News Briefs Archives
November 23, 2002 - February 16, 2003

  LV MRV on track. (2/16/03)
Las Vegas, Nevada. Supertrak Inc. of Punta Gorda, Florida, delivered a MRV (Maintenance Recovery Vehicle) to the Las Vegas Monorail on February 5th. Shortly after its arrival, a large crane lifted the vehicle onto the beam. The MRV is now parked inside the OMSF (Operations Maintenance Storage Facility). The company was contracted by Bombardier to provide the vehicle, which will be used for both track maintenance as well as towing of disabled trains. Supertrak previously supplied similar MRVs to Walt Disney World. Thanks to David Sampson of Supertrak for the news. Images of the MRV arrival are available in our Construction Gallery.
  US Maglev coalition formed. (2/5/03)
Washington, DC. The United States Maglev Coalition (USMC) announced its formation today. Former Bethlehem Steel executive Richard Cochran will preside over a growing group of partners including labor, steel, concrete, engineering and technology interests. Member companies already include United States Steel Corporation, General Atomics, Parsons, the Baltimore Development Corporation, Bethlehem Steel, Transrapid International-USA, Hirschfeld Steel and Maglev, Inc. Cochran said "Maglev is the lynchpin of future travel in America. The convergence of excessive highway congestion, unacceptable pollution levels, and a national over-reliance on foreign oil is a compelling set of circumstances for America to finally pursue this safe, high-speed, and low maintenance mode of transportation."

United States Maglev Coalition of Industries Organized. Yahoo! Finance, 02/05/03.

Senate bill threatens Sound Transit light rail. (2/3/03)
Seattle, Washington. Senators Benton, Prentice, Esser, Rossi, Finkbeiner, Johnson, T. Sheldon, Roach and Stevens of the State of Washington last week introduced a jaw-dropping bill. SB 5537 calls for a general election to approve funding for Sound Transit's Link Light Rail system or else cease and desist all work on the project! The bill also allows for the possibility of changing the technology from trolley to monorail, which would result in a more seamless rail transit system throughout the Seattle area. The bill tells Sound Transit to evaluate possible alternatives to light rail, including: monorail, expanded commuter rail, expanded bus or vanpool service or any other "allowed alternatives." If the proposed Sound Transit project was monorail instead of light rail, monorail riders could ride directly from downtown Seattle to Seatac International Airport without having to transfer to and from the planned Green Line system. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Highways & Transportation. Whether this bill sees daylight or not is still in question, but the questioning of the controversial light rail project is certainly getting stronger.

Washington Senate Bill 5537 information. Washington State website.


New Seattle Center route proposed. (1/29/03)
Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Center's advisory board may have solved one of the Green Line's alignment problems. Last night they revealed a new suggestion for routing to get through the popular Seattle destination, once the site of the 1962 Century 21 World's Fair. The new proposal would allow for the new monorail to cut through the EMP museum tunnel, something that the owners are very strongly in favor of. However, instead of passing through a view-sensitive area by the Children's Theatre or circling the Center on the north side, the monorail would cut across the Fun Forest amusement area and then pass behind trees near the International Fountain on the north side of the Center. A station would be located by the Key Arena, which would also serve several theatres in that area and residents of Queen Anne Hill. Support for the proposal was very strong at yesterday's outreach meeting with area residents. Joel Horn, the monorail project's executive director, stated that said the authority will have to study the proposal further, but said it had possibilities.

Theater option for monorail. Seattle P-I, 1/29/03.
Monorail routing centers on Center. Seattle Times, 1/29/03.

New cross-Center proposal (red lines indicate Key Arena Station)

  Las Vegas Mark IVs retire. (1/29/03)
Las Vegas, Nevada. Two dutiful Disney-built Mark IVs retired for the second time Sunday night. Previous to Las Vegas, they operated for many years in Florida at Walt Disney World. Shortly after 10 PM the MGM-Bally's Monorail made its final run. The last train carried about three dozen passengers, many of whom were hotel employees taking the opportunity to say farewell to the trusty old trains. The just-shy-of-a-mile shuttle operated for 7-1/2 years and carried almost 40 million passengers. It was designed to be a catalyst for a larger Las Vegas Monorail, which will be achieved when the current track is connected to a four-mile system under construction. New automated Bombardier MVI trains will run along the same tracks when the new line opens in early 2004 and on to the Sahara Resort. Both the MGM and Bally's stations will be improved for to accommodate the new monorail and the beamway will be upgraded as well. Anthony Foster had the honor of driving the last run from MGM to Bally's in the green and gold MGM train. Much speculation has been made over the fate of the old trains. No sale has been made as of this date. For now they will be kept in storage.

