Raymond brings up an update on the monorail collision in Seattle.
I started adding a comment to his post, but why bore a few people who read his comments when I could bore more people if I wrote my own post…
As many Seattleites know, the monorail was built for the 1962 worlds fair, with a vision of of the future, including advanced transportation. At that time, the one-mile (ish) monorail was one of the attractions of the fair (the other being the space needle with it’s revolving restaurant, renowned for it’s view (and *nothing else*…)). It may also have served to bring people to the fair site (now Seattle Center) from the downtown hotels, assuming there were downtown hotels in 1962.
Visitors loved the monorail, and locals were so smitten that the Seattle metropolitan area was soon home to an elegant elevated monorail system that whisked people from conveniently located centers to wherever they wanted to go in minutes.
That’s sort of a Seattle joke. Seattle has this civic inability to actually start building any rational project. We instead worry and study (to the tune of millions of $$$) whether we can afford it and whether it’s the right thing to do. Paul Allen fronted (anonymously) a project named “The Commons”, which would have created a fabulous park at the south end of lake union (Seattle really doesn’t have any big city parks), and he put in $20 million of his own money (in return for matching city money). Seattle voters wouldn’t go for it. More recently, Seattle voters approved a new monorail, which was very nice and beautiful but got cancelled because it would a) cost more than the estimates and b) be insufficiently aesthetically pleasing.
As an aside, I did notice elevated platforms for the Sound Transit line that will run up to SeaTac recently, so at least somebody is making progress, but note that it’s not *Seattle*.
So, the original monorail was largely a tourist attraction but not really useful in any way, leading a local folk group to write song entitled, “Monorail – train to nowhere”.
Then, in the late 1980s, the Central Association came up with a plan to redevelop a block downtown as “Westlake Center“, and proposed that the monorail be extended to end inside the shopping center.
Which made a lot of sense, but the geometry of the situation meant that the practical way of doing it required placings tracks closer together, setting the stage for the 2005 collision.
Repairing the monorail afterwards required new doors to be custom made, and in an interesting bit of civic assistance, they were built by the props department of the Seattle Opera.