Monorail Future: My Opinions

by Bob Fleming

About the Seattle Center Monorail Seattle Center Monorail web site Advantages of monorail My opinions about Seattle area monorail Former Seattle Monorail Project A Proposed Regional Monorail System Arguments against monorail and my responses My ideas for monorail system design My ideas for routes (PRT) Personal Rapid Transit Vocabulary Frequently asked questions Links to other monorail sites Contact me

Other Sites of Mine

A Greater Seattle My mobility web site My transportation web site My mass transit web site The Fleming Family home page

The Word “Monorail” is Unfairly Tainted!

Because of the collapse of the Seattle Monorail Project, the idea of a monorail in Seattle has become a generally negative concept, but this is really quite unfair!

The Seattle Monorail Project collaped because of some poor planning and inadequate funding. If the original taxation plan had been better, there would have been adequate funding for the project. Instead, there was not enough money for the project, resulting in a risky financing scheme with bonds to be paid back over a fifty-year period with interest adding up to about $9 billion over those fifty years. The resulting public uproar and massive political opposition to the project resulted in a public vote in which the project was killed.

The basic concept of a monorail system is still a very good one, and should be seriously considered as an excellect means of rapid transit, especially in areas already built up where light rail would mean tearing down many buildings.

Advantages of Monorail

The best mode of mass transit will vary from route to route and according to the circumstances of each case, but in general monorail has the following advantages:

  • Less expensive: Amongst modes of transportation that will be as fast and dependable as monorail, monorail will usually cost less in an urban, built-up environment.
  • Can use existing roadways: Monorail is supported by pylons (columns) about four or five feet wide, and will fit more easily into existing roadways.
  • Quieter: A straddle monorail usually runs on rubber tires and is much quieter than railways where steel wheels run on steel rails.
  • Doesn’t split neighborhoods: Surface rail or busways block the movement of people that want to cross from one side to the other; monorails don’t.
  • Faster construction: Usually a monorail can be built in less time than other options.
  • Less disruption: Construction of a monorail is much less disruptive to communities than other options.
  • Much less damage to communities: Surface light rail or a busway requires demolition of many homes and businesses to allow for a twenty-foot wide right-of-way, but monorail requires little space on the ground and avoids most damage to structures.
  • Safer: Monorail trains can’t run over cars and people like light rail trains can at crossings.
  • Dependable: Monorail trains do not get delayed by traffic like some other means of transport. They are seldom subject to delay by weather. You can count on arriving the same time, on time, every time!
  • A monorail line in a roadway does not need to take traffic lanes away from motor vehicles.
  • Monorail can easily coexist with a hiking or biking trail.

Potential Monorail Routes

There are many possible routes for monorail lines, but the following are the ones I consider most beneficial:

  • Seattle Center Monorail: Replace the existing Seattle Center Monorail from Westlake Center to the Seattle Center with a modern and safer one, with some modifications to the route. Click for details.
  • The Green Line: The cancelled Green Line project from West Seattle to Crown Hill via Downtown Seatttle, with some modifications, such as using dual guideways (double tracks) over the entire route and using a shorter, faster, and cheaper route directly down Second Avenue instead of through Seattle Center.
  • The Blue Line, North: This is one of the future lines proposed by the Seattle Monorail Project and would probably mostly follow Aurora Avenue North from Downtown Seattle to the city limits, and potentially north through Shoreline, Edmonds, and Lynnwood.
  • Across Lake Washington: Monorails from Seattle to the Eastside across the I-90 and SR520 bridges would not eliminate two auto lanes as would light rail or bus rapid transit.
  • Bellevue to Redmond: The controversy over where to route light rail through Bellevue and whether it should be placed underground at high cost, would be solved by building a monorail along Bellevue Way, through the Bellevue Transit Center, and along Bellevue-Redmond Road to the Overlake area, north through the Microsoft campus, and then east into Downtown Redmond.
  • Eastside “Rails to Trails” monorail: Would utilize the BSNF railroad right-of-way involved in the pending deal involving the Port of Seattle acquiring the right-of-way and trading it to King County in exchange for King County International Airport (Boeing Field). Unlike light rail, a monorail could be built along this route without interfering with the porposed use of this route for a hiking and biking trail. (Uh, could there also be a monorail dinner train?)

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©2007 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last updated on 20 March 2013

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