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Seattle Monorail & California High Speed Rail Move Forward 644

bscottid writes "Woo-hoo! The monorail passed in Seattle!. And, it was driven by an amazing grass-roots effort of people who saw a way to use technology to get us moving again here in The Emerald City. Everyone mark your calendars, because in 2007 you're invited up here to take a quick, scenic ride around the beautiful city of Seattle! (Begin Simpsons references now)" It's also worth pointing out that in the recent california election, a pair of bills were passed which put aside approximately $10b for the construction of California's high speed rail project.
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Seattle Monorail & California High Speed Rail Move Forward

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  • oh wait, that was the supertrain.
  • Feasability? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lpret ( 570480 )
    I've heard many arguments that the distances needed to be covered did not lend itself to high speed trains. Especially in California where frequent earthquakes occur, wouldn't it be better to simply work on a new air-based transportation?
    • Japan has many earthquakes and many high speed trains. Can't be too terrible a combo.
    • Air travel is really expensive, and barring any major improvements in aeronautics or cutthroat competition, it's not going to get that much cheaper.

      Especially, you don't want to pay a lot if you have to travel from San Fransisco to Los Angeles every day for work, or home from college every week.

      Plus, our airports (especially SFO) are busy enough as it is. Not to mention pollution and fuel consumption. California is growing, and in 18 years (estimated completion) the problem is going to be much much worse.
    • Seems easier to build a train or monorail station in downtown Seattle or SF (underground?), than it would be to drop another airport nearby. Airports seem to eat up acreage without remorse. The freeways have an empty zone down the middle just waiting for a high-speed train track.

      And note that Japan has a very reliable system for controlling bullet trains during earthquakes. Of course, getting 2k passengers off a parked train, in the middle of no where, is another issue...but at least they're alive.
    • Re:Feasability? (Score:3, Informative)

      by mgv ( 198488 )
      I've heard many arguments that the distances needed to be covered did not lend itself to high speed trains.

      Well it depends on what you are planning. The monorail in Sydney, Australia was sold as the mass transportation of the future here. They tried to take the concept from Japan. Which is somehwat ironic, as its mainly used for transporting the Japanese tourists in Sydney.

      Mass transport it isn't, so check your schematics before you praise it as the solution to urban transit.

      Michael
  • Last thing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MattCohn.com ( 555899 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:30AM (#4721198)
    The monorail is the last thing Seattle should be worrying about. I live there and trust me, the highway system needs attention and FAST. Traffic is terible, and the Metro bus system got funding cut. Yes, I'm glad the monorail is going ahaid but due to the consept of a monorail only few people are going to be able to regularly use it. Work on our roads and mass transit first thank you very much.
    • by cscx ( 541332 )
      Yeah they should have used the money to fix the potholes on main Street.
    • Re:Last thing... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Obliterous ( 466068 )
      Seattle trafic is why I moves back to SoCal.

      LA trafic jams may be legendary, but seattle beats 'em. EVERY DAY.

      But if they actually build the monorail to cover the major comute coridors, it might actually reduce some freeway trafic, but I'm not holding My breath.

      If they actually get it built, I'll come back up there for a visit and a ride. but I seriously think that the concept is a touch flawed...
    • Work on our roads and mass transit first thank you very much.
      Proponents envision the project as the first segment of a 58-mile system that would eventually connect every neighborhood in the city. Passengers would zip along above the traffic, unimpeded by traffic jams and stoplights. The pollution-free transit would carry people

      to jobs, shops, and to watch the city's major league teams play.

      Opponents labeled the project an aesthetic and financial debacle. They foresee billions being spent that would do little to alleviate traffic congestion, plus miles of elevated track marring the skyline.

      Clearly, adding another form of public transit that is not part of the current overcrowding of the roads can only be a good thing? Maybe the traffic would be less horrible if people were going around in monorails instead of driving around...
      • Re:Last thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by theedge318 ( 622114 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:06AM (#4721314)
        Hate to be the bearer of bad-news, but they aren't "pollution-free transit." They need electricity from somewhere to power the electric motors, whether it be oil/coal/nuclear. The only solution might be geo-thermal/solar/wind/wave ... but they don't provide a signifigant portion of the world's power yet. There is a threshold of ridership, beyond which they become more environmentally friendly than a car, but we are a long way from "pollution-free" forms of transportation.

        I know this comes as a great suprise to all of you driving those stupid little Neighborhood Electric Vehichle ... you are just moving the pollution to some other poor-bastards neighborhood, while you get all the really good parking spots at the mall.
        • That's not true, at least in this particular case. Since this is Seattle we're talking about, the power is primarily hydroelectric.

          That's not to say that dams don't have an environmental impact, but they don't "pollute" as such.
          • Re:Last thing... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by stud9920 ( 236753 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @08:55AM (#4722197)
            Not to forget that electrical engines are way less lossy than combustion engines, that friction losses are neglectible, that electrical production in a centralized location can use more efficient pollution filter and that electrical engined don't need to stay running at 1000 rpm when in traffic jams (which traffic jams anyway ?)
        • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @12:03PM (#4723772) Homepage
          Hate to be the bearer of bad-news, but they aren't "pollution-free transit." They need electricity from somewhere to power the electric motors, whether it be oil/coal/nuclear. The only solution might be geo-thermal/solar/wind/wave ... but they don't provide a signifigant portion of the world's power yet. There is a threshold of ridership, beyond which they become more environmentally friendly than a car, but we are a long way from "pollution-free" forms of transportation.

          I know this comes as a great suprise to all of you driving those stupid little Neighborhood Electric Vehichle ... you are just moving the pollution to some other poor-bastards neighborhood, while you get all the really good parking spots at the mall.

          There's this big ol' thing in Washington State called the Grand Coulee Dam.

          Rumor has it that it's the world's third largest producer of power.

          Rumor also has it that it's about as pollution-free as power comes.

          But hey, what am I saying? Stupid little Neighborhood Electric Vehicles! If you really cared, you'd be driving a Fnord Behemoth 150 or a Chevee Soverign Nation to and from the Quickie Mart--at least then you're not dumping all that hydroelectric pollution on the poor saps who live near the dam, you insensitive clod!

    • not last thing (Score:2, Insightful)

      There is more latency in road traffic here than adding buses and highways will ever fix. Why do we have traffic jams on weekends, too? Less people commute, but the latent demand fills up any vacuum. I'm tired of my commute gaining another 10 minutes each year.

      The nice thing about the monorail or similar packages is not that they will reduce the number of people driving or make you or the buses' drives any faster (nothing short of an epidemic will do that), it's that for a decent number of people, their commute no longer has much influence on anyone else's. The threshold for maxing out the system, in terms of enough people using it to force more construction, is much higher than cars. It doesn't keep getting slower as the population gets higher.