MGM-Bally's monorail makes last run. Las Vegas Review-Journal, 1/28/03.

Route challenges for Seattle. (1/20/03)
Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Popular Monorail Authority (SPMA) is getting down to the nitty-gritty of planning the14-mile Green Line, approved by voters in November 2002. Two alignment issues are heating up, how to get through or around the Seattle Center and how to deal with the 1962 Alweg Monorail, which parallels the current desired route for the Green Line. To avoid a controversial cross-Center route, the Elevated Transportation Company (ETC), which preceded the SPMA, drew out a route that circled around the north end of the Center. This route would add 30 seconds to the monorail trip, and cost up to $7 million more to build. Compromise may be in the works and a possible route through Seattle Center may happen after all. Owners of the Experience Music Project have stated they want monorail to continue to cut through their unique museum structure (see image). Without it, the museum who have a big hole in it and lose part of the uniqueness of the design. Still, there are those that would prefer to see monorail track surround the Center rather than cut through a short section of it on the south side. Another contentious route issue the SPMA will deal with is how to run from the Center to downtown. If the ETC plan is adopted, the Green Line would run down Fifth Avenue and turn onto Stewart Street. Two problems with this are that Westlake Center in downtown would lose a highly-valued monorail station and Seattle may lose the Alweg Monorail, most of which is original track from 1962. Some argue that the trains should be saved, perhaps for a museum, but that Fifth Avenue would be used to complete the dream of Alweg engineers, a citywide system. Perservationists argue that the Alweg line should be treated as a historical landmark and saved. This month the SPMA is holding six community workshops to discuss these issues and others with citizens.

Where will monorail line run? Seattle P-I, 1/18/03.
Seattle Popular Monorail Authority website.


Pinellas County plans to receive public comment. (1/12/03)
Pinellas County, Florida. Pinellas County planners want elevated rail, perhaps monorail. Grimail Crawford Inc. has studied the prospect for rail in the area and helped formulate ways to implement a system. Although technology has not been selected yet, monorail reportedly is strongly favored. If planners get what they want, eventually a system will run from Clearwater Beach east to the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, then south to St. Petersburg. The long route is tentative and some think a starter demonstration line based on the Las Vegas MGM-Bally's model would be a good way to convince voters to pay for a larger system. A beach connector in Clearwater is one possibility, where ridership and visibility would likely be high. Officials plan to hold a series of public workshops around the county next month to hear what residents think about the idea. Funding is hoped for from the Federal Transit Administration and local taxpayers would likely be asked to pay their share for the system as well. Federal funds may be hard to come by as some 200 cities are also are looking at federal rail dollars for their own systems, said consultant Mike Crawford. While the county has flirted with the idea of a rail system for 30 years, county planning director Brian Smith says "This would be the first really serious proposal." Congestion has been an enormous problem for the county, and additional roads aren't seen as the best solution to help alleviate the traffic or make travel time faster from point to point.

Planners ask: Has light rail's time come? St. Petersburg Times, 1/12/03.


Monorail for Penang, Malaysia. (1/12/03)
Penang, Malaysia. When Malaysians decided to build their own monorail system for Kuala Lumpur, they changed transit in their country forever. The country is moving forward with plans for a second Malaysian monorail system in the capitol city of Putrajaya, and now will likely build another monorail for the Island of Penang. Work is expected to begin on the Penang Monorail in early 2004. Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon states that completion of the system will be in 2007. Two companies have submitted proposals for the project, using the "Made-in-Malaysia" system that is cheaper to manufacture than competing systems from Japan, North America and Europe.  The proposal is for a link from George Town with Bayan Lepas in the south to Tanjung Tokong in the north.   Dr Koh said the Penang Monorail would be a smaller version of the Kuala Lumpur monorail. The island has only about 600,000 people compared to Kuala Lumpur's four million.

Work on monorail to start next year. Malaysia Star, 1/11/03.

Are floating bridge monorails next?

