Ideas to Improve the Seattle Center Monorail

The historic Alweg monorail built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Needs Improvements

by Bob Fleming

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In 1962 there was a large World’s Fair in Seattle. Officially the fair was The Century 21 Exposition, but was better known as the Seattle World’s Fair. The fair itself was very successful, but perhaps more remarkably, the area used for the Fair has been preserved for public use as the Seattle Center. The Seattle Center is an area with fountains, park space, amusement rides, entertainment venues, and other attractions.

Since the World’s Fair the station at Fifth and Pine has been relocated and redesigned, and there have been some other lesser modification, but essentially it is still the same line that began operations in 1962.

There are two monorail trains, one for each of the two guideways. There is no switching mechanism — each train remains forever on its own guideway, running back and forth from one end of the line to the other. One of the trains is painted red and the other is blue, so they are called the Red Train and Blue Train.

The Downtown station was originally in the area at the southwest corner of 5th Avenue and Pine Street, but in 1988 it was demolished and a new station built on the north side of Pine Street, on the west side of 5th Avenue and built into the east side of the Westlake Center shopping center. At this time the guideway beams (tracks) were realigned and moved closer together to fit into the narrower new station. The problem is that now that the beams are closer together, there isn’t enough room for the trains to be alongside each other withour sideswiping each other, so only one train at a time can be in the station. In fact, in 2005, due to some kind of error, two trains actually did sideswipe each other just north of the station, causing considerable damage to both trains and to the guideway.

Proposals to Improve the System

Improve the Westlake Station:

There should be a new station at Westlake Center that is larger and with tracks further apart so that both trains can enter the station at the same time, and with facilities such that passengers can board and depart both trains at the same time.

Another possibility would be to build a new station south of Pine Street, but with better appearance than the original station, and in a way that it would not interfere with other activities in the space, now known as Westlake Plaza. This plan would separate the station from the Westlake Center shopping center building, eliminating any conflicts with use of that building by tenants and customers, eliminating any possible conflicts in operating hours, and increasing convenience for passengers.

Extend the Line to Climate Pledge Arena:

In the area where the existing Seattle Center station is located, just west of the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), curve the guideway to the south and then along Thomas Street to an new station in the area south of Climate Pledge Arena, north of Thomas Street, and east of 1st Avenue North.

If the proposed Green Line monorail is built from Downtown Seattle to Ballard, there is the potential that the Climate Pledge Arena could be a transfer point beween the two lines.

The guideway curving to the south from where the exit the Museum of Pop Culture would mean that the new alignment would pass south of the existing Seattle Center station, so a new station would need to be built just south of the existing one, along the new guideway. A switch would permit trains to enter the existing station for maintenance and storage.

More about the Seattle Center Monorail, as it is now, on their web site.


Work has started on a project to remodel the Seattle Center Monorail and the stations at both ends of the line. The work began on April 5, 2021 and is scheduled to be completed in the Fall in time for the opening of the season for the Seattle Kraken NHL hockey team at Climate Pledge Arena.

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©2003 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last updated on 7 April 2021.

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