Advantages of Monorail for Mass Transit

by Bob Fleming

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There are several advantages to monorail, although it depends on the circumstances. The circumstances where monorail has the most advantages is where there is a need for a fixed route through a built-up area, with an anticipated medium passenger load. The following advantages apply to monorails in general.

ELEVATED — The monorail is normally elevated, above traffic, above congestion, above pedestrians and vehicles. Although monorails are normally thought of as elevated structures on a series of pylons (columns), this is not a requirement. It is possible to install the guideway beams (rails) directly on the ground, such as in a tunnel. Other arguments below will assume that the monorail is elevated.

GRADE SEPARATED — “Grade separated” means separated from surface traffic of all kinds — cars, trucks, trains, people, bicycles, etc. — so that the monorail train can run without any interference from (or to) other traffic.

SAFE — Because a monorail is grade separated, it can't collide with cars or other vehicles or run over people or bicycles. People can drive, bike, or walk under the monorail without having to look out for oncoming trains. Another thing is that, although trains have an excellent safety record, there are occasions when they derail, sometines with disastrous results. The straddle-type monorail that I am proposing wraps around the single “rail” and can not derail.

QUIET — The most common modern monorail designs use electrically-powered trains with rubber tires. Compare with railroad trains with steel wheels running on steel rails. This can make a big difference in residential areas.

COST EFFECTIVE — Monorail systems are not cheap. They cost much more than bus systems. However they usually cost less than light rail systems, considerably less than heavy rail commuter railroads, and much less than underground light rail or subway systems. Even though bus systems normally cost much less, in the case of true bus rapid transit where specially-designed buses run on grade separated bus-only roadways, the costs may exceed that of a monorail line.

LESS DISRUPTIVE TO COMMUNITIES — The elevated nature of a monorail line lets people easily drive or walk back and forth between the two sides of the line. With surface rail systems the neighborhood is sliced in two by the tracks — crossing back and forth is only safe at points blocks apart and dangerous in between.

LESS DESTRUCTIVE TO COMMUNITIES — In most cases a monorail line can be placed in the street, and the 4- or 5-foot columns mean that the street does not need to be widened in order to accomodate the monorail. Compare with surface light rail where double tracks are about twenty feet wide, and the street must be widened to accomodate the railroad. In order to widen the street it is necessary to tear down many homes and businesses along the street. It is true that normally the neighborhood is rebuilt and improved, but that does not help many of the homeowners that were forced to move, or families with small businesses that lost their business in the project. As for the eventual improvement to the neighborhood, a monorail would have also led to improvement, maybe more so because it is safer, quieter, and less disruptive to the neighborhood.

Learn much more about the advantages of monorail at The Monorail Society’s web site,

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©2007 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last updated on 9 May 2016

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