Despite the immense popularity Monorails have had with the general public and a highly successful record of operations in urban transit, Monorails are still viewed by many as things found at theme parks and worlds fairs. In reality Monorail is a highly capable and versatile mode of urban transit. Monorails have been operating in an urban transit mode throughout the world since the early 60's and new intercity urban transit Monorail systems continue to be constructed to this day. Several more are in the planning stages, including several large systems in the U.S.
We here in Orlando know first hand how well Monorail transit systems work. We have one of the largest in the world right in our back yard. The Walt Disney World Monorail moves hundreds of thousands of people each day, and people love to ride it. The system blends in to its surroundings like no other transit system in the world can.
Monorail is a proven effective mode of urban fixed guide-way mass transit. Monorails have been operating as high capacity urban mass transit for over 40 years, both in this country and in Japan. The Tokyo-Haneda Monorail opened in 1964 and today it carries over 130,000 passengers along its 10.5 mile route. The Disney World Monorail system transports over 150,000 people each day, even though the capacity of its cars can be described as small to medium by urban transit Monorail standards.
Monorail is based on non-proprietary technology that is easy to re-produce.
Just because one manufacturer makes an innitial order of
vehicles does not mean that any other manufacturer with
capabilities to produce mass transit vehicles cannot produce a
vehicle that can ride on the same beam. Most of the components of
Monorail vehicles are standard transit components or
variations of standard transit components applied to
monorail vehicles. The guideway is concrete, again easily
re-produced. Lets look at several examples of this:
The Seattle Center Monorail was build by the ALWEG company over 40 years ago. They went out of buisness 30 years ago yet the trains still operate day in and day out. There is never a problem obtaining replacement parts to maintain the trains.
Durring the 1998 Asian economic crisis, when Kuala Lumpur could no longer afford to pay Hitachi's price for the Monorail system they were planning, the Malaysians produced their own monorail trains that run on guideway designed for the Hitachi trains that were to be supplied to Kuala Lumpur. M-Trans transportation company formed a subsidiary company called Monorail Malaysia to produce the vehicles at a cost far lower than the Hitachi trains they replaced without sacraficing capacity or operating efficiency. These vehicles are based on the original ALWEG design found in the Seattle Center Monorail.
Monorail technology is the least intrusive form of fixed guide-way transit ever created. The combination of small foot print, low noise and grade separation makes monorail exceptionally easy to live with. Monorail support columns are no more than 3 feet square and can be spaced up to 120 feet apart. This allows a great deal of flexability in locating the guideway. Only a corridor the size of a narrow sidewalk is needed. Monorail guide-way beams are only 30 inches wide and are usually spaced about 12 feet apart, making them very easy on the eyes. The small airial footprint of the guideway also allows light to pass thru so you can landscape along the route under the guideway to help it blend in and soften it as seen The guideway does not cast large shadows on the ground either. All you get with Light Rail is either a 30 foot wide paved corridor where the train travels and a spider web of wires running above, or a 30 foot wide bridge in the air with nothing under it but gloomy shadows.
Monorail is comparable, and in many cases cheaper to build than intercity conventional rail,
especially when the alignment calls for all or a portion of
the track to be elevated, as is the case with the current
plan for the Orlando Metro Light rail.
Our neighbors to the West, Pinellas County, have chosen Monorail as their mode of choice. The cost estimate for their 38 mile system is $40 million dollars per mile. Since land is scarce, a conventional or Light Rail system would have been far more expensive and challenging to build. Light rail can be cheaper to build under certain circumstances, but as time goes on the available space for at grade Light Rail will diminish and cost to expand any Light Rail will quickly sky rocket. Monorail is cheaper to operate than Heavy Commuter or Light Rail. Monorail vehicles endure far less wear and tear than Light Rail vehicles.Since monorails use a concrete or steel guidebeam for both the vehicle’s running surface and structural support, less guideway maintenance is required than for more conventional steel-wheel on steel-rail or rubber-tired technologies. The monorail guidebeam does not require periodic adjustment, replacement, grinding, tightening, or other similar maintenance. Monorail systems are also completely grade separated, allowing them to be automated, and further reducing operating cost.
Monorail has the best safety record of any mass transit mode. There has never been a fatality attributed to urban transit Monorails.
Monorails do not interfere with surface traffic or pedestrians. At grade fixed guide-way transit disrupts surface traffic. Trains can run in the same traffic lanes as cars, slowing down traffic and making for dagerous interactions between the Light Rail vehicles and cars. In some cases the guideway is separated from the automobile lanes with a curb that only breaks at intersections. This keeps the trains and other traffic separate, but keeps traffic from accessing the opposite side of the street and completely eliminates roadway space where cars could be traveling, parking, or both.
Monorails can serve as high capacity transit. Monorail trains can carry over 1000 passengers, making them second only to Heavy Rail in capacity.
Monorail technology is reliable. Monorails have been operating as intercity urban transit systems in several parts of the world for over 40 years with reliability that exceeds any conventional or Light Rail system. This can be attributed to the simple low tech nature of Monorail Vehicles and simple concrete guide-way they ride on. For example, the tires on the Tokyo Monorail vehicles only need changing every 18 months.
Monorail beam to beam switching is very simple and reliable. Monorail switches are similar in principal to rail switches, only larger. There has never been any fact behind the myth that monorail switching is complex and unreliable. Switching is as common on Monorail systems as on Conventional rail systems of similar size. Take a look at.
Monorail construction is the least disruptive of any fixed guide-way mass transit system. This was demonstrated during the recent construction of the Las Vegas Monorail along the heavily traveled Strip. Planners and consultants were amazed to see the construction. It was not at all what they expected. Monorail guide-way consists only of support columns and guide-way beams. This makes the footprint very small, making for a smaller construction corridor. Construction is fast and clean because large sections of roadbed does not get torn up and most of the components are pre-cast off site. The fact that there is nothing on the ground but columns every 100 feet makes this possible. This fact also allows for the area around the construction to be useable when there is no construction in the immediate area. Even though the guide-way above may not be complete, the ground below can be open to pedestrians and vehicle traffic when it is not being worked on. In addition, guide-way beams are usually lifted into place at night, further reducing impact.
Monorail vehicles are environment friendly. Monorails operate using electric motors and run on rubber tires, making them quiet and nonpolluting.
Monorail is gaining acceptance with transit planners in this country. After operating a 1 mile Monorail system since 1995 Las Vegas will get a brand new 4 mile Monorail system on the strip and it will soon be expanded to the old downtown area and plans are for it to eventually extend to the airport. Seattle will build a 14 mile Monorail transit system through the heart of downtown Seattle. Construction will begin in 2005. Pinellas County is seeking funding to build what will eventually be a 38 mile Monorail transit system. Several other municipalities around the country are considering Monorail for their mass transit needs.