Artist rendering of new Westlake Monorail Station

Seattle Center and the Seattle Monorail have a survey in the field:

With plans underway for renovating KeyArena and bringing a new NHL hockey franchise to Seattle, Seattle Center and Seattle Monorail Services are planning ahead by exploring how to make it easier to use the monorail to travel to and from Seattle Center and connect to Link Light Rail.

With One Center City (possibly?) on the horizon and an NHL franchise looking likely at a rebuilt Key Arena, many people are looking to Seattle’s oldest grade-separate transit system, the 1962 World’s Fair Monorail, to evolve from a tourist curiosity to a legitimate piece of transit infrastructure.

Key Arena will re-open in the early 2020s, but the arena’s light rail station won’t open until the mid-2030s. That leaves a 10-15 year gap of concerts and sporting events that could benefit from improved mobility.

ORCA support (which we advocated for), the bare minimum for integration into the transit network, is coming in “spring of 2019.”  Improved access to the station and a re-design to allow direct access from the street (as opposed to the Westlake Center Food Court) are also under consideration:

A Bell St. station and a doubling of frequency (also possible, given enough funding) would be icing on the cake.

Take the survey and let the Seattle Center and Monorail folks know what you think.

92 Replies to “Monorail Survey Hints at Potential Improvements”

  1. Does Orca integration allow people with Orca cards to tap on like Link and bypass the line? Or do you still have to wait in the line of cash payers, and hand the card to an attendant to be tapped?

    Whether it’s the former or the latter can make a big difference in total travel time. As things currently stand, the waiting in line to pay actually takes more time than the entire ride.

      1. Also at Port Townsend – though I think I’m probably the only one that has actually tapped a card there.

    1. Same easy answer as for several hundred other things the matter with Monorail right now:
      make it part of King County Metro Transit. If a ferris wheel at any county fair in the country gets into that condition, whatever county it’s in will shut it down. Just do it.

      Mark Dublin

    1. If Seattle Monorail Services hires its own fare enforcement, that would basically be an FTE riding back and forth. It doesn’t scale the way random checks do on a much larger system. It makes more sense to just have that one person stand there with an ORCA reader.

      1. This is what I’m afraid of. To. Much money to buy turnstiles or hire extra personnel for fare enforcement. Hence the cheap, but ugly solution of making the Orca payers wait in line behind the cash payers at the ticket booth.

      2. I would think it would be trivial to have two lines (one for ORCA, one for cash). The same person could enforce both. That does mean that someone could cheat (make a beep noise as they walked by) but that seems highly unlikely. Nor would it really be a big deal to the agency. The person who is free riding isn’t costing them anything (assuming they simply wouldn’t ride). The only time this isn’t the case is when they would be busy, in which case hiring an extra person to monitor the ORCA line would be worth it.

      3. >> If Seattle Monorail Services hires its own fare enforcement, that would basically be an FTE riding back and forth. It doesn’t scale the way random checks do on a much larger system.

        I see no reason why it couldn’t be the same folks who do Link fare enforcement. Ride the trains for a while, then get off and ride the monorail back and forth once in a while. It shouldn’t be too hard to reach some sort of agreement between the two agencies.

        Not that I would worry about it. There is a fair amount of evidence that enforcement has little effect on the number of people evading fares ( That means that it would be OK if you simply had two lines — one for cash paying and one for ORCA card users. Even if you didn’t have a turnstyle or someone monitoring the ORCA card line, very few people would cheat.

        Part of the reason is that very few people cheat in general. But the other reason is the nature of the monorail route. Tourists are unlikely to cheat. People who have unlimited use ORCA cards or people who transfer have no incentive to cheat. That probably represents the bulk of the riders. If 10% of the locals take the monorail just between Westlake and Lower Queen Anne and cheat, it would still represent a small portion of overall ridership.

    2. This is what the survey is for, for suggestions like this. I just took the survey and it doesn’t have a general comments field (boo!), but there’s an email contact, info at

    3. There could be a full-time inspector in the “fare-paid area” on the platform. That would avoid the bottleneck of everybody lining up at one scanner. Since these are a small number of long-term stations, installing multiple fixed readers shouldn’t be an issue. They may have to wait for ORCA 2 to avoid buying soon-to-be-obsolete hardware (that may not be available any longer anyway).