      Over the course of a generation or two, a successful monorail will change the part of the city where it's built. I lived in Tokyo before coming to Seattle, and commerce and real estate in Tokyo is built around rail stops (above, surface, and below ground). The same thing will happen in Ballard and wherever else the monorail goes. Live where you have to compete for time on the highway with everyone else, or live where the time between points a and b is always fixed, with the choice of stopping at a shopping/entertainment district in between.
    • by global_diffusion ( 540737 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:37AM (#4721385) Homepage
      If we make more highways (or even expand them) that will just make more room for the suburb folks to drive their carbon-spewing SUVs all over our town. I live in Seattle and bike to work, and it's bad enough as it is (I've had enough near-death experiences with soccermom-worker-SUV-types, thank you). The monorail is good because it is mass transit. There is no reason that you should have to own a car if you live in a city (unless you need it to go to the mountains ;) and this brings us a step closer to making Seattle a walkable city.
  • by Cyclopedian ( 163375 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:34AM (#4721205) Journal
    Will Leonard Nimoy be spearheading the opening festivities?

    -Cyc

  • by GeckoFood ( 585211 ) <geckofood@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:34AM (#4721206) Journal

    Seattle Monorail & California High Speed Rail Move Forward

    Now if they could just get the damn things to actually stop when they get to a destination...

  • by Migelikor1 ( 308578 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:35AM (#4721210) Homepage
    [Anonymous Coward] I hear those things are awfully loud.
    [Article] It glides as softly as a cloud
    [Enginerd] Is there a chance the track could bend?
    [Article] Not on your life, my Slashdot friend
    [Frequent poster] Why Seattle, those braindead slobs?
    [Article] There were only so many Starbucks jobs
    [Oil Companies] Were you sent here by the devil?
    [Article] No, good sir, I'm on the level
    [Cowboy Neal] I feel attracted to a man.
    [Article] Go outside and get a tan!
    I swear it's Seattle's only choice
    Throw up your hands and raise your voice!
    Monorail!
    What's it called?
    Monorail!
    Once again!
    Monorail!
    [Poster] But our educational system's all cracked and broken
    [re;] Sorry, man, the mob has spoken
    [All] Monorail! Monorail!
    Monorail!
    Monorail!
    [Homer] Mono- d'oh!

    This terrible parody brought to you by a bored college student.
  • The Urbanaut (Score:2, Informative)

    For really cool monorail tech, check out the Urbanaut [washington.edu]. Its inventor is the designer of Seattle's original monorail. Why we in Seattle aren't going with his ideas for this new one, I don't know.
  • by cscx ( 541332 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:37AM (#4721219) Homepage
    Now where did I hear that name before...?
  • by ryochiji ( 453715 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:38AM (#4721223) Homepage
    'cause Amtrak sucks. From where I am (Chico, CA), to go to Portland OR using Amtrak, it takes 14 hours and costs $100. In comparison, it takes 12 hours and costs $59 by Greyhound.

    I'm not sure if this new plan extends into Oregon, but still, when a bus is faster than a train, you know something's not right (of course, this is in comparison to other areas like Japan and Europe where there's a fairly developed network of high speed trains).
    • I'm not sure if this new plan extends into Oregon,

      Oregon isn't in the recommended routes [ca.gov] yet.

      But, if we get something going from LA -> Sacramento, I'm hoping that it will present enough of an incentive to go to the larger Oregonian cities on the way to Seattle.
    • Amtrak sucks by design. The government apathy towards the commuter rail industry is too extreme to be accidental. I can't prove it, but I'd be willing to bet that huge payoffs are involved somewhere.

      I lived in England for many years, and caught a train into London three days a week. It wasn't cheap, but the prices weren't as inflated as Amtrak (relatively speaking), and I never had to look at schedules or make reservations. I showed up at the station and a stepped aboard a train which invariably arrived (yes, sometimes it was late), purchased my ticket, read my paper, sometimes ate breakfast or enjoyed a cup of tea, and all was bliss.

      Amtrak could do the same if they got anywhere near the same coddling that the airline industry receives.
      • by nurightshu ( 517038 ) <rightshu@cox.net> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:45AM (#4721399) Homepage Journal

        The government apathy towards the commuter rail industry is too extreme to be accidental.

        Just out of curiosity, how does one develop "extreme apathy?" Wouldn't that be like "record-breaking mediocrity?" Or is it an ESPN2 show for the lazy kids -- XTREME APATHY! This week: laying on the couch and not fucking moving! Also: highlights from the 2002 North American Shrugging Championship.

      • Amtrak (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wowbagger ( 69688 )
        The difference between Amtrak in the US and the rail systems in Europe and the UK is this:

        In Europe, the primary goal of the rail system is moving people. In the US, the primary goal is moving freight.

        Amtrak does not own the railbeds - the various freight companies (like Burlington Northern/Santa Fe) do. This has several negative effects on Amtrak:

        1. Freight trains get priority over passenger lines. So if both a trainload of shipping containers and an Amtrak train need the same section of rail, guess who gets to set in a siding.
        2. Late trains wait for on-time trains. As a result, if you are late, you just get later as you keep waiting on the sidings. This is not so much a problem with freight, but kills passenger service.
        3. Freight trains don't NEED to run 150MPH plus. 70 MPH is fine. As a result, the freight companies have no motivation to upgrade the rail beds. I've ridden the Southwest Chief - and over some of the rail lines you'd better be sitting down, as you will be thrown around otherwise.


        In addition, the first time a high-speed train Darwin'ed a moron trying to beat it across the tracks, and derailed and killed a bunch of passengers, Amtrak would be sued into obilivion. You would need to have over/underpasses at every road intersection, as well as fences along the rail to prevent stupid people from walking along the rails ("Look! I am gunna put a penny on the tracks. This will be co-" <Brraaaak! Ding Ding Ding... >)

        Now, were the US to invest enough money to build a seperate, passenger only rail system, then it MIGHT become reasonable to take the train - a train that averaged 150 MPH would be able to make the run from Kansas to California in 12 hours, rather than 26. Given the delays involved in flying, this becomes competitive, especially if they set up the Autotrain cars so that I can have my car when I get where I am going. It would still be faster to fly from New York to LA, but from the middle of the US out it would become reasonable to take the train, unless you are on a high-priority business trip.

        Now, how to achive this spending of money without it becoming Pure Pork? If I had a certain answer I wouldn't be typing on Slashdot, but what I would recommend is a modification of what worked in the past: a Rural Rail act, similar to the Rural Electrification Act of yore. Make Amtrak a private company, have the government loan them the money to build/improve the rails, and make them pay it back. If they fail to pay it back, forclose on the lines.

        If you look at the history of the REA, it made the government far more than it cost - most of the REA loan recipents paid their loans off in full. In addition, the improvement in the infrastructure of the country ALSO paid for the system.

        I'd love to see the rails improve - the train is MUCH nicer for a 6'4" person like me than a plane, seeing the scenary along the way is great, having a 110VAC outlet in your sleeper car is great for mobile hacking, and trains can stop more places than a plane can. But until it either costs less than a plane or takes about the same time as a plane, it is a luxury, not a viable competitor.

