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Seattle Axes Monorail Project 524

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the more-of-a-shelbyville-kind-of-idea dept.
Sokie writes "This afternoon the Seattle City Council passed a resolution advocating the terminiation of the Seattle Monorail Project. This follows a recent recommendation by the mayor that the project be scrapped. Lacking city support, the project looks to be dead and the city council will request that the state legislature formally terminate the project during their next session. City councilman Richard Conlin noted that the $1 million per week tax collection required by the SMP would be enough to eliminate fares on the city's bus network."
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Seattle Axes Monorail Project

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  • Monorail! (Score:3, Funny)

    by 98jonesd (633833) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @11:59AM (#13644638)
    Mono...D'oh!
    • Re:Monorail! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Physics Nobody (688399) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @05:47PM (#13646526)
      As a Seattle resident, let me tell you that the Simpson's episode in question is all too close to the truth. This entire monorail project has been a poorly planned poorly executed mess that has resulted in ridiculous and unfair taxes (I own a car but rarely drive. But because I own a car in the last year I spent more on monorail tax than I did on gas.) that line the pockets of beaurocrats and middlemen. I'm glad to see it canned, but wish they did so a year ago...
  • Monorail... (Score:5, Funny)

    by SteevR (612047) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:00PM (#13644640) Homepage Journal
    Monorail... Monorail... Guess the good citizens of Seattle checked up on what happened to the monorail in Springfield and all those other poor towns.
    • Re:Monorail... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by toddbu (748790)
      I'm really glad that they killed this, even though I don't live in Seattle proper. As a resident of King County (of which Seattle is a part), I could see the handwriting on the wall - the project gets into financial trouble and somehow it's up to the rest of the county/state to bail out the project because it's "vital" to the region. What a load of crap! I'm glad to see politicians finally have the balls to stand up and call this project what it is - a "nice to have" project that the city just can't affo
      • Re:Monorail... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:19PM (#13644770) Homepage
        Um, Seattle is pretty much carrying the rest of the state in terms of tax burden to services provided. In much of the US, it's the town that carries the rural, not the other way around.

        Not that the monorail was a good idea.
        • Re:Monorail... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by UniverseIsADoughnut (170909) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:25PM (#13645158)
          No it's not. Its very uncommon for a city to be a profit to a state. Once a town gets so big (becoming a city) and starts needing things like freeways, on/off ramps, mass transit and so forth, it becomes a money pit to the state. Rural areas are dirt cheap to keep going. Thus why they pay more to the state then they ever get back.

          Cities just aren't cost effective.

          This is a big problem in california where there is so many huge cities (60 over 100,000 people) and not a much rural population.

          Far as this, well a mono-rail screams money pit. But thats not to say mass transit is bad. If a mass transit system is done right it will be a boon to the area. Since construction of freeways and other roadways can be scaled back. Even when running in debt, a proper mass transit system is much cheaper then continually building more freeways, high way, and repairing them, expanding them.

          Unfortunently most good forms of mass transit (trains, subways, trolleys, pedestrian/biker only pathways) get way under funded and under designed so they don't cover enough area to be worthwhile. I always love how city boards cut such projects back so hard, so then the rail system becomes a 3 mile stretch to no where, and then people attack mass transit for being a waste.
          • Re:Monorail... (Score:5, Informative)

            by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:03PM (#13645385) Homepage
            You are wrong. Urban areas subsidize rual areas.

            Cities, due to their density have much lower tranportation costs. It is much cheaper, per person, to get water and gas services to a single apartment building than 100 rural farms, or even 100 suburban homes. Virtually anything done in a city is cheaper per person than it is in rural areas.

            Urban taxes pay for the network of roads and highways that make suburbs possible. Urban taxes pay the farm subsidizes. Urban taxes pay for public transit outside of cities. Urban taxes pay for rural schools and hospitals.

            http://www.ewg.org/reports/gastaxlosers/analysis.p hp [ewg.org]
            http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Infrastructure/ov erview.htm [usda.gov]
            http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2005/07/05/AR2005070500594.html [washingtonpost.com]
            http://www.techliberation.com/archives/015244.php [techliberation.com]
            http://www.blueoregon.com/2005/03/joined_at_the_h. html [blueoregon.com]

            • Re:Monorail... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by keraneuology (760918) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:19PM (#13645468) Journal
              Cities, due to their density have much lower tranportation costs.

              Rural areas have fewer transportation needs than cities which means the transportation costs are considerably lower. Fewer roads, fewer streetlights, fewer traffic lights, fewer collisions...

              Who needs a larger police force - the 600,000 people in Washington, DC or the 600,000 people in North Dakota? Who has a greater need for firemen and paramedics - 900,000 people in San Jose or 900,000 people in Montana?

              It is much cheaper, per person, to get water and gas services to a single apartment building than 100 rural farms, or even 100 suburban homes.

              That's why farms use wells and propane.

              Virtually anything done in a city is cheaper per person than it is in rural areas.

              Municipal services? What is the cost per person of salaries of city employees alone in New York City vs the the metric for residents of Wyoming?

              Urban taxes pay for the network of roads and highways that make suburbs possible.

              Nope... ever see the tax rates of suburban houses spike to pay for the new influx?

              Urban taxes pay the farm subsidizes.

              Nope... federal.

              Urban taxes pay for public transit outside of cities.

              How many times have you caught the bus in rural Idaho?

              Urban taxes pay for rural schools and hospitals.