  2. It seems like the biggest problem with the Monorail is the Westlake side.
    Prior to the Westlake Center the tracks were further apart and 2 trains could be used on both ends. I don’t see that ever happening again.

    Also whe I was a kid the local busses were faster. They dropoed you off right by the old QFC. That was a 1/4 block from the Colosseum.

    Taking the Monorail meant getting off a bus, going up an elevator, or ramps when they existed, waiting for 5 minutes for a 1 minute ride then being dropped offf on the opposite side of the Seattle Center than the Colosseum/Key arena. By the time you huffed across the Center, the bus would have been there sooner. It took no transfers and cost money both ways. Unless my friend was a tourist from out of town, we never used it. I’ve lived in North Seattle neighborhoods for 45 years. I have only used it about 20 times, less than 10 as an adult worker, and I have worked downtown 3 different times of my life. It will take alot of work to make it convenient.

    Part of me wants to finally see it as a useful piece of transportation. The other part wants to see it as the moving museum it has become. If not kept up it could look like the 7 every day with needles and graffiti. Last time I actually rode it, at least was clean.

    1. I have never seen needles or graffiti on any Metro bus I have ridden (including routes 60 and 132 multiple times a week — and they are demographically similar to route 7).

      I have seen graffiti on light rail traincars that were parked somewhere other than the base.

      I have also never seen graffiti or needles on the monorail. But then, it is almost never full and too hard to reach the outside unless you are in line to board. I expect the nonexistence of the needles and graffiti on Metro buses to transfer to the monorail, when it becomes virtually de-privatized with ORCA integration. (And you won’t see me on the monorail until it does get integrated.)

      1. Well I have seen them both. I have also seen people having sex on the bus, throwing up and dealing drugs in the open. But I ride mostly at night. You report it and SPD, KCS or a Metro manager shows up. It happens every day. I can believe you have not seen most of these things, but if you haven’t seen graffiti, then you have not been paying attention.

        I did not say I have seen either on a Monorail. I am hoping they can keep it that way, eve if I do not use it.

      2. The only reason I would be against “opening” up the Monorail is the potential for it being ruined, and littered with the detritus that I see on the bus most days. I don’t think you pay very close attention to your bus rides. I mean, I ride everyday on a not crazy route, and it’s definitely full of graffiti, litter, and other crap (funny, Link is pristine by comparison comparison…hmm the wonders of security and fare inspecting!). Anyway, the Monorail is always very, very clean and free of dodgy characters…and is functional for what it does. I’ve used it on a number occasions from Key Arena events to a Link transfer at Westlake, and it works well enough.

      3. The question is how many dodgy characters want to travel between downtown and Seattle Center? And you can answer it by seeing whether they are on the 1,2,3,4,13,24,D now. I don’t go up to Queen Anne much but I don’t recall seeing as many dodgy characters as on the E, 106, 101, 7, or right around downtown, Pioneer Square, and Broadway.

    2. If you are already on a bus that goes to the Seattle Center, it may very well be faster to simply stay on the bus, but many people will be transferring from Link. Since they are transferring either way, the transfer penalty isn’t as important.

      The proximity of the monorail to Westlake Link station is what really makes it valuable. As Link builds out, a 2-seat ride (Link+Monorail) covers more and more destination pairs.

      1. Westlake itself is a major origination point for trips. There are one or two hotels and office buildings in the vicinity, I believe. It’s not Lynnwood Transit Center.

    3. The monorail had its first-ever accident a decade or so ago and the trains were slowed. That may have been related to when they stopped using the inner boarding track.

      1. That is definately part of it. But the station before Westlake, straddled Pine St. into where Westlake park is now. At that point I think it was an island style station. I would have to ask my dad. His memory of downtown is very good.

      2. The accident was long after the station was moved to Westlake Mall.

        (Westlake Park, the Pine Street bricks, Westlake Mall, moving the monorail station, moving Nordstrom across the street, Pacific Place and its garage, and the bus tunnel all happened at the same time.)

    4. It’s not “huffed”, unless you have asthma. It’s “hoofed” as in “feeted” (which I know isn’t a word). You’re the third person to make this error in two days on STB.

      1. Huffed implies running a block or more to catch a bus which is about to leave, which is what Jimmy James is trying to emphasize.