        (however, I do recommend taking either the Southwest Chief or the California Zypher at least once - get a sleeper car, and treat the trip as the vacation.)
    • That's one thing that I can't find anywhere on the site, how much it will cost. Personally, I can see this is being really great if it's $50 or less round trip from the Bay Area to L.A. Likely, however, it's going to be targeted at business travelers, so I'd bet it'll be more like the $100 amtrak ticket.

      As for Portland, how many people make that trip? Bay Area to L.A. to Sacramento will get a whole lot of traffic on a daily basis. Heck, 2 hours is comperable to some of the commutes that people take from way out in Daneville or Tracy to San Francisco every day. I can see people commuting from Visalia to any of the three larger metro areas this will cover. Portland, though? I don't know anyone who travels there regularly. Maybe I'm off my mark, but I don't see that being a heavily traveled route.
      • That's one thing that I can't find anywhere on the site, how much it will cost Personally, I can see this is being really great if it's $50 or less round trip from the Bay Area to L.A. Likely, however, it's going to be targeted at business travelers, so I'd bet it'll be more like the $100 amtrak ticket.

        They're still in some early planning stages. The ticket price won't be known until a good estimate of cost and funding is known.

        My guess is that the train tickets will be priced to compete with the commuter air tickets. So $100 or more (but without the wait time and full body cavity search).

        Heck, I'd still take the train even if it was slighly more expensive. Travelling by train is fun. No tight seats, you can walk around the train. I spent my last trainride reading a book and drinking beer in the lounge car, watching the beautiful sunset.
    • Last winter I used Amtrak and Greyhound to tool around the West Coast visiting friends and relatives. I was told that Amtrak's passenger service is expensive and inefficient because its mostly an afterthought; they make most of their money out West by shipping light cargo (and mail, I think) between the big cities. IIRC, the only profitable passenger travel area they have is from D.C. to Boston (with presumably better service than the Sticks, North Dakotah to Bumwad, Iowa route), and get heavy government subsidies because East Coast politicians and their constituents use it to commute, Gregory Peck style.
  • Waste of money... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by applef00 ( 574694 )
    A monorail is a waste of money in Seattle, because everybody that is going to use mass-transit is already using mass transit. Those that *should* be using mass transit currently can't, and won't be able to with the monorail, because it won't be going far enough north or south. Mass transit is no good if I have to get in my car to get to the transit station. I should be able to walk out of my home to the platform (ala New York).
    • everybody that is going to use mass-transit is already using mass transit.

      No, they're not. There are traffic jams every time there is a game at either of the stadiums. Compare this to Vancouver, BC (where I also lived), where *masses* of people take the Skytrain to theirs, and traffic is significantly less-congested. That's going to be a huge advantage all on its own, IMO.

      Also, I personally know that as soon as I can afford to, I'm never going to ride the bus again. They're filthy, they're slow, they're scheduled too infrequently, and they're overcrowded. None of those are a problem with a well-designed monorail/elevated train system.

      The monorail is going to be the best thing to happen to Seattle transit in my lifetime. If we can manage to get a viaduct-replacing tunnel as well, this will be a really great city.
    • Clue time (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:32AM (#4721374)
      (Mods: the parent is not insightful). Out here in the west, we do not have the density that the east coast has. Most places use busses for mass transit. They are in the same rat maze that your car is in, therefore, they have no advantage. Many ppl will not bother with them. This effect was seen here in denver, co. Each time an LTR segment was built the local republican would fight it and say that it could not be succsussful therefore we should build lanes of traffic or turn the HOV lanes into toll roads. So far, every segment of LTR has been deluged with all sort of ppl. When I have to go into denver, esp in the evening, I take the LTR. It beats driving with a bumch of drunks on the road.
      The problem with LTR is that it is also in traffic, has crashes, and can not be automated. Monorail can be automated, never crashes, and literally rides above it all at a cost cheaper than an elevated LTR (Chicago's L) an a fraction of the cost of the east coast subways (which I paid for with my tax money).
      go monorail.
  • Mono... D'oh! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Original Yama ( 454111 ) <lists.sridhar@dh ... an.com minus bsd> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:40AM (#4721227) Homepage
    How likely is a monorail to be profitable? Here in Sydney we've had a monorail running through the CBD for well over a decade. It's overpriced and nobody uses it but tourists. There's been talk for a long time about dismantling it, since it's not making any money.
    • Re:Mono... D'oh! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Our Man In Redmond ( 63094 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:10AM (#4721326)
      The current Seattle monorail system is profitable.

      Of course it costs a dollar or so and takes you a distance you can comfortably walk (basically from the Space Needle to Nordstrom's headquarters, a distance of maybe a half mile), and is a tourist attraction to boot. We locals occasionally refer to it as the "Train To Nowhere" (after a cabaret skit in which it was featured). (To be fair, they have a deal where you can park at the Seattle Center parking center and commute into downtown on the monorail, thereby avoiding downtown traffic. I'm sure it makes a fair amount of money this way.)

      Whether anyone uses it will depend on whether it ends up going where people want to go at an attractive price.
    • I've been to Sydney and seen the monorail. It only goes in a loop around a relatively small area, which is filled with tourist attraction type stuff. It doesn't seem to be intended for wide city use.

      What I did see getting widespread use in Sydney was the subway system. Takes you most anywhere in town. Very handy, useful, and relatively cheap. Clean too, unlike a lot of other subways I've been in.
    • I'm sorry but those tiny little trains are soooo *cute* :) I liked it so much I went around twice.
  • Old Fashion Trains (Score:3, Insightful)

    by l810c ( 551591 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:41AM (#4721230)
    We have a mass transit train(MARTA) that basically makes a N/S/E/W cross over Atlanta. It is basically usless for a large segment of the population. It takes me 25 minutes to get to closest station + 25 minute ride downtown. Car ride downtown is 40 minutes(As long as some dipshit has not rear ended somebody Not sure about Seattle, but here in Georgia we have old train tracks everywhere. I always thought it would make more sense to use these instead. The tracks are there, the trains would cost less. And the coverage could be almost universal.

    Never been to Seattle, but Portland uses 'Dumb Trains' with good success. Our Governor and a group of planners actually went there a couple of years ago to get some ideas.

  • by schlach ( 228441 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:43AM (#4721235) Journal
    but I live in Seattle, and I voted against it.

    (a) The company is estimating $100 million per mile (light rail would be ~ $14 million / mile)

    (b) it's connecting Ballard and West Seattle (like needing a Western Passage so building one from Lake Erie to Superior, ie it goes nowhere)

    (c) the company building it is estimating that 80%
    of the ridership will be taken off of buses,rather than roads.

    (d) WA doesn't have an income tax, so the brunt of payment is falling on non-new car owning citizens (new cars aren't taxed), and disproportionately on the poor.

    (e) even if everything was perfect, it would still only connect ballard and west seattle. so what? we're gonna build a light rail system *too* in order to actually get to the frickin' airport?