              Federal again. And local. And rural education is much cheaper than urban because:

              a) the land for the schools is much cheaper

              b) with fewer students you need smaller buildings - energy efficiency is easier to achieve

              c) Not nearly as many administrators or lunchlady Dorris overhead

              • Re:Monorail... (Score:3, Informative)

                by Dirtside (91468)
                Rural areas have fewer transportation needs than cities which means the transportation costs are considerably lower.
                They're not lower per capita, which is the relevant value, and the one we're discussing.
                Urban taxes pay the farm subsidizes.
                Nope... federal.
                Er... where do you think federal taxes come from?
              • Re:Monorail... (Score:4, Interesting)

                by IntlHarvester (11985) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:59PM (#13645674) Journal
                First of all, I don't think bringing up North Dakota helps your argument. It's basically a welfare state which hasn't been completely depopulated only because of federal farm subsidies.

                Furthermore, you have to agree that it is certainly more efficient to provide emergency services to a large city, even if it is more expensive. A large city may have one or two police forces, while in rural areas every city and county has their own little fifedoms. Compare the official response to 9/11 versus Katrina (NYC: Mayor's in charge. LA: Noobody's in charge.)

                But, if you actually broke out the numbers, it probably boils down to how you define "urban". An urbanite may see the exurban suburbs (usually created with massive transportaion and utility investment) as "rural", while an authentic farmer would probably see them as "urban".
              • Re:Monorail... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Vicissidude (878310) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @06:50PM (#13646867)
                Rural areas have fewer transportation needs than cities which means the transportation costs are considerably lower. Fewer roads, fewer streetlights, fewer traffic lights, fewer collisions.

                When you compare the total costs of a single town of 5,000 to another single town of 1,000,000, then and only then you are correct. However, if you break those costs out per person, then you are incorrect.

                As for the fewer roads argument, that is just false. If you spread a million people into 200 towns of 5,000 people each with a distance of 30 miles between each town, then you are going to spend a fortune creating a network of roads to connect all these people together. You'll end up spending far more than if those million people lived close together such as in a large city.

                Who needs a larger police force - the 600,000 people in Washington, DC or the 600,000 people in North Dakota? Who has a greater need for firemen and paramedics - 900,000 people in San Jose or 900,000 people in Montana?

                It is far cheaper to provide services to a million people if those people live close together. If you break those people up into towns of 5,000 and spread them apart by 30 miles each, then it is far more expensive to provide those services. That's because you have to pay the initial fixed cost for 200 separate police departments, sheriff departments, fire departments, etc, etc. A large city pays those same fixed costs, but spreads the costs over their entire population. On top of that, large cities can then get by with 1-2 police officers or fire fighters per 5,000 residents. However, no town the size of 5,000 people could get by with only 1-2 fire fighters. Look up economies of scale.

                That's why farms use wells and propane.

                But then you need people to drill the wells and service the pumps. Those people and their equipment cost money. And you probably need at least one in each of those towns of 5,000. So, that's at least an additional 200 people and their equipment you have to pay.

                As for the propane, you need a network to get the propane out to people. Large trucks can get the propane out to individuals. Well, those trucks come from a central location nearby. Assuming that they're not from the big city, then you have a hub out in the middle of nowhere. Which means, you have to spend the big money to build a pipeline out to the middle of nowhere. That all costs big money, which they're not going to get from the few people they service.

                Prev: Virtually anything done in a city is cheaper per person than it is in rural areas.
                You: Municipal services? What is the cost per person of salaries of city employees alone in New York City vs the the metric for residents of Wyoming?


                You're comparing the most expensive cost of living (NYC) versus one of the least expensive cost of living (Wyoming). As such, your example is not correct given that their salaries are based on the cost of living versus percentage of income paid to municipal services. On an absolute basis, New Yorkers may pay more per person than someone in Wyoming for the same municipal services. But then, New Yorkers pay more for everything than people in Wyoming. But, if you look at the percentage of income paid to municipal services of New Yorkers versus residents of Wyoming, the people of Wyoming probably pay more.

                If you want to bring up that kind of argument, then I should point out that those municipal workers in New York are also paying more in taxes than people in rural areas. That's simply a result of them getting paid a higher salary.

                Removing the cost of living argument, then it is always cheaper to provide services to people clustered together rather than spread apart.

                Prev: Urban taxes pay for the network of roads and highways that make suburbs possible.
                You: Nope... ever see the tax rates of suburban houses spike to pay for the new influx?
          • People might attack mass transit for being a waste when someone like you identifies "pedestrian/biker only pathways" as "mass transit." That is one of the most rediculous things I have ever heard. Apparently you have defined mass transit as "not automobiles." I can't believe you included pedestrian/bike pathways and left out busing. Just because it uses the road doesn't mean it is a waste. Consider that a full bus replaces what like 2 football fields in length of single passenger cars?
          • Re:Monorail... (Score:3, Interesting)

            by multiplexo (27356) *
            Where the fuck did you get this bullshit theory from? Did you pull it out of your ass? Did you pull it out of someone else's ass? I'm curious because you sure didn't get it from observing anything that the rest of us out here in reality-ville might have seen, case in point, telecommunications subsidies, that nice thing you get to pay on your phone bill for "Universal Service" is used to subsidize phone networks in rural areas because otherwise the telecomms wouldn't run phone lines up the dirt road to the t
        • Re:Monorail... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:05PM (#13645394)
          "Um, Seattle is pretty much carrying the rest of the state in terms of tax burden to services provided. In much of the US, it's the town that carries the rural, not the other way around."

          This is a fiction that a lot of Seattlelites like to believe. If you actually look at the distribution of tax intake around Washington state, you'll find it's the suburbs that are bearing the brunt of the tax burden. While our state's businesses like to complain about needing tax relief, their tax load is quite light when compared to that of the state's individual taxpayers.

          I for one am glad to see the monorail die. We don't need a bunch of half-*ssed transit systems - we need one overarching system that actually meets the Puget Sound region's needs (note: not just Seattle's).