      2. Up until middle school, I had ashma. I outgrew most of the symptoms by high school. So early on I huffed it. Later on I hoofed it. But my spelling never got bettttterrrr.
        But the point was I wasn’t going to get off a bus for a slightly faster ride on the Monorail just to pay more and still walk across the Seattle Center campus. Most of us kids took the bus to get to the state baketball finals at the Colosseum. We took the 2 or 3 from the CD. If you wanted to go to a football game you took busses to 5th Ave. Nobody ever got off and took the Monorail, before or even after Westlake was built. I guess this is what they are trying to fix one whole generation later. Other than sports most of us didn’t go to Seattle Center at all during the school year. Hope that has changed.

        Andyl, good picture. I have seen it in archives before. I didn’t remember the tubes over the exit ramps. I think there was a second set of ramps underneath somewhere. One set entrance and those tube ones were exit ones.

      3. The issue is not people switching from the 2,3,4, but people getting on the 2,3,4 downtown from another route. The 2 is going to be split anyway [1], and the 3 and 4 may not remain unified forever.

        [1] Metro’s LRP changes the 2S to a Pine-12th-Union route to replace the 2, 11, and 49. The 2N is replaced by a Local (coverage) route on 6th W – E Aloha – 23rd & Madison. The 3N and 4N now have identical routing, and only the 3S is guaranteed long term, because the 4S is redundant with the 3 and 48. It’s unclear whether Metro will renumber all of 3N/4N/3S to 3, or split it into 3 for Madrona and 4 for Queen Anne. The latter is more likely.

    5. How about looking at it as a linear elevator between Westlake Station and Seattle Center. With last stop at the Lower Queen Anne LINK Station?


  3. Light rail access is quickly becoming more desirable an important in our local psyche! I’m seeing more apartment ads, real estate ads, restaurant ads and other things mention light rail and the nearest station. Certainly, the interests here can’t be naïve about the importance of light rail connectivity and what enhancements would mean to Westlake Center, Seattle Center and the Monorail.,

    1. Don’t forget the Gates Foundation, a large collection of ORCA-supplied knowledge workers two blocks from the station.

  4. Does ORCA integration also mean that transfer fares will be honored? So I could use the Monorail to connect to/from a bus in downtown without paying a separate fare? And passes would work?

    1. PugetPass will be honored, and there will be an ORCA LIFT fare category. (Both are required as part of Metro’s sponsorship for joining the ORCA pod.

      In all these long years of the process of getting the monorail to accept ORCA, I’ve never seen anyone ask whether it will accept Metro’s paper transfers, until now. i don’t know that answer. i hope they do not (as I wish Metro would stop using them.)

      I can only see the monorail accepting paper transfers if Metro accepts monorail tickets. The monorail would get no revenue from accepting paper transfers, while it would get a share of the pass value or e-purse when someone taps ORCA to board the monorail.

      I don’t see Metro agreeing to accept monorail tickets, as it already doesn’t accept streetcar tickets or day passes. In general, Metro doesn’t accept inter-agency fare media except on ORCA. It doesn’t even accept transfers on its smart phone app.

      1. I think he was asking whether Orca transfers will be honored – i.e., if you board a Metro bus and pay from your E-purse, and then board the monorail, will you need to pay again?

      2. Hopefully Brent is correct and the Monorail will accept ORCA transfers, because that’s how everyone will use it who doesn’t live near a monorail station and is not a walk-on tourist, shopper, or P&R driver.

      3. By the way, that was the biggest problem with the citywide monorail plan: it would not accept bus transfers, which means everybody would have to pay double fares if they didn’t live near a monorail station. That would make me not use it, just as I didn’t use the Seattle Center monorail for decades but instead took the 1,2,3,4,13 to Seattle Center because I could use my transfer. The last few years I started taking the monorail again, treating it as part of my entertainment budget because I only use it a couple times a year. But if I lived in Ballard and were traveling the monorail route every day, I’d be hopping mad if I couldn’t use the monorail without paying double fare.

  5. The monorail could be useful for more kinds of trips if it were extended to King Street Station, with a stop at Marion Street for ferry transfers.

    1. That could be an idea, if we weren’t building so many other downtown transit services. That route would overlap heavily with the City Center Connector streetcar (which will be one flat block from the ferry). It could have been an option before the CCC idea came up. But the reason it didn’t ties into the two-decade-long saga of the citywide monorail that was going to replace it and then didn’t, and then Link taking over the Ballard/West Seattle corridors, and the CCC plan, and those all displaced any possibility of extending the Alweg monorail.

