MONORAILS are proven. Each and every day hundreds of thousands of passengers are carried on monorails. Many of the world’s transit monorails exist in Japan, eight of which are full-scale urban transit systems. Others exist in Australia, Malaysia, Europe, Russia and in the United States. Several more are either under construction or in advanced planning. Surprisingly, Walt Disney World’s Monorail System near Orlando, Florida, has one of the highest riderships of all monorails. Well over 100,000 passenger trips are recorded each day on the 14 miles of beamways (a far higher ridership than most USA light rail systems). Nothing “Mickey Mouse” about that! The system is there to move people between six stations, not just amuse them.
MONORAILS are safe. Whether they are of the straddle-beam or suspended variety, the nature of their design does not allow derailment. As monorail is elevated, accidents with surface traffic are impossible. Zero accidents translates to no system down time, less liability suits and most importantly, NO INJURIES OR DEATHS. Street rail systems with grade crossings (light rail, trams or trollies) can’t offer this kind of safety unfortunately.
MONORAILS are environment friendly. Since most are electrically powered, monorails are non-polluting. Most run on rubber tires and are very quiet. Monorails are the most aesthetically pleasing of all elevated rail systems. Their sleek design blends in with modern urban environments. Quick construction time results in less disruption to the surrounding environments, whether business or residential.
MONORAILS are cost effective. The Tokyo-Haneda Monorail has been operating since 1964. This eight-mile dual-beam system is privately owned and TURNS A PROFIT each year. The Seattle Center Monorail, built in 1962 for the Century 21 exposition, is run by a private corporation. In return for the concession to operate the 1.2-mile system, the corporation pays the city $75,000 every year. What private business would take on a contract like this unless profits were guaranteed? Profit is indeed an oddity in the transit world, as most transit technologies require enormous subsidies from taxpayers. Building monorail does not guarantee profit, but operating costs are almost always less.
MONORAILS are receiving serious attention from transit planners. Houston Metro selected monorail for its city rail system, only to be cancelled later by the city’s mayor. Jacksonville built a peoplemover-scale monorail in its downtown. Newark International Airport opened a monorail system between terminals and parking lots in 1995, and in 2001 it was extended to a new Amtrak station that serves trains on the Northeast Corridor. In 2003, Kuala Lumpur opened a spectacular monorail, connecting hot spots throughout the Malaysian city. Okinawa has the newest monorail in Japan, which also opened in 2003. In 2004 Las Vegas opened a four-mile leg of what could become a city-wide monorail system. New systems are in advanced planning or construction in several areas of the world. The Monorail Society keeps members and anyone interested informed with updates on our News Briefs page.
MONORAILS are popular with people / taxpayers. Voters have demonstrated their preference for monorail more than once. In Los Angeles, they voted five to one in favor of monorail in a referendum. LA transit officials ignored them and continued to build light rail and subways. In November of 1997, approximately 93,000 Seattle voters said yes to a grass roots-produced initiative for a 40-mile citywide monorail system. A subsequent Seattle ballot initiative to tax automobile owners for a starter line in 2002 passed as well. Although voters supported the monorail on four separate ballots, a controversy over debt financing and lack of City Hall support in 2005 resulted in the cancellation of the project.
So if monorails are so great, why aren’t there more of them?
An excellent question! A multitude of reasons can explain why you don’t see as many monorails as you see of other transit systems.
“There aren’t any transit monorails, we shouldn’t build something that hasn’t been proven.” It’s a ludicrous reason, but it sticks for some reason This is despite the fact that there are dozens of successful transit monorails around the world. New monorails are being built too, even as you read this.
Monorails are perceived as new, experimental and untried. Not enough people are aware of the many transit monorails in operation today along with their proven track record.
Something some transportation experts have whispered to us over the years is that a lot more people can make a lot more money if light rail or subway is built. The conventional rail industry has established a stronghold and monorail is often discouraged by consultants. Paranoid you say?
If you study the subject long enough, the pattern becomes clear. Familiar large firms recite the same untruths about monorail in city after city when rail is being studied for implementation, and they eliminate monorail in the early stages of planning. This is slowly changing though, major monorail systems being planned and built in several cities and their success will dispel any misconceptions about monorail. Members of The Monorail Society are not letting lies be accepted anymore.
Most manufacturers of monorails build all kinds of rail systems besides their monorail product. If your city wants a more expensive technology than monorail or if their consultant steers them in another direction, manufacturers are all-too-happy to oblige by selling them something more expensive.