          • Re:Monorail... (Score:3, Insightful)

            If you actually look at the distribution of tax intake around Washington state, you'll find it's the suburbs that are bearing the brunt of the tax burden.

            Part of that's because we have places like Medina and Chilton hill or whatever, where houses start at around a million and driving a car made before 2000 is a ticketable offense. Seattle has a lot of poor/industrial areas, but that's changing as the city recovers from whatever knocked it on its ass in the 70s (new resident myself).

            One thing worth men

      • Re:Monorail... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by timeOday (582209)
        I think it's kind of a shame they cancelled the project. When I travel to DC I always use the Metro, and I always think how much harder it would be to get around if there were no such thing. I think an efficient, integrated, easy-to-use transportation system like that really helps "make" a city.
        • Re:Monorail... (Score:3, Informative)

          by Basehart (633304)
          It would be a mistake to think of the Seattle Monorail system as being comparable to DC's Metro, Vancouver's Light Rail, San Francisco's BART, London's Underground Etc Etc because it ended up becoming just a single line from Ballard (nowhere) to West Seattle (nowhere) with downtown Seattle in the middle.

          If you didn't live in or near either of these destinations the chances are you'd never use the system, or even see it for that matter.

          There is, however, a light rail system in the process of actually b
    • I wonder why they decided against it.

      Was there a chance the track could bend?
  • by laejoh (648921) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:02PM (#13644652)

    I told them already it's more of a Shelbyville idea!

  • Not suprising (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bnet41 (591930) *
    It sucks, but there is very little interest in these projects in the US. Our country is just not layed out in a way that makes various rail projects feasible.
    • Re:Not suprising (Score:5, Informative)

      by tigersaw (665217) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:17PM (#13644760)
      Actually, there is in fact great interest for building rail transit in Seattle, the Monorail was just doomed from the start by poor management and poor planning. However, the Sound Transit Light Rail [soundtransit.org] is chugging along just fine, and with any luck will complete its own line and supercede that which the monorail would have occupied in the near(ish) future.
      • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:06PM (#13645041) Homepage Journal
        Sound Transit isn't chugging along just fine. It has already been cut in length, and gone over budget. It still hasn't addressed several places where they might have to tunnel, wich will drive the budget even higher. It also runs at street level in places, and that will further compete with existing traffic for space.

        Is that really 'just fine'?
      • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:09PM (#13645409) Journal
        In those places whose layout make rail-type mass-transit practical, standard-guage rail gives enormously better price-performance than the alternatives.

        The technology has been heavily debugged over 1 1/2 centuries. The important components are in mass production. (Even custom rolling stock - if built in the standard way - gets much of the cost and functionality benefit.)

        Standard guage also lets the line use heavy rail rights-of-way opportunistically - with no or only minor upgrades if the stock is self-powered, relatively minor upgrades if trolley or third-rail power must be added. Old rights-of-way are the right width and can be reactivated or re-railed. City streets ditto: You can put standard guage down a freeway median, convert a lane or two of an existing street or closed-to-traffic pedestrian mall, or even run rails IN a street and share the lane with vehicular traffic. You can bring intercity passenger lines to the same stations and platforms as your intra-city mass transit. In an industrial area or over bridges you can also do shared projects with freight lines.

        Each of these factors can produce savings in the tens-of-millions to multiple billions ranges, both for the mass transit projects and sometimes for heavy rail partners.

        Contrast that to non-standard systems:

        BART: Deliberately designed with a non-standard guage track (using concrete railbed so it can't be changed later) so it could never be shared with freight. Custom cars designed by aeronautical engineers - whose expertese with aerodynamics and structure relates more to free-space flight than rolling rapidly on a surface within inches of structures, and whose experience with ROLLING involves only rubber-shod landing gear used for only minutes per flight at any speed greater than a crawl. Result: Abysmal ride. Cars with a replacement cost of $6 million EACH, currently only available from a manufacturer in France. No opportunity to share right-of-way with anything: Expansion requires purchase (or siezure) of a string of contiguous lots through the San Francisco Bay Area - perhaps still the most expensive real estate in the US.

        Amtrack made the aeronautical-engineer new-design mistake on one generation of their passenger rolling stock, with similar results.

        People-mover: A rubber-tired horizontal elevator. A dreadfully expensive toy for inner city entertainment/business districts. Useful mainly for inter-terminal transport in airports. Like Bart, the right-of-way can't be shared with anything.

        Monorails also can't share their trackage with other services, or recycle existing structures (other than the space over existing rights-of-way such as freeway medians - and even there the supporting structures consume ground space). So you have to build the entire line and pay for the whole thing out of the project - making the fees you must charge (or the taxes you must steal) prohibitively high. The main advantage over railroads is their relative quiet and their lack of interference with traffic at crossings.

        (I could go on with bullet trains and other inter-urban items, and comparison with air and water transit. But this thread is about urban mass transit.) Main point is that, for urban mass transit, standard guage rail for the long hops is a better deal than monorail or the other alternatives.

        With one exception: The private automobile is usually a far better price/performance tradeoff than even trains or busses - even if you don't count the costs of lost passenger time from waiting for scheduled runs or transfer connections, or taking a non-optimal route due to lack of availability of a direct run. Even in those cities where the transit system is pervasive enough that it beats cars for some trips, there are always plenty of others where a private car beats the pants off public transportation on a cost/ride basis. A car goes from where you are to where you want to be, with many convenient route options, at a very low cost per mile traveled (even counting the cost of
  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:05PM (#13644667)
    I see 4 out of the first 5 comments are Simpsons references, once again proving that nobody on Slashdot has a sense of humour to call their own.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by ettlz (639203) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:10PM (#13644710) Journal
      Shut up, or we'll put you on a plane to North Haverbrook.
    • by thc69 (98798)
      Okay, how about this:
      terminiation??
    • I see 4 out of the first 5 comments are Simpsons references, once again proving that nobody on Slashdot has a sense of humour to call their own.