      Also, the Alweg has low capacity compared to Link or BRT. It’s surprising it was enough for hotel guests to the World’s Fare, but the population was a lot lower then. (Pugetopolis and the US were half the size; the world was a third the size; and many countries were too poor to have people coming to the fair.) (A counterargument is that the CCC is also low capacity, but it’s not primarily to bring people from Westlake to the ferry or Pioneer Square.)

      1. City Center Connector will be a flat walk assuming the elevated walkway doesn’t go away with the viaduct. Even then, it’s closer to three downtown blocks when you consider the walk through the ferry terminal and the presence of Western Avenue. If it’s the shared stop with Rapid Ride G between Madison and Spring, well there’s another block and two crosswalk signals, and we are getting in to huffing territory. There really should be *something* that connects more directly with the ferries. Very much wishing the plan for Rapid Ride G was to go all the way down to the waterfront. Or something that’s a timed transfer like the West Seattle water taxi shuttle.

    2. i doubt they will extend it, but if they do why not extend it north also – either to the top of queen anne, or to fremont.

      if you do that though, running only one set of cars each direction means the wait times will get longer. too long maybe?

      1. Just extend it to LQA to interchange with the future Link Station (and add the Bell St Station)

    3. Bryan, take a walk underneath the Monorail from Seattle Center to Westlake. Supports of that size, shape, and weight are the most delicate that particular class of railroad can run on. Except for extension across Seattle Center grounds to Lower Queen Anne and the new stadium, no place else in Seattle will tolerate them.

      There’s already an elevator between the Monorail platform and the mezzanine of Seattle CBD’s most important station. A five minute train ride from King Street. Pretty soon Lynnwood. Bellevue. Colman Dock- won’t Connector have a stop nearby on its way past present footbridge from first to the ferry terminal. Hard to imagine that won’t be rebuilt.

      The Monorail as it is is worth whatever it will cost to rebuild, repair, and operate it permanently. Nothing else we could build will serve as well at this low a price. It’s an elevator or a moving walkway between two LINK stations. Work that nothing else will do as well, for any price.


      1. It’s a five minute,minimum,walk from King Street to ID station depending on the walk light, plus whatever your wait is for Link (or the bus) and another five minutes to get from Westlake Station to the Monorail.

        It’s faster to take a Lime Bike.

  6. This upgrade project seems to be advertised as a 15-20 year bus bridge until Link opens at the Seattle Center. What happens then? Will fare integration be permanant or will it go back to how it is now? Or do they know yet? I would like to see the first option. Might even ride it more often.

    1. My guess is the monorail will be redundant when the Seattle center station opens. On the other hand, in that timeframe we could be thinking about extending the line to go up queen anne or to go through downtown into the central district.

      I think if it turns into a real mode of transit in the meantime that is more likely.

    2. The value of the investments go away once the Seattle Center Link station opens, so the right way to think about these investment is, “does this make sense for the next 15 years,” not “does this make sense for the next 50 years” like most grade-separated investments. So I think the survey is framing the issue correctly.

      If they create a bell street station, the monorail might be useful post-ST3. But either way, it will be very, very old in 20 years. Particularly without a bell street station, it will become very redundant with Link. I’d imagine it will be decommissioned soon after Link opens – even as a tourist attraction, I don’t think it’s worth the cost to maintain & operate, but maybe it will stick around like the SF cable cars?

      1. Disney still manufactures the cars. I’m sure they’re expensive, but they can be replaced.

        The guideway is probably eternal if people want it. The guidebeams are enormous, probably 50% larger than they really need to be for stiffness in order to provide a running face for both the support and guide tires.

        The biggest issue is how the tracks are squeezed together south of Steward so that two trains cannot occupy the station and curve at once. That was extremely short-sighted but it’s a good example of what happens when transportation is relegated to uniformed people out to make a quick buck.

        The biggest limitation of the system is that it’s not a “dog-bone” but basically two horizontal elevators running side-by-side. There can never be trains more often than about once every five minutes.

      2. Problem with a station at Bell or Battery: which platform do I climb? Since train side goes both ways on the same guidebeam, 50% of the time I’m going to be wrong if I go up the same side every time. You could have electric signage of course, but it’s going to be an irritant for people the first couple of times they use it.