    (f) Why the hell didn't they try to get federal funding? We have the dubious distinction of being the first huge construction project in history without feds backing us, and we didn't even ask for money from them. WTF? I don't think that's a record I want my city to hold...

    Hey, monorails are great, technology, ra, but we got lanley'd so bad. It passed by 800 votes. That's a slim majority for 45% of eligible voters for $2 billion in costs, without a federal dime or a state income tax.
    • I agree with your first 5 points completely. But..

      (f) Why the hell didn't they try to get federal funding? We have the dubious distinction of being the first huge construction project in history without feds backing us, and we didn't even ask for money from them. WTF? I don't think that's a record I want my city to hold...

      I'm glad they didn't do that, because that would mean that I(a Georgia resident) would be paying for it. I think they are setting a Nice Precedent by Not asking for funds.

      Less Federal Government.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      (d) WA doesn't have an income tax, so the brunt of payment is falling on non-new car owning citizens (new cars aren't taxed), and disproportionately on the poor.

      Yeah, but that's a problem with your Tax system, not with how they're gonna build the monorail.

      It's going to be interesting to see how you're going to pay for those roads, since the new gas tax was denied and the car fees were reduced... it's fine to have a taxpayer revolt as long as people are realistic about what they want to pay for.

      (f) Why the hell didn't they try to get federal funding? We have the dubious distinction of being the first huge construction project in history without feds backing us, and we didn't even ask for money from them. WTF?

      The president is an oil baron. The senate and house are ruled by crooks who are trying to force another war for oil down our throat. There isn't a snowball's chance in hell that these guys will approve anything with 'rail' in the name.

      You know, if you called it an 'oil pipeline' you'd probably get 100% funding!
    • (d) WA doesn't have an income tax, so the brunt of payment is falling on non-new car owning citizens (new cars aren't taxed), and disproportionately on the poor.

      New cars aren't taxed in Washington? GOD DAMMIT! I want my $5500 back!

    • Hey, monorails are great, technology, ra, but we got lanley'd so bad. It passed by 800 votes. That's a slim majority for 45% of eligible voters

      Yeah, but this was the third time a monorail initiative was on the ballot, and it's passed all three times.

      That says something...
    • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:18AM (#4721344) Homepage Journal
      I think you missed a few points. (I voted yes)

      There will be light rail, it will feed the Monorail to the north and south. (Which we need, full light rail would of been better.)

      Commute time by monorail will be 100% quicker than bus, good reason for people to change from bus and car.

      The Cost is high, but if we wait another 15 years (or is it 20 now, that light rail has been voted on) it will be 5 billion.

      Who knows on the federal funding, our state has been spending money like crazy on the stupidest things for years. We are still paying off the kingdom, and we build a new one. Check out our state budget at http://www.ofm.wa.gov/ [wa.gov] for more info.

      BTW, main Seattle (Metro area) absentee voters tipped the vote to pass.
      • Commute time by monorail will be 100% quicker than bus, good reason for people to change from bus and car.

        I doubt it will be 100% quicker.

        And are you quite sure people will not be taking a bus to get to the monorail station? The time comparisons I've seen do favor monorail, but they seem to start the race at the point someone steps on the bus or monorail, without worrying about how long it took to get there.

        The Cost is high, but if we wait another 15 years (or is it 20 now, that light rail has been voted on) it will be 5 billion.

        That's not a reason. If we wait forever, the cost will be 0.
      • >Commute time by monorail will be 100% quicker than bus

        Wow, so a 30 minute commute will now take 0 minutes? That's AMAZING!

        Just think, if they make the monorail go faster, I can be at work before I leave the house!

        -l
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:26AM (#4721361)
      I live in Seattle and voted for it with both hands and all eleven toes.

      (a) The company is estimating $100 million per mile (light rail would be ~ $14 million / mile)

      Sound transit has ALREADY spent $2 billion, with not a foot of track to show for it. I think your numbers are slightly off anyway...the "not-quite-to-SEATC to not-quite-to-UW" light rail is gonna cost something like $6-8b for what, 20 miles? 14m*20 = a lot less than $6-8b.

      (b) it's connecting Ballard and West Seattle (like needing a Western Passage so building one from Lake Erie to Superior, ie it goes nowhere)

      Ergo, don't start building a skyscraper until the top story is finished? Don't send up an astronaut until you're ready to go to the moon? Don't invest in biomedical research until you have a surefire plan to cure cancer? You gotta start someone. And if it works out, they already have plans to expand all over the city. At this point, ANYTHING is better than nothing in Seattle. Besides, it wins on its own merits, anyway. West Seattle - Downtown - Queen Anne - Ballard takes in a lot of commuters, AND it connects all the major sporting arenas and tourist areas.

      (c) the company building it is estimating that 80%
      of the ridership will be taken off of buses,rather than roads.

      1. Buses take up road space too. 2. Car drivers come when the network effect is large enough - as the network grows, more and more ride. See (b).

      (d) WA doesn't have an income tax, so the brunt of payment is falling on non-new car owning citizens (new cars aren't taxed), and disproportionately on the poor.

      The part about it being regressive is not true at all. The tax is proportional to the car's current value, so owners of old clunkers (like me) will pay very little, while owners of 2003 10 gallons-to-the-mile armored SUVs will pay up the ass. Even better, if you don't own a car you pay nothing at all. As for "new cars aren't taxed", if you mean at the point of sale, right - it's not a sales tax. But new cars are taxed every year just like old ones.

      (e) even if everything was perfect, it would still only connect ballard and west seattle. so what? we're gonna build a light rail system *too* in order to actually get to the frickin' airport?

      Yes. It actually makes some sense. Rail in Seattles just doesn't look like it's gonna be cheap or easy. What we should have done from the start is make a rational plan like most cities (NY, Boston, DC) have: light/commuter rail outside the city connecting to mass transit inside the city. Make Downtown/SoDo the hub, with light rail going south and the monorail spiderwebbing around the city. Doesn't that make more sense than spending $2b just for a rail tunnel under the ship canal?

      Besides, at this rate, I think I think global warming will make Seattle a tropical paradise before a mile of light rail actually gets built.

      (f) Why the hell didn't they try to get federal funding? We have the dubious distinction of being the first huge construction project in history without feds backing us, and we didn't even ask for money from them. WTF? I don't think that's a record I want my city to hold...