      Is yours the fourth or the fifth?
    • Hmm, your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

      In all seriousness though, there is hardly any original comedy anymore. A lot of comedy (and good comedy at that) is taking well known situations or jokes and referencing them in obscure ways.

      Being a huge Simpsons fan, I love seeing Simpsons headlines on Fark or a well-made reference here on Slashdot.

  • Monorail fixation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alomex (148003) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:06PM (#13644676) Homepage
    What is with the fixation with monorails? why is one rail supposed to be so much better than two?

    For some reason in the mid 50's monorails became equated with high tech, thus EPCOT and the Seattle monorail. All evidence suggests that there is nothing special about monorails. The fastest and most advanced in-use trains in Europe to this date still run on two rails.

    Or is this just a case of "my monorail is bigger than yours"?

    • Monorails seem to be used in elevated minimum-footprint applications? Like the Tokyo/Odaiba monorail [davidsimmons.com], and I think there's one at the Expo 2005 in Aichi. Their main benefit isn't speed, it's more for compactness (and for tourists too, yeah, it does seem to be a bit of a gimmick).
      • by Bushcat (615449)
        They're slow, have low capacity, and so are desperately overcrowded. The Odaiba monorail is a complete joke at weekends. Compare with the Rinkai Line, which is a standard subway line to the same area. Each train moves, what, 8 times as many people at 3 times the speed?

        And before eulogising about "mass" transit around Aichi, we're talking about an expo that had people queuing up to 8 hours to get in, 2-5 hours at exhibits and stations. Mass transit is exactly that: move a lot of people quickly and transpar

    • Re:Monorail fixation (Score:3, Interesting)

      by toddbu (748790)
      Although I was totally against the project, I think monorails offer a lot that light rail and heavy rail don't. Their biggest benefit is that, like a subway, it has little or no impact on surface traffic. Unlike subway, however, it's much cheaper to build since you don't have to dig everything up. Monorails are a good idea. Seattle's implementation would have been good too, but after spending billions on sports stadiums and a regional light rail system, the city just couldn't afford it.
    • Re:Monorail fixation (Score:5, Informative)

      by Martin Blank (154261) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:20PM (#13644774) Journal
      They're supposed to be:
      • Quieter -- They use non-metallic wheels, often on a non-metallic surface, though I don't know if this applies to high-speed monorails.
      • Aesthetically pleasing -- Since they are usually on raised structures, they use less surface space, don't interfere as much with foot or vehicle traffic, and the rails and their supports can be made to look nice.
      • Safer -- They're relatively hard to derail, and since the rails don't usually run at ground level, there are fewer things to hit.
      • Less expensive in the long run -- Not sure how this works out, since I've not seen the economics of monorails.

      I can see the point of the proponents, but US transportation management does not have a good record of building expensive things now and having them operate less expensively later.
      • Mostly right (Score:5, Interesting)

        by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:54PM (#13644953) Journal
        Monorails are almost always elevated. That means that they do not run in the same space as cars. As such, they can be automated. That means on-time, and it means very low operation costs.

        Of course, you can elevate a LRT or put it underground. In both cases, the installation costs are an easy 3-5 x the monorail costs as well as taking 5-10 the space.

        In monorail, the train wraps the rail. That means that it can not jump it. In contrast, think about how many of trains that we hear have jumped the track. If you follow the news, it happens every month or so.

        Monorail takes up less space in the air as the rail is about the width of a sidewalk. In contrast, the width of a suspended LRT track, is wider than a normal road. So imagine a 2 lane road suspended overhead. Load, noisey, and very expensive.
        • Re:Mostly right (Score:3, Informative)

          You don't need to limit yourself to one rail to provide automation. Some of the existing implementations include:
          - Vancouver Skytrain [trailcanada.com]
          - Kuala Lumpur light rail [railway-technology.com]
          - Singapore metro system [urbanrail.net]
          I have seen these first hand, from my travels, and can say that they work very well without having a driver.
          • Re:Mostly right (Score:3, Insightful)

            by WindBourne (631190)
            You are correct. But in each case, the initial cost was much higher for the elevated or sunken LRT. Basically, the only cheaply built LRT is when they run in the same space as roads, which means they have a lot of problems WRT safety, time, and can not be automated. But an elevated LRT can still derail much easier than most monorails since most monorails are wrapped around 3/4 of the track (some other designs exists such as suspended).
      • Re:Monorail fixation (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Reverberant (303566) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:03PM (#13645012) Homepage
        Quieter -- They use non-metallic wheels, often on a non-metallic surface, though I don't know if this applies to high-speed monorails.

        I worked on the noise & vibration analysis for the Sound Transit light rail EIR. One of the criticisms I heard over & over again was that the city should expand the monorail system instead of building a light rail system because the monorail would be quieter.

        In the case of the existing Seattle monorail, this is completely wrong - the Seattle monorail is easily one of the (if not *the*) loudest surface-transit systems in the country. If you're a resident of the pacific northwest, all you have to do is listen to the monorail, then head down to Portland to hear their light rail system (which will be similar to the proposed Seattle system), it's no contest.

