck on surface streets’? Were you referring to the streetcar or the Rainier Valley section of Link? Streetcars are meant to replace busy bus lines in-city, but I agree that Link should NEVER have been at-grade with level crossings anywhere. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be making that mistake again.

  21. Is the downtown tunnel really near capacity? Would adding a w. seattle spur to it really put it over it’s limit?

    1. Yep, once the East Link is running the Downtown tunnel is full, the buses come out.

      Which is why the waterfront tunnel is a disaster. We need another tunnel but we need it for the West Seattle/Ballard run.

      1. Fil:

        Sound Transit will never “state” this. They have no reason to – they’re not campaigning for a new tunnel downtown.

    2. It’s not near capacity *today* – the rail we’re building to Northgate and Bellevue bring it to capacity.

      During peak times, trains run every 7-8 minutes today. In order to keep that service and provide adequate service to Bellevue, trains will run in the tunnel every 3.5-4 minutes. Trains have to stay a couple of minutes apart just to slow down and pick up passengers – you can’t fit more into the tunnel than we’re already going to.

      1. For the west Seattle spur, it could end in SODO and passengers could transfer to a train coming from beacon hill to downtown. It wouldn’t be ideal but would keep more trains out of the tunnel…

      2. It’s not just “not ideal” – people would just use rapidride or drive instead. That’s why nobody builds things like that.

      1. Would the cost be competitive to use the existing monorail guideway and building news bridges north and south vs cost of a new tunnel through downtown and north or south however far it would go?

      2. For the record, I don’t like the draw bridge idea. The bridge is a scenic element and should be tall enough to allow masts to go underneath and trains to travel unimpeded.

      3. No, there’s serious opposition to new elevated structures in our retail and job core.

  22. BTW, the existing monorail already is at the retail core. I can accept that this is a political hurdle not an engineering or financial one.

  23. Ben, Ben, Ben. No, you did. You’re talking a lot of trash here and not staying with the truth about many things. You were one of the first people I contacted in September last year about working on the monorail project, and far from being dismissive of it as you now claim you are – in your phone conversation with me and in your follow-up comments to me you said: “You’re very welcome! Thank you for including me and talking to me about your plans – I’m interested in how this shapes up, and I’ll definitely take any opportunity to give advice or help out if I can. Talking about providing the waterfront with transit is important – it *is* an overlooked corridor. I just think we’re going to be focusing mainly on corridors called out in the transit master plan (the high demand corridors) for quite a while yet.”

    Shortly after I had that conversation with you, in December you lifted the confidential material I had given you about the monorail route and stations we were proposing, claimed it as your own and published it for the Ballard subway. It was obvious, you used the distinctive routing I had shared with you, in confidence, pursuant to the non-disclosure agreement you had signed about the project. In other words you violated the NDA.

    Telling the truth is not a screw up. Telling stories that are not true, violating confidentiality agreements, and talking smack about legitimate people and projects is. I have treated you consistently with respect and professionalism. As I wrote you during our talks, “Thank you Ben for taking the time today and sharing with me your wisdom and knowledge about transportation. That is one of the reasons why I did want to talk with you about the project because you know this material cold.”

    Apparently you’re not the person I originally thought you were, that’s abundantly clear – not to mention, you sucked Oran and others into your game that you weren’t playing on the up and up or straight with them.

    1. Even worse, he doesn’t share his time travel machine with supposed friends! I mean how else could he have stolen your plans in Dec and yet shared it with me months earlier?

      Some friend. Bet he has a Tranmorgifier he’s keeping to himself as well!

    2. If Ben violated some sort of NDA then sue him, but personally you have zero credibility with me on this issue and I’m inclined to side with him on all points.

      There has been at least a decade of study on this corridor (actually, probably decades) going back at least to Mayor Shell. Claiming that your routing is somehow “distinctive” is pure hogwash.

      Plus, as near as I can tell your routing has been lifted almost directly from the defunct, voter shuttered, and disgraced SMP routing. That is public info and you are free to lift it all you want, but so is Ben so you might as well back of the personal and groundless attacks.

    3. Martin et al., please leave Elizabeth’s comment (here and on the other post) up.

      Elizabeth, when you proposed your project to me, I signed your NDA in good faith, and remained silent about your activities – as even the Seattle Subway board will attest, they knew nothing of your project until you announced it.

      I also informed you that I had already begun a competing project, and offered direct criticisms of yours – even as your quote of me makes clear, you are targeting a low demand corridor. You never contacted me again for help or to inform me of your progress.

      If you feel our routes are similar, you’d better cancel your project, because I developed your “distinctive routing” in July of 2010 (see the date?):

      It’s also, as you accept I informed you, derivative from the fantastic work in the Seattle Transit Master Plan:

      Of course, claiming it’s either of ours is ridiculous anyway, because it’s nearly identical to planning dating back to the late 1960s:

      Like you said, I know this material cold. I offered my advice to make your project successful. You chose to ignore it and move forward with a laughable, utterly impractical proposal, and your reactions to criticism from others have been, quite frankly, childish and inflammatory.