      3. “Stewart” And I don’t know what happened in the “Since train” sentence…..

      4. AJ: The monorail is the only mode of transit in the city that comes close to making as much money as it costs to run, so I imagine that spending the money to keep a historic icon in good repair will be a relatively easy sell.

        Richard: Any idea how different the Disney cars are from our Alwegs? If their beam uses the same geometry I can see that being a relatively simple option. I believe Hitachi also has recent experience building Alweg-type monorails for both the Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur systems.

      5. Could the Bell/Battery station have a single center platform? Otherwise I guess they’d probably do it Westlake-style, with a single platform and “bridges” across the near-side track when the far-side one is in use? That would impose even more weird operational constraints, whereas a center platform would require rebuilding the tracks near the station. Fun.

      6. >> The value of the investments go away once the Seattle Center Link station opens,

        Not necessarily. It depends on where exactly they put the Link station as well as what happens to the Seattle Center. It is unlikely they will put the Link Station inside the Seattle Center grounds. The tentative plan is 1st and Republican. That makes it about a 7 minute walk between the two stops. The other Link stops are farther away. That means if you are headed to the Southeast end of the Seattle Center, as well buildings just outside (e. g. KOMO Plaza) the monorail is likely the fastest option. Then you have the tourists, as well as locals who prefer it for aesthetic reasons or when Link is full after ball games. It isn’t worth making an enormous investment in it, but it is still a reasonable choice for some riders even after Link is built.

  7. I work near Seattle center and I’ve used monorail to get to work after transfering to bus a couple of times.

    The biggest issue aside from orca cards and westlake station access was that the monorail staff doesn’t stick to any kind of schedule.

    I was probably waiting at the station 10-15 minutes for the monorail to show up. Then once it got there they seemed to hang around at the station waiting for more people to show up. Then they drove the monorail slowly as possible to give the tourists more time on the ride.

    I probably could have walked the route faster if wait time is considered. It’s only a 15-20 minute walk.

    On the other hand the monorail could easily have 4 minute headways if they wanted to. The cars only take 2 minutes to make the journey, and there are two of them.

    I think for monorail to work they should have metro operate it. The existing operators do not view it as a form of transit, but more as an amusement park ride.

    1. Metro did operate it for years. I don’t remember why it stopped, probably to privatize the contract; it was around during the Reagan-Bush privatization wave.

      1. A friend of mine , who has long passed was a transit geek in the seventies and eighties. He had cool pictures of things that people on this blog would probably enjoy. If he was here now, he would be on this blog daily and would know any answer to any transit question. He told me stories about Seattle and King County corruption that would make your skin crawl. But I was a s**t talking kid and don’t remember half of them. To bad. They are almost lost in history. I did end up with some of the pictures. Most were tossed before I came in to rescue them. I should go through and sort them. Sorry. Kind of off topic. But that guy told me how Metro gave up the Monorail contract. That is how that started. He also actually rode the Kalakala Ferry in Seattle.

      2. If you wanted to make the effort, that could be a really cool post to see (Page 2 maybe?).

  8. It would be really great if the Monorail could turn into Seattle’s High Line, once Seattle Center Link station opens.

    1. That could be a consolation for those who want a park or busway in the Battery Street Tunnel. How feasible would it be? I’ve never seen the High Line. But the concept of an elevated walkway through downtown could get as much support as the monorail has now, since people love the views from the monorail.

    2. If we did turn the monorail into an elevated walkway, then ideally it would somehow connect to the future waterfront promenade. Any ideas on that? If it were extended to Pike Place Market, then it could use the Pike Place connector stairs.

    3. It would be nice, but don’t get ahead of it.

      There may be crowding issues on Link that render an alternative desirable.

      1. By the time Seattle Center Link finally opens, the Monorail will be at the end of its useful life, anyway. I highly doubt Ballard Link going to be so crowded that people physically can’t squeeze in. Worst case, ST can always circumvent the Ranier Valley frequency limit by running rush-hour turnback trains just between SODO and Ballard.

      2. Sorry, Glenn, we just can’t help it. Sight of the Tillicum Bridge actually running joint use without any hassles or delays is more than we can stand. Desperate times, desperate measures.