        [As an aside, I can tell you about the first time I head the monorail. My boss and I were sitting in a car under the monorail guideway near the Space Needle terminus. All of a sudden, I head this huge roar, and the car started to shake. I seriously thought the rapture was upon us, until my boss said "here comes the monorail." Quiet my a$$]

        In any event, rubber wheels (which is what the Seattle monorail uses) moving on a concrete or steel surface certainly makes noise - otherwise highways would be quiet. Depending on the exact configuration, it's not necessarily true that rubber wheels on concrete or steel is quieter then steel wheels on steel rails since train wheels are designed to have a very small contact patch to minimize friction, and hence, noise. And don't forget the additional radiated sound you would get from the elevated monorail guideway.

    • Re:Monorail fixation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dr_Marvin_Monroe (550052) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:05PM (#13645027)
      Being a Seattle resident, I can tell you a little bit about our "Monorail Fixation"....

      First, a number of people here look at the monorail as a symbol of the city. We've already got one that runs a short distance from Paul Alen's EMP to the city core. It's pretty cool. A lot of people feel that we should extend the line that runs only a few blocks into one that spans the city. I happen to be one of these people. Springfield and the monorail song aside, building monorail is cheaper per mile than the light rail solution that's currently under way here too. I seem to recall that building monorail is 1/10 the cost per mile. I also know that large sections of this can be built off site and transported to the final location when it's convenient. In this way, the disruption to the people of the city is minimized in a way that it cannot be with light rail.

      Second, and most importantly, we (the city) have voted by popular referendum 4 TIMES to have the monorail. Each time, large property holders in conjunction with the paid-off officials in the city government have waged a fierce battle to prevent this. They don't want the competition, they don't want their views blocked, the proposed route doesn't help them with their gentrification plan like the already started light rail plan does. I want to emphasize that..... FOUR TIMES we've voted to create the monorail.... FOUR times the city officials have attempted to block the project in favor of their light rail solution that's more expensive and more disruptive, but puts more money in the pockets of local developers. Someone above mentioned that we've already spent too much money on our sports statiums.... That's true, and also a little bit of a sore spot for me... Through popular referendum, the people REJECTED the stadiums twice... They were built anyway, against the will of the people, to support greedy team owners, leaving us with almost $100 million in debt on the old Kingdome which was torn down. Think of that again, we still owe money on a building that's been demolished so that we can build another new statium for the rich sports team owners...

      Third, building the monorail allows for outside bidding on almost all of the project. I think that this is the clincher for why the city and state are opposed to the project though. When working at "grade" level, the city and state department of transportation groups get a cut of the project. I think that they're required to be in on the project, therefore they get the federal dollars into their budgets. For projects that go underground or above ground, they can be effectively eliminated from the project in favor of private companies which specialize in either tunneling or monorail building. For most projects, the city and state will fight tooth & nail to keep the project "at grade" rather than allow tunneling or a solution like the monorail. It's all about budgets and power. We're getting hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government right now to build our light rail project. It will be over 10 years of work and will be mostly at street level. I think the overall budget for the 14 mile light rail project is something like $2.4 Billion. The city officials love it.... You couldn't kill the light rail project any more than you could kill the "big dig" in Boston... It's all about pork.... That's exactly why I like the monorail and hate the light rail. Light rail is going to be 10 times more expensive and doesn't even span a major traffic route! Nothing's getting solved here in Seattle by building it and nobody's going to use it. Property developers are quickly snapping up properties along the route, gentrifying the poor neighborhoods that they placed the route in, they're going to make a killing... It's a boondoggle, plain and simple, and the monorail is competing with it, therefore they think the monorail must die.

      In short, look for the monorail to win a record FIFTH public referendum, after which the mayor will attempt to find another way to block and/or delay the project. I hope the people here will not let this die..

      • Re:Monorail fixation (Score:5, Informative)

        by Orion_ (83461) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @04:25PM (#13646143)
        [most of long anti-light rail diatribe deleted]

        I seem to recall that building monorail is 1/10 the cost per mile. ... I think the overall budget for the 14 mile light rail project is something like $2.4 Billion. The city officials love it.... You couldn't kill the light rail project any more than you could kill the "big dig" in Boston... It's all about pork.... That's exactly why I like the monorail and hate the light rail. Light rail is going to be 10 times more expensive and doesn't even span a major traffic route! Nothing's getting solved here in Seattle by building it and nobody's going to use it.

        Monorail: $11.4 billion / 14 miles (SMP's June financing plan, see this Seattle P-I article [nwsource.com])
        Light rail: $2.4 billion / 14 miles (your figures, corroborated by Sound Transit [soundtransit.org])

        So ... how, exactly, is light rail 10 times more expensive per mile?

        And how does the light rail line, which runs along I-5, not "span a major traffic route"? Do you really think that nobody in Rainier Valley or Tukwila needs to commute to downtown Seattle, or that nobody needs to get to or from the airports?

        And those four times we voted for the monorail? That was before anybody knew that the monorail officials were planning on paying for the line by selling 50-year junk bonds.
        • I'm glad to get your response. It sounds like you're not a fan of the Seattle Monorail Project...

          1st:
          "Do you really think that nobody in Rainier Valley or Tukwila needs to commute to downtown Seattle, or that nobody needs to get to or from the airports?

          Light rail's route through the Rainier Valley and Tukwilla is about gentrification, not transit. Not enough people need to make that commute to make either solution cost effective, neither monorail or light rail. People in the Rainier Valley and Tukw

  • by saskboy (600063) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:06PM (#13644679) Homepage Journal
    Seattle didn't strike me as a place that needs a monorail, unless the outerlying 'burbs don't have a viable link with the other parts of the city?

    New York would need one, if it weren't for the subway. I bet the council got the idea for a monorail from watching Batman Begins. They saw Gotham City had one, and wanted one too.

    Sorry I don't have a Simpsons joke to share. So my work here is done.
    • Haven't been to Seattle, huh?