      If you ever want to accomplish something, you might do well to accept the input of others. It’s something I struggle with as well – I’m cranky with criticism, but at least I’m aware of it, I listen to others, and I don’t threaten to sue people.

      I can’t say good luck in your endeavor, but good luck learning something from its inevitable failure.

      1. Ben, You agreed with the monorail concept, you did not offer criticism, you in fact said the point of your hanging out with us was because if your subway thing didn’t work out thes you wanted to be there with the elevated solution. You’ve been playing both sides so just be honest.

        According to the terms of the NDA you have no right, even after our inaugural event to talk about anything from our conversations and communications: Section 8 provides: “This Agreement shall commence on the date first written above. Receiving Party’s right to use the Confidential/Proprietary Information in connection with the Business Purposes [the pursuit, evaluation and/or feasibility of a business relationship, and/or the consummation of a transaction between Receiving Party and Disclosing Party (collectively, the “Business Purposes”)]shall continue in effect until December 31, 2012, or until Disclosing Party provides Receiving Party with written notice of termination of such right, whichever is earlier. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Receiving Party’s obligations with respect to the Confidential/Proprietary Information hereunder shall continue in full force and effect until further notice from Disclosing Party.”

        You have received no written notice releasing you from your obligations under the NDA, which does not end until December 31, 2012.

      2. My only contact with you regarding your project – and my most recent contact with you of any kind before this comment thread – occurred in a single phone call and a short email exchange with no written details. Your claim of what I supposedly said at that time is flatly false, as I think is apparent to anyone.

        In my line of work, I uphold dozens of concurrent non-disclosure agreements from a variety of businesses and organizations, and I hold proprietary and confidential information in strict confidence.

        Nothing I’ve written here is either of those things, and that’s plainly clear. Furthermore, when you pasted our “conversations and communications” on this blog, I believe that you provided me an implicit release to discuss that conversation and communication.

        Do you think making inflammatory accusations and threats is useful for you or your campaign? I didn’t write this piece – you haven’t convinced anyone.

      3. Elizabeth,

        I was a fence sitter when it comes to this project, but after seeing this comment, I am a firm “no.”

        Instead of working with the relevant transit enthusiasts and experts, you want to create your own special agency, and instead of focusing on the specifics on any project, you’ve decided to stir up animosity between agencies and groups of people. Your attitude is one of the biggest reasons why we have no good HCT system in Seattle.

        I cannot trust someone like you to deal with the parts of your plan that will clearly face push-back – no financial plan, a monorail on the waterfront with a PRT system to downtown (which adds unnecessary cost and travel time), etc.

  24. You know, I’m down with novel technologies. I really am. But, PRT?! No. What is that doing in there?

    1. For at least one of her boardmembers, I think that’s all this is – a mechanism to force PRT into public discussion again.

      1. Bleh. I’d rather build gondolas. Or induction charged streetcars. Or super-capacitor buses.

    2. PRT is not a novel technology. It’s called the automobile. And with Google’s efforts [that part is novel], it will soon be automated.

      As I’ve said before, the fundamental constraint on mobility in cities is space. Transit exists to solve the problem of moving as many people as possible with as little spatial overhead as possible. PRT (in any form) does not solve this problem.

      1. Hear, hear. To move people in the urban areas that they want to live in, we need something higher capacity than automobiles. :)

  25. Monorail supporters spent a lot of time trashing Sound Transit, so I guess this is payback, but I’m really troubled by the harshness of the response to this. We are all fellow transit nerd with a largely shared goal. The Seattle monorail had a lot going for it. It was largely done in by 1) financing decisions and state errors in MVET projections, 2) committing too early to a hard current expenditure dollar limit 3) an unwillingness to fight for a few straight right-of-ways producing lots of expensive, slow curves 4) a build-desigin-operate-maintain-insure contract that put all of the responsibility on the contractor driving out one of bidders and driving up the Hitachi bid. In that respect it was too conservative. That doesn’t mean the basic design/plan was actually found wanting. We’ll never really know that because it never got built. Personally, I always thought that a line that used the existing 5th avenue segment and spent the rest of the time on 99 both north and south and used the existing bridge would have been more affordable and in a corridor with more long term development potential. With this latest effort, the PRT thing does seem weird and the waterfront alignment, but I think instead of shouting them down we could just say, hey we think these areas should be served too! Join our coalition and let’s leave the technology selection to the experts.

    1. I’d be happy to have a discussion among all enthusiasts, but that’s not consistent with an August drive to the ballot.