      Eh, fsck Bush. But if we want something DONE, we need to do it ourselves. So be it. Better to do it than to whine about it. As for light rail, understand I'm a big proponent of it too, but over the last two years it's been eviscerated almost to the point of uselessness - with no construction in sight.
    • by Preposterous Coward ( 211739 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:38AM (#4721386)
      (a) Light rail $14 million per mile? More like $200 million ($2.9 billion for 14 miles).
      (b) And downtown.
      (c) People like their cars, so I have to believe almost any new mass transit system here will get most of its riders from buses, not from cars, initially. My hope is that this is just the first phase of many, and that ultimately a larger system (and one not subject to traffic jams because it doesn't run at grade level) *would* ultimately get people out of their cars.
      (d) I don't follow. The monorail tax is based on the current value of your car, so if you're driving an old clunker you pay very little, and if you're driving a new SUV/Lexus/whatever you'll pay quite a bit more.
      (e) Light rail won't go to the airport either (at least not in the first phase), you know.
      (f) Heaven forbid cities and regions should take the initiative and spend the money to try to fix problems themselves instead of relying on the generosity of the Feds (or more precisely, the other 250 million-plus U.S. citizens who DON'T live in or near Seattle).

      So it passed by 800 votes. Last time I checked, the state constitution didn't say anything about initiatives being any less valid because they got voted in with a slim majority. If I-776 (reducing license tabs, etc.) had only passed by an 800-vote majority, would you be as eager to decry it?

      As for the fact that only 45% of people voted, as far as I'm concerned, the other 55% have no right to complain about the results.

    • Well put (Score:5, Informative)

      by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:00AM (#4721433) Homepage
      I live in West Seattle, and my first reaction to this story was to respond like you did. But I didn't have to because you put the facts so well. Way to go. So let me paint a more subjective picture.

      In the 14 years I've lived in West Seattle the traffic has at least tripled. Not just commute traffic -- people do a lot more in their lives than just go to and from work. I'm talking about shopping, going out to eat, etc. within the immediate area. The monorail isn't going to do squat for that. In fact, it will probably bring in more people and make the situation worse. As much as I hate the traffic on the West Seattle bridge, at least it probably discourages some people from moving over here.

      This is an area people don't tend to move out of. It has a large number of people who have lived here since WWII and before, have raised their families here and have mostly taken good care of their homes. Those folks are dying off now, and their houses are being bought by people who either subdivide the lots with two skinny townhouse-like structures or put up 4-story apartments and business buildings, depending on whether there is a view. Property prices (and taxes) have therefore soared in the last 10 years. Our house value has quadrupled, which I suppose would be fine if we were real estate speculators, but we just want to live here. A district of longtime homeowners is turning into a district of renters, which we all know will eventually drive the quality of the area down.

      The City of Seattle bureaucrats see this as "revitalizing" the area. I see it as "devitalizing". What they get is more tax money, from the residents but more importantly from the businesses, which pay both property tax and business tax. What we residents get is more crime, more graffiti (not the cool artsy kind, the dumbass tag kind), more losers walking around with an attitude, and more cars driven by hurried, over-extended people talking on cellphones, drinking lattes and putting on makeup.

      A little rant about Seattle politics...
      Schlach mentioned above that the monorail passed by only 800 votes. Seattle is developing a history of big projects that pass by a narrow margin. The new monorail is the most recent. Seahawks Stadium was another one, but at least it too actually passed. The Mariners baseball stadium was defeated by us mere voters, but the state legislature responded by obligingly writing a law authorizing any county with a million or more residents to issue bonds to build athletic complexes. There's only one such county in the state, guess which one. To avoid future complications they even gave the law a 2-year expiration date. The stadium the county commissioners authorized cost 3 times as much as the one the voters rejected.

      Makes me proud to live in a democracy.
      • Re:Well put (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wytcld ( 179112 )
        In the 14 years I've lived in West Seattle the traffic has at least tripled.

        I moved from Seattle 14 years ago among other things because traffic was getting so bad ... to New York, but hey if I'm going to suffer the pains of a major city, may as well have the rewards of one. Folks who don't know Seattle don't realize that rail will succeed there for the exact same reason the current most successful use of it is Portland, OR: folks in that corner of the country are very environmentally correct (especially the loggers who improve the forests by removing the large combustable objects!). Not to mention the retro-techno-wiz factor in monorail - lots of fans of that out there too.

        But what's just plain wrong about the plan is that they're putting the first line not where the population density of transit riders is, but where the rich are (or where the real estate speculators believe more rich can be lured), nearer the water. It will be useless for instance to the U of W with 40,000 mostly-transit-riding students who lean strongly green, and is closer to downtown than Ballard. The line should go there first. "But they're already on transit, why give them more service?" Right, ignore your best customers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:45AM (#4721237)
    The Seattle Monorail has been a long, long politically charged struggle. I've voted for it three times so far. One of the early problems that the Monorail faced was a tremendous amount of opposition from the people with big money that wanted to build an enourmously expensive and unworkable rail system here in Seattle. The "Sound Transit" (they renamed themselves because people came to hate them as "Regional Transit Authority") people were apparently receiving big lobby money from rail industry groups that wanted a fat contract, and they didn't seem to really care what would or wouldn't work for Seattle. It was too obvious even to the corrupt, however, that the rail system absolutely couldn't be done for any reasonable amount of money, and it's been in a perpetual state of falling over dead and being resurrected for the past 8 years or so.

    The Monorail, which from the very start was a viable and practical proposal to help deal with Seattle's critical-mass transportation problem, has been largely ignored by politicians for reasons unknown. The Monorail focus has been on solving transportation problems, and thus far seems to have been devoid of any lobbying or tampering by outfits that just want a contract. Every initiative, every election, was a result of a grassroots effort to make it happen. That it has made it as far as it has is a testament to the regular people that have labored so hard on it.

    It ain't over yet though. You can bet that the rail forces will be back to create pain for the Monorail wherever they can. Stay tuned for the Sound Transit versus the Monorail shenanigans in Seattle over the next few years.

    • by Tim ( 686 ) <[timr] [at] [alumni.washington.edu]> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:56AM (#4721424) Homepage
      "It was too obvious even to the corrupt, however, that the rail system absolutely couldn't be done for any reasonable amount of money, and it's been in a perpetual state of falling over dead and being resurrected for the past 8 years or so."

      You're being disingenuous. Sound Transit has had lots of trouble in Seattle for the same reason that any major public construction initiative has trouble in Seattle: the town is too politically correct for it's own good. Whereas many (most) other cities of Seattle's population have city managers with the power/authority to make decisions based upon engineering and technical criteria without putting issues to a vote, Seattle is hamstrung with a ridiculously political design/build process. Furthermore, the number of NIMBYs, owl-lovers and salmon saviors here attack any project that even looks sidelong at a stream or a standing puddle. It's a nightmare proposition for actually getting things done. The only reason the monorail people haven't hit this particular wall yet is because their line is only about five percent planned. And any engineer worth his sliderule will tell you that the true costs of a project don't become apparent until around the 30% mark.

      You're right about one thing, though: Monorail has always been a populist initiative here in Seattle. Unfortunately, that doesn't make it a smart initiative. No matter how many intelligent, well-spoken engineers have pointed out the technical deficiencies of monorail for the Seattle landscape (and there have been many over the years), the populist beatniks have continued to mindlessly beat on the monorail drum. There's a reason that the Seattle Monorail has been called a technical solution waiting for a problem.