        Also, Waterfront Project Chief James Corner, who abetted the murder of the George Benson line same time he was posing for a GQ pic, and also probably got hired because he did The Highline, owes us one. Revenge! Revenge! Sorry, just slipped out. Only meant Justice. Nuremburg! Nuremburg!


  9. Westlake Station (the Monorail part) is a textbook example of thinking on the cheap and being shortsighted. The original station, while kind of ugly, appears to have been much more functional from a mass transit infrastructure standpoint. They came up with this gimmicky thing we have now, that wasn’t even engineered properly for the curve, optimal speeds, and high frequency.

    Anyway, it still works effectively enough, and is very quaint mid-century design…but, without some upgrades it will face redundancy when Ballard Link opens. Speaking of Ballard, I feel like a drawbridge of any kind for Link is (spide-y sense tingling) on the cheap and shortsighted.

    1. Aesthetics is such a subjective thing, eh? Personally I like the look of the original “Westlake” monorail station. For example, unlike the many people who thought/think the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris is an eyesore and out of place, I for one have always liked the design concept and the overall aesthetics. I guess our own EMP, or whatever it’s called now, is somewhat similar in that regard. My spouse, who happens to be a Seattle native, also liked the original monorail station at Pine St and can remember going up the steps to ride the monorail to Seattle Center as a kid growing up here in the 60s.

    2. It’s absurd to think of putting light rail on a bridge that opened 4,072 times (!) in 2016, but given that this is Seattle, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if that’s what winds up happening. A tunnel is the ideal solution, but I can’t help but think of the wonderfully minimalist bridge concept they had for the Ballard–West Seattle monorail. The plan as a whole was rather silly, but I’m sad we missed out on that bit of infrastructure/roller-coaster ride:

      1. The bridge would be much taller, so it wouldn’t open as often. It would never open during rush hour (as is the case with all the bridges now). It would be easy to time with the (relatively infrequent) trains during other times. It is quite possible that a delay caused by an opening would be less common than other delays (that we experience right now).

    3. The New York Times said the EMP “looks like something that crawled out of the sea, turned over, and died.”

    4. Nobody is talking about putting tracks on the existing Ballard Bridge or a bridge that low. The proposed bridge is 70′, which is twice as high. A higher bridge means more ships can pass under it; only the tallest sailboats can’t.

  10. Finished the survey,
    The article above refers to the Westlake Food Court. When I tried to go there a couple of years ago it was closed. Did it reopen? I’ll be very happy if it did.

    1. A new food court is being built on the second floor and is supposed to open this spring. The third floor has been taken over by a retailer. “Saks Off Fifth” if I remember? The new food court may have fewer vendors; it looks like a larger upscale cafeteria will be a large part of it.

      1. I can’t imagine that Sak’s is going to survive. The Rack downstairs is always hopping, while the Sak’s is mostly crickets chirping.

    2. And the new redesign(s) of Westlake Center is so bad it almost makes me nostalgic for the original 1980s one.

      1. It doesn’t look any different to me. Just a short escalator at the mezzanine end, the silly position of Nordstrom Rack at a half-floor, and the food court moved. It still looks as white and plain as it always did. My biggest gripe with Westlake Center is how you have to walk all the way around from one escalator to the next, apparently to force you to walk past the shops on every floor. But with no reason to go to the third floor anymore for the food court or restrooms, now that problem is dimished. I never went up the center escalators to get to the monorail: I went up the outside elevator or stairway.

  11. Before they closed the Westlake food court, the Monorail was definitely the globe’s finest food court connector. I joke, but I still occasionally use the Alwegs to get a quick lunch at the Center House food court…for that kind of venue it’s kinda cool.

  12. Maybe it was because it reminded me of the Chicago elevated stations what were such an active presence in their neighborhoods, but the station over Pine Street was a real loss to the city. And insult to injury, argument was that the station crossing the street was unsightly.

    With the constricted track, the line has been lamed ever since. But to me, real spirit of the thing was that the cart that became Monorail Espresso- still in a wall-booth over on Pike Street, was an irreplaceable favor to us Metro drivers.

    Way it worked: Route 14 well timed for this: Westbound on Pine, ran my drivers’ side window past the machine, and gave my order. Timing to south end, turnback, Capitol Hill, and back down worked out perfectly.

