This was my web site promoting the Seattle Monorail Project, but
the project was cancelled in November 2005.
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What are the alternatives to monorail?
by Bob Fleming
Surface Light Rail
COSTS MORE THAN MONORAIL
NOT AS SAFE AS MONORAIL — The safety record of light rail is good. There are only a few people killed and maimed each year, almost always due to their own fault. Also, mangled cars are usually the fault of the driver of the car. But monorail travels above the streets so can not hit cars or people. Monorail is safer.
LIGHT RAIL IS MORE DISRUPTIVE TO A NEIGHBORHOOD — Surface light rail either is built down the middle of a street or across other land. If in a street the street must be widened about twenty feet to accomodate the two tracks. This means hundreds of homes and businesses must be torn down to widen the street. Form a mental picture — Click here
The tearing up of the street, building of the tracks, and construction of the new street is major construction that goes on for a few years. Once finished the tracks form a barrier for people wanting to cross the street and they often have to go blocks out of their way to get across. A monorail uses columns spaced out along the street, and usually do not require widening of the street. Construction to install the columns and raise the beams is not nearly as intensive and is far less disruptive. When completed, people can easily pass under the monorail.
When surface light rail uses land other than a street, it requires a right-of-way more than twenty feet wide. All homes and other buildings along its path must be torn down, and the tracks form a barrier for people wanting to cross. A monorail may still require some buildings to be demolished, but can be planned to minimize the number of homes affected. Once completed, people can still easily pass underneath.
SUBJECT TO DELAYS BY TRAFFIC — Although less subject to traffic delays than vehicular traffic, light rail trains can still get blocked by traffic at crossings, must obey speed limits and traffic signals, and can still get shut down for a while if it collides with a car or runs over somebody. Monorail travels above the traffic so is not affected by traffic problems.
OVER-CAPACITY — One of the advantages of light rail is high capacity. But it is very doubtful that this capacity is needed to West Seattle. Monorail is a better match.
Elevated Light Rail
Elevated light rail has many of the advantages of monorail, but is more expensive, is bulkier and therefore more intrusive, and is noisier.
Underground Light Rail
Underground light rail is an excellent mode of rapid transit, outdone only by subways, which utilize heavy rail equipment. However burying the railroad line is very expensive, and the higher capacity is not needed to West Seattle. Monorail is a better fit at a much better price.
Somebody proposed a street car to West Seattle (and also Ballard). Street cars are similar to surface light rail, but smaller, slower, interfere with vehicular traffic, and are not as flexible as a bus, in that they travel on tracks and don’t have the maneuverability of a bus.
Bus Rapid Transit
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a system of using buses in dedicated lanes or roadways to approach the efficiency of light rail or monorail, but have the advantage of being able to leave the dedicated route to travel to different destinations via regular streets and roads.
The problem is that most BRT plans involve use of HOV lanes on freeways or special lanes on main streets for buses only, so they are still subject to the same hazards — traffic congestion, accidents, poor road conditions due to weather, especially snow, etc. Monorail avoids those problems.
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©2002 Robert M. Fleming Jr.
This page was last updated on 20 March 2013