      Presently, all their mass transit is just buses. Some form of rail would be desirable. The city's been trying to get trains for ages; the monorail is actually a citizen initiative. The reason for it being a monorail, btw, is because there already is one in Seattle, it's just not very useful since it doesn't go far.

      What they could really use out there, however, is a rail link from downtown Bellevue (which is fairly central for the East Side) to Seattle. With only two bridges acro
  • by neile (139369) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:07PM (#13644684)

    Once the city council backed the mayor to withdraw support, the monoral project was forced to put a measure on the upcoming November ballot so Seattle citizens can vote a fifth time on the monorail project. This time they're being offered the option of a 10-mile long route (as opposed to the original 14-mile route) that would (only) cost $5B. This whole mess started when it was discovered that the original route would wind up costing $11B to build.

    The Seattle PI had a good article [nwsource.com] on the latest developments in the paper yesterday.

  • by wealthychef (584778) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:09PM (#13644698)
    From TFA, I read that no decision to terminate the project has been made. Instead, the council voted to terminate as a way to pressure the project to shorten its plans, to shave $250MM off of a $3.6B project.

    TFA:

    Monorail board approves ballot measure
    By Mike Lindblom
    Seattle Times staff reporter

    The Seattle Monorail Project board has just approved a Nov. 8 ballot measure to shorten the proposed line, and run it from the Alaska Junction in West Seattle to West Dravus Street in Interbay.

    The decision to send a ballot measure to voters came hours after the Seattle City Council agreed to advocate for the termination of the financially troubled monorail plan. Last night, monorail board members rejected putting forward a ballot measure or any plan to shorten the line. Mayor Greg Nickels had pushed hard for both.

    "It's time for the people to decide whether they want to save the people's train," said Kristina Hill, SMP board chair.

    The City Council today, in supporting Nickels' denial of street-use permits for the project, expressed frustration and anger at SMP's handling of the situation and refusal to come up with a ballot measure last night. They said they would ask the Legislature, which created the monorail agency, to dissolve it.

    The deadline to submit a ballot measure is 4:30 p.m. today.

    The trim to the planned 14-mile line would cut about $250 million from the $1.64 billion construction contract -- if the contracting team sticks with the project.

    Pat Flaherty, president of the Cascadia team, said today his team doesn't want to keep working on the Seattle monorail unless the City Council and Nickels reverse course and actively support the ballot measure.

    • Things were a bit different when I submitted this story on Friday morning. At that point, all the council had done was reccomend the project be cancelled. The times has since rewritten their story to reflect more recent developments.

      Oh well, c'est la vie.
  • 1) The Seattle Monorail Project approved a measure to put a shortened monorail line out. I supposed that supports the word "axes".

    2) The city council agreed to advocate terminating the project.

    It's certainly not dead yet, but it's not looking good. It looks like the shortening was a last ditch effort to keep it alive.

    It's really sad too. Seattle badly needs a train system. They have busses, but a good train would help a lot. For myself, that's one reason I prefer to go to Portland if I have the choice (abou
  • good (Score:3, Informative)

    by smoondog (85133) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:09PM (#13644706)
    The monorail was a bad idea. I am vigorously supportive of rapid transit. But in this case there are problems. The elevation would block views, it wouldn't be that fast, it was very expensive, and would implicitly divert funds from light rail (a better idea). seattle has a long history of bad urban planning I'm glad that light rail is going forward and this isn't.

    -Sean (OutdoorDB [outdoordb.org]) - The Outdoor Wiki
  • by killercoder (874746) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:12PM (#13644721)
    I live in Toronto Canada, but travel to the US alot on business and for pleasure.

    As a Toronto resident I can get by without a car, just about anywhere in this city, even most of the outlying regions, can be reached quickly via rail (and sometimes a connecting bus), its not perfect, but most times my transit time is less than 30 minutes. When I visit New York City its even better, a GREAT public transit system.

    Yet if I visit Jacksonville, Housten, Atlanta (hell just about anywhere in the south) I HAVE to rent a car, public transit is poor or non-existant. Yet they wonder why they have smog issues, and traffic congestion? Ever wonder what the south would be like if they had rail? They can't build subways (water table issue) but a monorail or just plain old above ground rail system would go a long way to improving their quality of life. Oil prices too high? Take the train, its cheaper.
    • I live in Ottawa, and to tell you the truth, a good bus system can work almost as well as a rail system. In ottawa, there are special bus only roads. This greatly increases the speed at which buses travel. The only slow part seems to be going through the core part of down town. which is about 7 blocks. Mostly because they are too afraid to shut down the roads to cars. They don't want the car loving public to have to give up one of their roads. Anyway, rail is not always necessary to have a good trans
    • In the South, public transit is closely linked with race. Segregated busses were symbolic of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s: black people made up the majority of the ridership, and the majority of African Americans did not have cars. the only way that southern whites could be convinced to ride them is if they could be assured a "better" seat.

      When the busses desegregated, whites said, "Screw it, I'll just drive."

      Such overt racism is not practiced anymore, of course. And most black people have cars. B
    • Yet if I visit Jacksonville, Housten, Atlanta (hell just about anywhere in the south) I HAVE to rent a car, public transit is poor or non-existant.

      As some one who lives in the Atlanta area and who lived downtown a couple of years ago, I whole heartedly agree. When I was downtown, it was so nice to get on the MARTA to go to work. If you live inside the perimeter, and by a train stattion, it's not too bad, but still nowhere near European cities or New York.