    Kind of thing that perfectly fit the spirit of a time with a lot more energy. Probably in more than one travel magazine. You know, Jimmy James, for a city anywhere, Seattle’s probably America’s cleanest of usual corruption. Which at least keeps prices in reach of the average guy.

    We’ve got worse. Wasn’t “The Mob” (who ever heard of a gangster named “Big Wally Rasmussen?) that took down both the Monorail and the Waterfront Streetcar. Doubt it’s greed. Somebody whose money doesn’t even have to say anything just decides the thing is just too inelegant.

    The kind of place that attracts, well, expresso stands on carts. Pretty soon it’ll be a guy with a big mustache, an Italian crank music box on a little pole, and a monkey in a little cap and vest asking for pennies! In addition to peanut machines to feed pigeons with.

    Hence my campaign to attract to Seattle people whose chief hall mark is that they say “stoopid” with two o’s instead of a u. And get us a regular monkey that bites people.


    1. Ha! I still remember reading an article about the Sculpture Garden years ago, where the lead (designer?) was simply appalled at any idea of the Waterfront Streetcar barn mucking up his visions of grandeur. I was surprised how a supposedly creative guy couldn’t come up with a solution to incorporate a (not that ugly) structure. Anyway, the Sculpture Garden killed the Waterfront Streetcar and I vowed never to set foot in that amazingly arrogant strip of real estate, and never will.

    2. It wasn’t the Sculpture Garden, it was King County’s failure to provide an alternate streetcar barn after it said it would.

      1. Please, that’s a convoluted way of looking at it. The Sculpture Garden group had a massive tantrum and everyone caved. Then, when the city/county started hinting at keeping the streetcar, they had a double tantrum because they thought they were too special to cooperate with the other kids. It was the Sculpture Garden that made it necessary to even go down that road. Their feelings of entitlement were amazing even for your typical hyper arrogant artsy-fartsy folks.

      2. The streetcar wasn’t that useful anyway. It was slow and infrequent, and the single track limited it from getting any better. I walked a lot of the time rather than waiting for the streetcar. I don’t see why people make such a big deal about that thing. It’s just one of the many one-offs Seattle has had rather than dealing with the city’s biggest transit needs.

      3. I generally agree with you. it was neat simply because of the rolling stock, and definitely shouldn’t have been seen as any kind of serious transit solution. Something like that can positively impact the human feel of a place, however, and definitely serves as a decent little tourist attraction. The pending waterfront remodel would have been an opportunity to add a second track and make it a little more useful.

  13. Well my whole comment was deleted so here is the summary:

    Monorail is already a legitimate transit service (cheaper than a bus, frequent well into the night, fast and free from congestion, covers 100% of operating costs from fares). I used it a lot when I lived at one end and worked at the other. It is accessible from the street, Frank, not just the Westlake food court. It is also a totally respectable transfer for anyone arriving on the light rail or a bus who wants to go to an event at Seattle Center.

    Obvious and (relatively) easy improvements would be upgrade the vehicles (was this already done after the fires?), and to modify Westlake Station (and possibly vehicle controls) so that both cars could run at the same time more often (they used to do this, but after the crash at Westlake they seem to have stopped)…this would allow for 5 minute headways. I am all for more stations, either along the current route or beyond either end (maybe one, new or moved, directly at Key Arena), but that seems like more of a long shot. The system could use a major renovation that would smooth out the bumps and allow for the old top operating speeds.

  14. Why are folks speculating that the monorail is reaching the end of its useful life? The London Underground dates to the 1860s, systems across the world use rolling stock as old as the 1920s, and there’s nothing seemingly wrong with the equipment on the Seattle Monorail. Hitachi and other companies build modern rolling stock compatible with the Alweg elevated rail if the trains ever really need replacing.

    1. There have been major problems with the equipment, actually, but they may have been resolved already. I believe both trains have spontaneously burst into flames. Also the ride has become much bumpier than it used to be when I was younger. The top speed has also been reduced (maybe because of the bumps, or maybe for other reasons). The bumps could be due to differential settlement or maybe wear on the guideway, but replacing guideway pieces should actually be pretty quick and easy since they could be manufactured off site and then lifted into place at night when the train isn’t running.

      Another problem that will eventually occur, but I haven’t seen signs of this, is that the reinforcing steel in the concrete (assuming it isn’t stainless or otherwise permanently protected) will eventually rust and cause the concrete to spall.

      All of these problems can be resolved, of course.

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