  26. What’s really a shame is that the original Green line Monorail board was forced to sell the station properties and right-of-way when the project died. It was clear then and is still clear that this corridor needs better transit. And that the only way to have time reliable transit is a dedicated right-of-way. I can’t speak to the numbers for the Seattle Subway plan but it would seem strange to me that it would be cheaper to tunnel this route than to go elevated.

    As for the forces in opposition to these plans, it’s multiple. One of the biggest contributors toward the kill the greenline system was Martin Selig. Why? Because of two things. If you have an elevated system run by your building at the 2nd floor level, that floor space is worth less than without the same system. Second, when you make a place that’s distance wise farther way, now time wise close, you have decreased the value of the property you own that was once part of a narrow bit of land. Let me re-phrase that. There’s limited land downtown for office buildings within say 10 minutes of travel. But if you can hop on a system and move yourself farther in those same 10 minutes that office space is now “equi-time/distant” to the space you can just walk to. That means there is more land area for development. Which means if you are the main land holder in the old core, and the core just 4x’d in size, you are not the main land holder anymore. You can’t control the rents the way you used to be able to.

    As for technology arguments, it costs money to lift things off the ground. The lighter the thing you lift, the less you have to spend. “Light Rail” because it must be able to withstand side impacts from automobiles because it travels on the surface, is actually heavier than “heavy rail”, and heavier than Monorails. Any system which is in it’s own right-of-way can thin out the walls of the cars and still be safe for it’s riders. So lighter cars, lighter platorm/rail, fewer pillars, less concrete. It’s win/win cost wise for the track.

    Whether the cost saving of using a lighter car outweighs the cost benefit of using a shared technology where you can have backup cars that are shared, and maintenance people who only have to know one system. And the hopefully discount you receive from the manufacturer for bulk orders, I don’t know.

    But just because the Greenline project was a failure. (My take is that it was two fold, 1st insufficent taxing authority to get the bond costs down, 2nd poor project management by Horn and company, lastly “Design/build/run” doesn’t work with transit systems, ie no bidders who both know how to build it and to also want to run it for N years.)

    1. “Doesn’t mean that Monorails should not be considered for this corridor.”

      And in the interest of open disclosure: I was an original supporter of the Greenline plan although I didn’t and still don’t live in Seattle. I do work here. I carried the Monorail model in the Freemont Parade twice, I stuffed envelopes, I harangued city council and transit people about monorails etc. I currently have no part of either the Seattle Subway or the Seattle Monorail projects. And in fact now think that the city would move more people if it spent the same amount of money on bicycling infrastructure.

      1. Yeah, but it won’t – we vote against bicycle infrastructure when it’s by itself, sadly. And, you know, it’s raining right now…

        Why don’t you help out with Seattle Subway? I don’t think anyone else is working toward something that’ll really have an impact on our commutes.

      2. I don’t know Ben. The key time for another tunnel under Seattle is now going to be after the Waterfront Tunnel is finished. Had that waste of tunneling effort died, then the Ballard/Seattle Subway tunnel would have been the logical people moving replacement.

        I think you have about 5 more years before the taxing climate is going to let another tunnel even get talked about by the powers that “be”.

        So meantime I’m spending my efforts getting my co-workers to commute by bicycle, and yes even in this rain. Although in admitting facts, I had a dr’s appt today and rode the bus instead of my bicycle. And my main bicycle is currently out of commission until this weekend due to maintenance & repairs. Too much Seattle grit inside the rear hub.

      3. Gary, the tunnel rejection effort failed – 60% of voters said they wanted a highway tunnel. It seems to me that at least that many will approve more transit – and the thousand people already on the facebook page before there’s even a proposal make me think I’m right.

  27. I hope everyone has been to Las Vegas to see what a bonafide genuine transit-system fire-department approved monorail looks like?

    Because it ain’t what is being pictured above, and it ain’t going to look anything like the Alweg monorail.


      1. … and the Tokyo monorail is a fun ride, and a fairly practical system in the way its used (mainly serving Haneda airport).

        But there’s very little reason to prefer monorail technology in the vast majority of cases, and many reasons not to.

        What makes these “monorail” movements so bizarre is the way they fixate on the technology as if it were some sort of crazy futuristic wundertech, even to the point of explicitly banning (in legislation) anything they perceive as a viable competing technology. That sort of fixation is harmful to the development of a viable transportation network.

        [Of course the apparent infestation of PRT loons makes this current proposal even more wacky.]

    1. I was in Vegas recently and being a transit nerd forced a ride on the monorail there. It was horrible. The Deuce on the strip was FAR better, as were the silly looking semi-retro-futuristic express buses SDX… More economical too and easier access.

      1. Isn’t one the issues with the LV monorail that it was kind of treated as a amusement-park ride from the very beginning, not as a serious transportation system…?

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