      I really wish we would put more money into to syste

    • They can't build subways (water table issue)

      This is a common myth. There's no reason the cities you mention in the southern United States can't have subways. Look at Amsterdam, which is below sea level, yet still has a subway system.
      In fact, Houston has auto tunnels running beneath the Houston Ship Channel (one active, one decommissioned), but somehow people there think they can't have a subway line. It's just small-town thinking in a large city.
  • Is this a case? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@comcasTEAt.net minus caffeine> on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:13PM (#13644732) Journal
    Is this a case of the government not thinking to future generations, or there being a general lack of need for a monorail here? How bad is traffic? Into and out of the city? Will it cost less to build this now and not spend tons of money of the roads or to just not build it at all? In the long run?

    I ask this only because 99.9% of all city governments have no grasp of these concepts and would gladly pass problems off to their furture generations in seeking the all mighty vote for next term.

    • It's something of both. The monorail was a stupid project which was sold as a bargain against the huge cost overruns of Sound Transit. It appealed to Seattle's exceptionalism, while snubbing the rest of King County.

      Fair enough, and probably a good thing: the vote to start the monorail did get Sound Transit off its duff and actually building things. However, the vote happened before Seattlites began learning just how expensive the SMP was going to be. Surprise, surprise -- there were huge overruns, there
  • Train projects (or monorail or subway, same thing) are not about the present, but the future. Once an urban environment is built up enough, it becomes prohibitively expensive to buy the land rights needed for such a project, and so the urban system is then stuck with whatever transportation grid it currently has, which is usually by road. The ability to scale up the number of people who drive along a stretch of road is quite limited, even if you allow room for roadway expansion (see Houston and LA); where
    • To give you an idea of how little effect it can have, a widening project on the 405 freeway through Orange County (SE of Los Angeles) is tentatively scheduled to begin in five years. It will add two lanes (one in each direction), which will increase rush hour traffic speed by a mere 5mph.

      A lack of public transportation is supposed to inhibit a city's growth, and yet people keep coming to this area. The Ventura-Los Angeles-Orange County metroplex still has people virtually flooding into it.
  • by The Hobo (783784) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:14PM (#13644741)
    The name's Lanley.. Lyle Lanley.. [uwaterloo.ca]

    From one of my previous comments:

    Firefox Users: If the WMV doesn't work, try going tools, options, downloads, and on the bottom right click plugins, uncheck wmv, and if you don't want pdfs opening in firefox (meaning download first THEN open, I prefer this method, always faster and more stable) then uncheck pdf and anything else you don't want opening in firefox
  • Officials are also considering dismantling the city's controversial Escalator to Nowhere.
  • The project isn't exactly dead...but it is on the ropes.

    A measure will be on the Nov8th ballot authorizing the project to build a slightly shorter line instead of the original 14mile plan. If the voters approve that measure, things start moving again (hopefully with strong support from the city government).

    Note that the regional transit agency (SoundTransit) made a verbal promiss when we approved their tax. They ended up deciding to produce a much shorter line. Hopefully people will remember that.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I moved to Seattle 6 months ago, so I'm new in the area. However, this entire monorail thing never stuck me as a very good thing. The taxation is quite large - I paid $200 for my car, which is a 2001. I know some people who has to pay over $500 for their newer cars. Imagine everyone in the Seattle-area paying this tax, and yet the project could not come up with a definite financing and budget plan. The numbers kept on going higher and higher, to over $10B for a 14 mile monorail with not an overwhelming numb
  • The financing for the Seattle Monorail was interesting. That financing, the lack of transparency in the planning, and the sheer cost of doing it are what killed it. There were several transportation-related measures on the ballot that year, but to the surprise of everyone the monorail was the only one approved. The voters approved a certain tax level, but did not dis-allow or put any constraints on borrowing money. The monorail planners took advantage of this by stretching out the financing to an absurd n
  • by flamingweasel (191775) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:18PM (#13644767)
    For those not following along at home, this is at least the third time this has happened (if I'm remembering correctly). The city keeps passing ballot measures, and the city council keeps dissolving the project a year or two later. You'd think, after the third ballot passed, that the city council would understand that this is very much the will of the people. I guess not.

    Reading the article, it sounds like more of the same old "it can't possible work here" syndrome that infects every Seattle public work. I've been out of Seattle for a couple years -- has the light rail laid one section of track, yet? Both the monorail and the light rail projects for the region have been in development hell for at least 10 years, with seemingly no progress made. The excuse I remember hearing most often was that the Puget sound region was so different from anywhere else in the world that light rail / monorail works.
  • by Tomy (34647) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:25PM (#13644799)
    As one of the (angry) tax payers funding this project, I'd really like to see some heads roll over this one. We're not getting any of our money back (I pay almost $400 a year for this), and we will continue to have to pay for an additional two years until they sell off the 36 properties they aquired through iminent domain (which should go back to the original owners if the project is scrapped).

    The project is complete lunacy since the stations have no provision for parking/park and ride, and the route follows an existing bus line and would not be any faster than that bus line. And it would cost more per ride.

    I could support it if they actually tried something innovative, like the Skyweb Express [slashdot.org], but as the project stands, it's just a solution looking for a problem.

    I am part of the small minority of Seattlites whose home and work are in walking distance of the originally proposed line, and I can't see any reason to choose it, since it would cost me more to ride it than driving to work and paying for parking.

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:34PM (#13644850) Homepage Journal
    The first sentence of the article:
    The Seattle Monorail Project board has just approved a Nov. 8 ballot measure to shorten the proposed line, and run it from the Alaska Junction in West Seattle to West Dravus Street in Interbay.

    Another day another story posted with a summary that can only be described as completely wrong.

    Reading the summary did make me laugh though, when I left Seattle for a real city (SF) back in 2001, the Monorail project had already been started up and construction had commenced. So if they pull out now, they could very well end up having a several hundred million dollar infrastructure sitting there to rot -- and rotting quite promenently as they situated it through very busy streets.

