This was my web site promoting the Seattle Monorail Project, but the project was cancelled in November 2005.
I am maintaining this site for historical reference.

My Ideas for Monorail System Design

Here I put forward some of my ideas for good design of the new Seattle monorail system.

by Bob Fleming

Monorail Promotion Project Green Line project My opinions about Seattle area monorail Projected travel times of Green Line A comparison of monorail and light rail Arguments against monorail and my responses My ideas for system design Seattle Monorail Project Archives Vocabulary Frequently asked questions Links to other monorail sites Contact me

ROUTING:   I strongly believe that the primary purpose of the monorail system should be to provide high-speed transportation over fairly long distances. With that in mind, the routes should be as short and direct as possible. But, in order to serve as many people as possible, the routes should be planned so that the locations of the stations will attract as many riders as possible. Such locations include:

  • Large schools, including high schools, colleges, and universities
  • Major shopping areas
  • Venues of major events
  • Major tourist attractions
  • High-density residential areas in which many of the people don't drive or prefer not to drive
  • Business and commercial areas with serious parking problems
  • Major transfer points to connect with other transportation

So, on one hand, there should be an effort to plan the routes to serve as many people as possible, and on the other hand to have the route as straight and direct as possible. The goal is to strike a balance between the two objectives. The more the route is twisted one way or another to connect areas to serve, the less direct it becomes and defeats the major objective of high-speed service over a longer distance. It will be necessary to reject some promising service areas in order to provide the high-speed service. There is also the possibility of using PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) to interconnect the monorail with destinations near the monorail stations.

INTERCONNECTING ROUTES: Some of the future routes planned by the Seattle Monorail Project would be separate routes, independent of other routes, with their own operations and maintenance center.

I do not agree with that plan. To me it makes much more sense to have all future routes interconnect with the Green Line with switches. This would permit the use of one operations and maintenance base for all trains in the system, trains could be used on different routes as the need arises, and some routes could share portions of the same guideway. The single operations and maintenance base could be expanded as more trains come into service rather than build additional expensive bases.

ALIGNMENT: I believe that as much as possible the monorail should be routed along streets that have two-way left-turn lanes or central medians, with the pylons placed in the left-turn lanes or medians. Many of the main streets in the Seattle area have two-way left-turn lanes down the middle, designated for use (carefully) by drivers travelling either direction to move into the two-way left-turn lane to make left turns into driveways and parking lots. The main advantages of using two-way left-turn lanes for placing the monorail pylons are that it does not require loss of any adjacent homes or businesses because the street does not have to be widened, and it eliminates the cost of purchasing real estate, greatly reducing the cost per mile and permitting a longer line for the same cost.

The two-way left-turn lanes or medians already provide a more-or-less continuous strip down the middle of the street that separates the traffic moving in opposite directions. The pylons that support the monorail can be placed in the two-way left-turn lanes or medians without interfering with through traffic. The pylons would tend to interfere with some vehicles turning left. However, by careful planning, the pylons can be placed in positions that do not interfere with vehicles turning left into driveways and parking lots, except perhaps in a few cases where there are too many driveways or parking lot entrances too close together.

Usually at intersecting streets the two-way left-turn lanes give way to regular one-way left turn lanes dedicated to traffic turning left onto the intersecting street. At these locations the pylons should not be placed in the left turn lanes. If the left turn lanes are short and the intersecting street is narrow, it may be possible to place the pylons just beyond the ends of the left-turn lanes and still have a short enough spacing between the pylons to support the monorail beams. If the left-turn lanes are too long and/or the intersection too wide, so that the pylons would be too far apart to support the monorail beams, then we have a situation the same as the condition where there is no two-way left-turn lane or median, covered below.

STREETS WITH NO TWO-WAY LEFT-TURN LANE OR MEDIAN: If the monorail uses a street that has no two-way left-turn lane or central median, then the options include widening the street about two feet (about 70 cm) on each side (or four feet on one side) in order to create a strip down the center to accomodate the monorail pylons, use straddle bents, beams that straddle the street to support the monorail beams. It may also be possible to create a 4- or 5-foot wide median between opposing directions of traffic to permit placement of pylons alongside the left turn lane.

ROUTING NOT FOLLOWING STREETS: In some cases the routing of the monorail may require it to deviate from public roadways. I think that in these cases an effort should be made to utilize, as much as possible, public land such as parks, school property, etc. Use of such lands poses the risk of interfering with use of the property, but I think that in most cases the interference can be minimized by careful placement of the monorail along the periphery of the property or through areas where the monorail would not have a significant impact. Keep in mind that only the pylons would take up space on the ground. The guideway would be up in the air and there would still be space underneath for activities.

DESIGN OF THE PYLONS AND BEAMS: The beams should be far enough apart at all locations so that there is no danger of trains on parallel beams touching each other.

THE TRAINS: I think that the trains for the new monorail should be about the same size as the Alweg trains on the Seattle Center Monorail. To me the monorail takes the place of subway or light rail trains in other cities, and should have similar capacity. I also think that the trains should have good seating for good views out the windows and avoid the need for passengers to stand except during rush hours or for major events such as ball games or concerts. Click here for details about my ideas on trains.

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©2002 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last updated on 20 March 2013

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