      It's really sad, actually. Seattle is almost the textbook definition of the word "tragedy": a city with unbelievable potential, that is comepletely and utterly hamstrung by its political characteristics.

    • Sound transit has at least accomplished something tangible, like providing a _workable_ system for those wanting to get to Seattle from up here in Snohomish county. Before ST, if you wanted to get to downtown Seattle from Everett, you were looking at a bus-ride of some 3-hr (to travel a distace of about 45 miles) and 3-4 transfers (with the exception of the 2-3 runs per day, each way, of the CT commuter busses). ST's express busses make the trip in an hour.

      Decent mass-transit is an idea that's come too late. I know, up here in Snohomish county, other than during rush-hour, it's EMBARRASING to ride the bus anywhere; the only people riding it are kids w/o cars, the poor, the crippled and insane. Building the monorail out to Ballard would have been a good idea FOURTY YEARS AGO, but today? Why don't we extend the tracks on the roller-coaster at the center out to Bellevue, too?

      Seattle's gone far too long without decent transit; everywhere BUT the city core has shitty connectivity. The monorail (or the other light-rail line) are little more than gold-plated band-aids to cover up the big, gaping wound that is the transit system around. For the three billion dollars that a monorail is going to cover, we could service a lot more people in a lot better ways.

      Transit inside of the city limits is already good enought, what really needs to be done is get decent connectivity from the outlying areas TO the city. (no, park-and-rides don't count; they're a joke & nobody trusts their cars there). Imagine what could be done if that $3B was given to outlying transit agencies to expand their services and actually _promote_ transit ridership to the suburbanites (the people who can choose NOT to take the bus, not those who have no other choices)...
  • Washington State Tree [flashfire.com]

    Yes, this is a joke.
  • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:53AM (#4721267) Homepage Journal
    Monday it was 92,438 "no" to 92,435 "yes" votes for the Seattle Monorail. 3 VOTES! All these close calls are amazing.. Finally they counted all the absentee votes, We won by 3,833 votes.

    I think the biggest problem with the monorail is the 2 destinations it skips, the Seattle Airport and South Center Mall.
    -
    "They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it's some kind of federal program." - President George Bush
  • by burnsy ( 563104 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:53AM (#4721268)
    So those in Seattle owning a $25,000 car get to pay $350 per car per year to pay for one line of the monorail. If you have two $25K cars you get to pay $3,500 over 5 years waiting for this thing to open.

    That's a lot of jack just to make it easier to get to the ball game.

    I wonder how they are going to pay for the other 4 lines?
    • "I wonder how they are going to pay for the other 4 lines?"

      Tell me about it. One thing that's made the monorail campaigning unbearable is the relatively mindless pro-monorail answer to the objection that the planned line goes nowhere. Invariably, someone says, "Yeah, but when they build the other lines, Seattle will be great!". Of course, no one has ever really, seriously thought about the practicality of those other lines, or where the funding will come from.

      It drives me up the wall, I tell you. If the planners had just put a little bit of thought into the first line, it might be something to get excited over. But the thing that was approved is basically just a multi-billion dollar white elephant.

  • by Com2Kid ( 142006 ) <com2kidSPAMLESS@gmail.com> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:56AM (#4721274) Homepage Journal
    Passed by 800 votes, heh.

    Huge tax increase to pay for it, 1.75 billion for FOURTEEN MILES OF FRIGGIN TRACK

    Whoopitidy do da.

    • Actually, the monorail is just part of a plan to reduce traffic in the region. The idea is to simultaniously come up with an ass-load of new taxes to cover stupid, useless, projects while also driving out major employers and cutting funding for education. The net result will be to force people to move to other states, reducing the population to pre-1990 levels, returning traffic to a somewhat sane level.
  • by aquarian ( 134728 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:56AM (#4721276)
    I'm all for high speed rail in CA. They've been talking for years about linking Anaheim to Las Vegas, etc. And the Amtrak Metrolinks between LA and its suburbs have been extremely popular. They started up after the Northridge earthquake in '92 destroyed many of the freeways. Once people started using taking the train, they were hooked.

    But looking at this plan, the obvious, important routes seem to be missing -- particularly LA/OC to the Bay Area. *A lot* of people make this trip every day by plane. High speed rail would do wonders for our airport congestion, and air quality (next to cars, planes going into and out of LAX are the biggest source of smog).

    And who goes to Bakersfield, anyway? Sounds to me like a big land owner with some pull in Sacramento is behind this. Fresno would be the logical choice for service in that region -- after all, it's the next biggest metropolis behind the "big three," and probably the fastest growing.
    • One look at the "Recommended Routes to be Studied in the Environmental Process" one will notice that they include the BAY AREA... Possible Route Map [ca.gov]
    • Don't you mean the "big four"?

      Los Angeles
      Bay Area
      Sacramento
      San Diego

      I'm not sure if you looked at the route map or just read the list of routes. The list doesn't really describe it as well as the map. Bakersfield and Fresno are both on the route from LA to SF. It looks like it's about the same route as highway 99 from LA to Merced, then branches off to SF and Sacramento. It could be slightly more direct between LA and SF by following I5's route, but then it would miss both Bakersfield and Fresno. This way the "big six" are all covered, and it is, after all, high speed rail, so it should still be pretty fast :-)

    • I don't if the parent is a troll, a little slow, or some combination thereof, but how the hell did it get modded up to +5?

      If you would look at the route map [ca.gov] you would see that it covers pretty much all the major parts of the Bay Area. Once in the Bay Area you could use BART and/or Caltrains to get around.

      For the Norcal to/from Socal commuters, the rail does go out of the way a little when it goes through the Central Valley, but this is probably a good idea so that it covers growing areas like Fresno and Bakersfield and can get to Merced more easily for when the UC goes in there. A line that branches off after the Grapevine and heads straight to Los Banos rather than through those other stops would speed things up some for those commuters, but I don't think the extra costs would be worth it.

      Finally, the Northridge quake was in '94.
    • Wow...

      Perhaps you should actually look at what is planned.

      I am one of the people who take the existing train regularly (various places from San Diego to Chatsworth), it's quite nice, but very, very slow. It is faster for me to drive.

      You complain that the train won't cover those popular routes... the reason the train is so slow right now is that it stops every 15 minutes to let people on and off. When you have to cover 150 miles, that can get really old. The planned train covers the exact same route the existing train does, but without stopping at EVERY neighborhood. (There are ONLY 11 stops planned in the LA/OC area right now.)

      But wait, there's more!

      It also goes to LAX, and the Bay Area! It even will link up with the excellent transit system they already have there. The bill we just passed was to fund specifically the San Francisco/LA link.

      For some reason, you seem to object the train stopping Barstow... even though it's the only thing in between Los Angeles and Fresno! (It does stop in Fresno by the way. In fact... the whole thing is the work of the state Senate representative from Fresno - Jim Costa!) You should look at the geography of the state some time... look at how much space there is between Fresno and Barstow. They're not exactly right next to eachother.