    But it might be possible that by shortening the scope of work, the contractors would pull out. And then the Monorail project could very well be as good as dead.

    Personally, while I thought the monorail project was cool, I never really understood why the hell they needed it. They already have a top-notch bus system and the idea of extending the 1962 Worlds Fair Monorail [imdb.com] into a city wide service seems rather superflous.

  • People didn't like the World Trade Center towers either, nor did was the office space occupied for some time after it's completion. There are tons of public works projects that people start out not liking (most likely because of the initial cost, which comes from their taxes) but end up being very useful and well-liked.
  • by elister (898073) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @12:43PM (#13644907)
    Like some cities on the West Coast, Seattle has hills and light rail doesnt work very well with hills. Light rail construction (which is not elevated) has been ongoing for years now, but most of the costs associated with it have to do with tunneling. Its a soft soil, so when you hit bodies of water, you have have to dig even deeper, which costs more money and takes longer to tunnel.

    With Monorail, all you need to do is clear a path. Buy out business along the green line, no tunneling is involed. Plus im told that monorail can be converted to handle a maglev type of transportation. It was originally supposed to cost under 2 billion, but people didnt like the tax and decided to register their cars outside of KingCounty. This caused a severe drop in revene and prompted the monorail execs to resort to drastic funding (junk bonds, high intrest loans, etc) to the point where its going to cost over 10 billion.

    We need the monorail (or some form of elevated transportation) because there isnt enough room to build more highways. The sucess of the monorail would have helped to extend it to other areas of King County such as Redmond or Tacoma. I used to temp at Microsoft, and getting to Redmond from Seattle wasnt really a problem, but getting home sure was a nightmare. Any minor problem, and your going to see backups.

    King County citizens voted in favor for the monorail 5 times! And yet, its never gonna be built. Its beyond surreal.
  • Christ on a stick! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:16PM (#13645094)
    I'm in Seattle. We voted *yes* on this baby FOUR TIMES.

    We also voted no on a new stadium, twice. ..we got the stadium, but not the monorail.
  • by shoemakc (448730) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:24PM (#13645156) Homepage
    It's been pondered elsewhere why cities like Atlanta don't have better mass transit systems then they do. Some suggested higher water tables, others suggested race/cultural issues, but I'm going to suggest a third option.

    The reason I suspect is that "old world" cities are far better suited for mass transit in the first place. Cities like New York, Boston and European cities were developed when transportation mostly consisted of walking. As a result, these cities tended to emphasize a "build up, not out" approach to development resulting in more compact cities realtive to their size.

    Then came the concept of Suburbia....country living for everyone. Automobiles became affordable and cities started to sprawl. Now you have cities like Atlanta, LA, etc who occupy a far larger land area relative to their population then older cities. This means that building a mass transit network becomes far more expensive to build and maintain. It also means that unless it's a fairly comprehensive network (even more expensive) it's ridership will be relatively low.

    This is best evidenced by the New York Metro Area. Mass Transit in manhattan is exceptional...you can get just about everywhere you want to go. Access in brooklyn and queens where building densities are lower isn't quite as good as manhattan, but is still pretty good. Transit access out on long island (which was developed with cars in mind) is good for going to and from Manhattan, but poor going everywhere else.

    Now sure, there's no technological reason we couldn't build a comprehensive subway system out on Long Island, but low ridership compared to operating and construction costs would make it economicly unfeasable. All we can do is identify a few major routes along which rail lines would ease congestion on the highways. I imagine it's much the same for an Atlanta or LA.

    -Chris
  • by SumDog (466607) * on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:29PM (#13645180) Homepage Journal
    I live in Chattanooga, a decent sized city in Tennessee, but no where near the size of Nashville or even Knoxville. I tried to find a job in Atlanta, mainly because I like large cities and I like mass transit.

    Don't get me wrong, I love driving and own a 5spd and do most of my own car work, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to get drunk at a bar, stumble onto a train and get off only a block or two from your apartment.

    Atlanta has a rail and subway system, Marta, but it doesn't really blanket the city all that well. I have a friend who lives down there and it's a 20 minute drive to work, even in the thick traffic, and 45 minute train ride with two transfers.

    I really wish the rail era in this country didn't die the way it did. It would have been nice during the Interstate construction , if they had placed two high speed rail tracks in the median. I realize the Interstates were designed to move troops and also be used as a stage to land airplanes, but I think both could have still been accomplished with an integrated rail system.

    I like the way Chicago's rail system is setup. Their rails run in the medians in the Interstate and they even have train stations in the medians with pedestrian bridges above them connecting them to the streets.

    A good mass transit system (keyword good; well designed) with a fair ticket price or monthly passes is a really great way to help reduce pollution, unclog traffic ways and it lets you read a book or play with your laptop on the way to work. The trouble is we're a country conditioned to use cars and we like control, so many people will continue to drive those gas hogging SUVs with just themselves and five empty seats on the 20min drive to work every morning.

    Sumit
  • Monorail?!? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by localman (111171) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @04:27PM (#13646156) Homepage
    So why do people try to build monorails? What is the goal? Is it just because they have a cool name? Or because they look futuristic? From what I can tell they have nothing but disadvantages over traditional trains. The tracks are much harder to manufacture and maintain, the turning radius is much more limited, they're slow...

    I live in Las Vegas at the moment and they put up a monorail last year... nothing but headaches.

    BART in the San Francisco area is pretty darn good. It reminds me of the trains in Europe -- both England and France have excellent rail systems. Fast, quiet, smooth and reasonably priced for the most part.

    Anyways... I've never heard why people keep building monorails. Is there some theoretical advantage that has yet to be realized?

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