      Additionally, I don't know if you've been to Barstow, but it's not exactly an upscale community. (By the way... you'll notice there is NO stop in Palm Springs.)

      I grew up in San Diego, and I fully support the train simply for what it will do there.

      I don't know how you got your ideas on this bill. You suspect "a big land owner with some pull in Sacramento is behind this". It's actually a farmer from Fresno who is "behind this". He does have pull in Sacramento though... he's a Senator there.
  • What is it with government agencies and their damn PDFs? Is it so hard to take the text file used to create them, and make HTML pages instead? I'm all for PDF where stuff needs to be printed out, but I'd rather have people read stuff on screen, and save trees. Reading PDFs on screen is a pain.

  • The monorail only barely passed because of how they're paying for it. Virtually everyone in Seattle agrees that we need some system of mass transit (we probably have the worst traffic problem of any city in the United States, except for a very few, like LA), and a monorail is an attractive choice. It only passed by like three hundred votes, though, since how they're paying for it is all screwed up. Rather than having a flat tax or something, they're making it so the amount you pay is tied to the number of cars you own. That is, the less likely you are to use it, the more you have to pay for it.

    I only voted for it because I live in West Seattle, so it _directly_ benefits me. My house is only a few miles away from the planned site. I'm actually pretty surprised that it passed; I guess we're really desperate for a system of mass transit. Incidentily, my friend's house is right next to the site of the track, so their land value is going to go down the tube. They're planning on moving before they break ground.
  • by JessLeah ( 625838 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:09AM (#4721321)
    On the one hand, this is an absolutely wonderful idea whose time, I have felt for quite some time, has long since come. On the other hand, I remember a bit of my history, and I am a bit afraid that Big Oil and/or the big car companies might throw a spanner into this plan.

    If you'll remember, in the past, this nation had a lot more trolley, El, and miscellaneous sorts of commuter train tech infrastructure than it does now. In a sort of ghastly partnership, the big automotive interests convinced local governments to rip out the trolley tracks, the El lines, and the like-- and replace them with (what else) buses. And roads-- more roads for more cars.

    Only in the most heavily populated areas, where trains are almost a necessity, do commuter trains still exist. I live just to the West of New York City (in the Newark/Jersey City area), and HERE we DO have commuter trains-- just here in the NYC area, we have the subway, the PATH, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, the Long-Island Railroad, Metro-North, NJ Transit trains, and regular Amtrak service to nearby cities in Connecticut.

    But I recognize that my beloved NYC metro area is the exception-- not the rule.

    What happens when Ford (or another giant car company-- or an oil company) waves a cool million bucks under the Seattle politicians' collective noses?
  • ... Operated remotely via cameras, and the stations are quite nice, at least in the summertime.. I got from downtown to Commercial Dr (to find some used cds and wander around ;) quickly and easily on it.. I think it's technically just an elevated train and not a monorail proper, but it looks all futuristic [rapidtransit.bc.ca]..

    I wonder how much it cost?
  • Senator Hollings somehow managed to get all the monorails to converge on the Magic Kingdom where you *won't* be allowed to listen to "It's a Small World After All" and you will have to buy a seat license from Larry Ellingson.
  • by NKJensen ( 51126 ) <nkjNO@SPAMinternetgruppen.dk> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:26AM (#4721362) Homepage
    Well, this system combines the advantages of trains with the flexibility of cars. [www.ruf.dk]

    Seems to be a great idea to me - I'm not related to the inventor, "Jensen" is just a very common name in Denmark.
  • The monorail won't work. By the Metro's (our bus system) own estimates, 85% of monorail potential riders already ride the bus. So it's not going to take a whole lot of people off the road.
    The monorail is being paid for by vehicle taxes. So the people who don't need to ride the monorail are the ones being taxed for it. That's not grassroots, it's socialist.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The monorail is being paid for by vehicle taxes. So the people who don't need to ride the monorail are the ones being taxed for it. That's not grasroots, it's socialist.

      I'm always confused by people who complain that public transit is socialist, but never utter one peep about the roads.

      The roads are subsized by vehicle tax, sales tax, federal tax, etc. Washington receives _alot_ of federal money for the highways, and seattle has _alot_ of highways. How much did the 405/5 interchange cost? How much did it cost to build that big tunnel for the freeway. Sounds pretty socialist to me...

      Why do you complain about rail being socialist and not the road system? Why the double standard?
  • by cbuskirk ( 99904 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:37AM (#4721384)
    Most progressive legislation like this is doomed to fail in California. I envision a situation similar to an insurance bill that failed to pass two years ago.
    In 2004 proponents of the bill will spend a hundred million dollars on getting the bills passed. There will be suprisingly little opposition to the bill, and perhaps support from unlilkly sources such as oil companies, because they want to look like the good guys. The bills will pass by a very narrow margin, because most people hate to pass bills that spend money. The next several years will be spent in commities (chaired and staffed by "transportion experts aka auto and oil execs") at great expence and on studies.
    In 2006 lobbying firms from companies who faked support for the bills will put nearly identical bills on the ballot. They will then spend 10 million dollars on a campain to defeat the bill and nullify the previous one. Since the bill has already passed once, there will be no great large support for re-passage of the bills and they will get crushed in the election.
    This exact same thing happened in 2000 when insurance lobbyists defeated thier own insurance bill which was identical to one passed by Califorina legisature to curtail abuse by the insurance compainies. They only needed to spend a few bucks (~10 mil) on some commercials talking about ambulance chasers and insurance fraud to get a landlide victory and a windfall for the insurace companies.
  • It's about time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MalleusEBHC ( 597600 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:47AM (#4721509)
    Even though this bond won't be voted on until Nov 2004 in California, it's about time we work on some decent public transit in this state. Outside of BART and maybe Caltrain, public transportation is horrible out here. Los Angeles is the second biggest city in the country, and it is quite possibly the worst public transit system (or lack thereof) I have ever seen for a big city.

    New York has their subway, Boston has the T, and Chicago has the L. I haven't tried Chicago, but in Boston and New York their systems work great. You don't need a car because you can hop on a train and get pretty much anywhere you need to go with no more than a couple blocks of walking.

    But unlike these cities, out here we have hardly anything at best. BART is great to get around in the East Bay and to get you to San Francisco, but once you are in the city you are walking pretty much anywhere. Caltrains is a decent option for people in the south bay who want to go to the city, but it is pretty slow and only goes to 4th street, once again leaving you a hefty walk if you are going anywhere other than Pac Bell Park.

    However, as bad as it is up north, down south it is an utter joke. The pathetic excuse for a subway system in Los Angeles serves so little of the city that it's practically useless. Other than that, you have an unreliable bus system that couldn't follow a time schedule to save someone's life. I don't know about anything in San Diego, but as far as I know they don't have anything special.

    While it won't be put into place for a long time even if the bond gets passed, I'm hoping this is a step in the right direction. Even though this system is state-wide rather than city-wide, I have a feeling that if we can get a really successful model to follow, cities will jump on the bandwagon and start making changes for the better.
    • ...public transportation is horrible out here.

      Well yes. That's because the word "public" has been a misnomer for "government" for most of the disastrous 20th century, and now remains a misnomer in the 21st. Government transportation systems will always be a mistake, and here are the reasons why:

      1. Government is always about 10 years behind the curve. If governments decide to build highways, they build them with little or no buffer for traffic growth. If the decide to use a 19th century technology like rail (and monorail), they forget to tell people that the system-wide average speed is 14mph. People ride them once or twice for the novelty, but then decide that the waste of time isn't worth it and the trains run riderless.

      2. Government transportation systems are coercively funded, meaning that politicians and bureaucrats, not the needs of the transported "public", decide where projects are built, how much coerced money is used to build them, and who gets the money for construction. Because government systems always require competitive bidding, awarding the "lowest price" bidder with the business, construction starts about a year lather than it otherwise would, and takes forever because the lowest price bidder is also usually the lowest quality. The resulting low quality system breaks down frequently (potholes, anybody?) and requires huge amounts of coerced funding to make it merely usable. A free market owner of a transportation system would take into account the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of the system. Government bureaucrats have never even heard of TCO.

      3. Public Utility Commisions consistently reject free market solutions to transportation problems like jitneys, toll roads (it's illegal to toll a federal Interstate highway), profit-making vanpools, and the billions of other ways to profit from transportation that would spring up if the monopoly-protecting fascism of the PUCs was removed.

      It's about time we got government out of the transportation business. [ti.org] Look at how the Internet took off when the ARPA and DARPA controls were removed and the free market took over. The same would happen if government transportation controls were removed.

  • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @10:54AM (#4723178) Homepage

    As anyone can see by following the link, California does not yet have funding for the bullet train system. What's been approved is to put a bond measure on the Nov. 2004 ballot.

  • by tomdarch ( 225937 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @11:18AM (#4723371)
    High speed rail is a great thing, yes, even in the US! I'm in Chicago (live+work in the city!) so I follow Midwest High Speed Rail [midwesthsr.com]. For those who claim that we don't have the population density for rail, note that Chicago to Detroit has higher pop density along the corridor than Paris to Lille (the main trunk of the TGV system). At about 200mph I could get from downtown Chicago to downtown St. Louis faster than by plane (shlep to the airport, wait, fly breifly, wait, shlep back from the airport, etc.)

    Seattle monorail, on the other hand, doesn't go from anywhere to anywhere. It's cute, but, as I understand the proposed alignment, it doesn't really serve anyone's needs! It's just going to be a living monorail joke. This doesn't just suck for the people of Seattle - it will be used by morons to argue against investment in public transit in general and against innovative transit technology in specific. I was involved in the development of a prototype Personal Rapid Transit system that would have well served the needs of more dense inner-ring suburbs, but the political will wasn't there from the state government to fund construction. When Seatle builds the extension and there are very few riders, it will be used to bash all sorts of actually good systems.

  • by smoondog ( 85133 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:36PM (#4724667)
    Just remember Seattle is know for its exceedingly poor city planning. For example,

    1. Seattle used to have a trolley system, not unlike the street cars in san francisco. After a moment of genius urban planning it was removed. Click here for pictures [historylink.org].

    2. Seattle couldn't agree on how to build a subway system, so they built a bus *tunnel* through downtown. Just to make it seem like they could intelligently plan for the future, they added tracks for a street car like metro system. They are still unused. (Last year they decided not to make the tunnel exclusive to light rail)

    3. Seattle used to have another hill near downtown. They didn't like it so in 1897 they actually leveled half of it. It wasn't until the 1930's that they actually decided to remove it all. Here is an informative link [nwsource.com] with pictures.

    4. Seattle's history of poor public planning also took place downtown. After fires and horrible sewage problems, they decided to put the sewage at street level and move the entire street up on story! For an entire neighborhood! [nathan.com]

    So Seattle, the town that actually raised its street level, lowered its hills, removed its light rail system only to have it cost in the *billions* to replace it, and when they try to replace it, it is only a bunch of unused tracks, is now spending 1.4 billion on a monorail. No one rides the monorail now, and they think that making it longer is going to change that? Hmm, did anyone tell them monorails are ugly?

    -Sean

    -Sean
  • Progress (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xevo ( 473212 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:23PM (#4725663) Journal

    It seems that people are pretty strongly divided over this issue, and rightfully so: billions of dollars funded entirely by a city on a monorail system is unprecedented. Is it really necessary? Will it be (from an engineering standpoint) structurally sound? Is it cost-effective? Who knows. But at least it's a willingness to try something new. Progress is never made without change.

    I apologize for posting this without being a resident of the city of Seattle. This automatically makes me flamebait for all those who are paying out of their own pockets for the project. I respect your (citizens of Seattle) opinions because they come from the frontlines of the battle.

    However, as was brought up earlier, is there no reason to build a skyscraper without building the top floor first? Or starting a space program without knowing exactly how to get a man to the moon? I think not.

    I personally like the example of the space program. I think that it is an excellent thing to have scientific minds devoted to getting human beings off of this rock we call Earth. Are the costs exorbitant? Of course. When the Apollo program was first begun, what was our motivation? "Beat those damn Russians to the moon." What kind of a reason was that? And yet if we had never started thinking about moving beyond this planet we may never have developed satellites (as a practical application) or be on our way to exploring further. The path of stagnation leads nowhere.

    Another topic for /.ers: quantum computing. Can we build a useful one now? No. Does that mean that we shouldn't spend money on it? Of course not!

    I know that the monorail system may seem to many people to not be very practical at all now, but if at some point in the future all of America's major cities develop mass-transit systems (possibly mono-rail), Seattle would be remembered as the catalyst. There is no way that people can see so far into the future to know that a project is doomed to failure: some of mankind's greatest discoveries were made purely by accident! ("Eureka!" he shouted in joy and ran down the streets naked) Perhaps the monorail project will fail. Okay. But if it succeeds, aren't the possible benefits worth current risks?

  • by Proton751 ( 628266 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:59PM (#4725953)
    First off, I also live in Seattle, and I regularly use the monorail when I need to get downtown quickly. I don't own a car. I haven't had one since 1996, and I don't want one. There are two important issues regarding transportation that hardly get mentioned at all: Safety and Acessibility. How many people have been killed while riding the monorail? In terms of personal safety, the monorails must be safer than even airplaines. What about people who are not capable of driving? I think that people in wheelchairs will appeciate their increased mobility provided by an expanded monorail system. Does riding the monorail require a vision test? Do you need to memorise a truckload of driving laws? Also, I believe that it's safe for monorail passengers to talk on a cell phone or eat a sandwich while riding the monorail. I don't like to see car drivers doing anything other than driving their car.

"What if" is a trademark of Hewlett Packard, so stop using it in your sentences without permission, or risk being sued.

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