Monorail fever spreads from Seattle to neighbors. (1/11/03)
King County, Washington. We knew it would happen, Seattle's successful monorail campaign would spur similar new campaigns. It turns out that one of the first groups to be formed is right next door to the City of Seattle. A new committee is being formed to promote a 59-mile network of suburban monorails as an alternative to freeway expansions surrounding Seattle. The Citizens for King County Monorail are proposing monorail lines around the north of Lake Washington from Bothell to Northgate, a line from Redmond to Seattle using a future floating bridge on I-520 and a line from Bothell to Federal Way. Cleve Stockmeyer, co-author of the second Seattle Monorail Initiative and Chairman of the new group, would like to see a $20 million planning effort similar to what the Elevated Transportation Company did for Seattle.

Citizens for King County Monorail Website.
Group pushes suburban monorail. Seattle Times, 1/11/03.

  Last chance for a Mark IV ride? (1/8/03)
Las Vegas, Nevada. Another bit of monorail history takes place on Sunday, January 26th when the MGM-Bally's shuttle monorail ceases operation. The monorail first opened in 1995 and was a success from day one, shuttling passengers between "the two hottest corners in Las Vegas." While it is less than a mile long and has only two stations, on a daily basis it has carried more passengers than some light rail systems that are fifteen times longer with far more stations. The track was built with system expansion in mind and that is why it is going to be closing soon. The track will become part of a larger 4-mile system using new Bombardier M-VI trains. Stations will be retrofitted for automated trains, the track will be upgraded for M-VI trains, a turnback switch will be added at MGM and the guideway will be connected to the new line by cutting directly through the Bally's building. The new Las Vegas Monorail System will open in early 2004 (Phase I). Currently the line uses two refurbished Mark IV trains that were acquired used from Walt Disney World. What will become of the trusty old Mark IVs? That's the big question of the month. Hopefully this won't be the last time we see them, perhaps they can be used for another "start-up" line somewhere. No matter what their fate is, if you want to ride them in Las Vegas one last time you better make plans quickly!

photo: Reuters

Shanghai Transrapid makes inaugural run. (12/31/02)
Shanghai, China. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji were among the first passengers on the inaugural run of the Shanghai Transrapid Maglev. The maglev monorail train carrying Schroeder and Zhu took just eight minutes to run 30-km (19 miles) from the city's financial district to the Shanghai International Airport, a trip that normally takes 45 minutes by automobile. "I have complete confidence that the maglev technology will have a broad future in China," Zhu said. Zhu called the two-year construction of Shanghai system a "miracle." Transrapid - made up of Siemens, ThyssenKrupp and the German government - is hoping that success will lead to deals not only in China but also the United States. Shortly after the inaugural run with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, Schroeder told reporters that China has agreed to extend the line. An extension south to Hangzhou and north to Nanjing is planned, totaling an estimated 300 km of maglev track. China is also pondering an ambitious 1,250-km line linking Shanghai to the capital Beijing, costing an estimated $22 billion. The Shanghai Maglev is scheduled to start commercial operations in late 2003. Tickets will cost 150 yuan ($18.12) each for a round-trip ticket.

China's Zhu, Germany's Schroeder test ride maglev. Reuters, 12/31/02.
Germany says wins coveted China maglev train deal. Reuters, 12/31/02.
AP Photos of Shanghai Maglev inaugural run. Yahoo, 12/31/02.


Kuala Lumpur nears completion. (12/19/02)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Test runs are continuing on the Kuala Lumpur Monorail. The system is scheduled to open before March 31, 2003. New images of the guideway and stations taken along the entire alignment were recently posted on the Monorail Malaysia website. The monorail design demonstrates numerous ways to deal with rounding corners, the crossing of long spans and negotiating the many curved streets of the city. Monorail Malaysia is the first full-scale Alweg system to employ arched beams, a design that was first developed for the reduced-scale Walt Disney World Monorail System.

Kuala Lumpur Monorail Construction pictures. Monorail Malaysia website, 12/02.

Vancouver's Skytrain bridge.

Seattle Monorail Project picks design team. (12/19/02)
Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Popular Monorail Authority (SPMA) has added a countdown to opening day of the first segment of the Seattle Monorail System's Green Line. The date has been set as December 15, 2007. Continuing their fast pace to stay on schedule, the SPMA announced the selection of three professional service providers: VIA Suzuki as the lead design firm; Norton-Arnold & Company as lead community involvement team; and Parametrix, Inc. as the lead environmental consultant. All three firms will begin work immediately. VIA Suzuki was chosen to lead the urban design and architectural effort. This will involve a process to build a design team, comprised of a variety of local firms, to work on the monorail guideway, stations, and water crossings. Among many accomplishments, VIA Suzuki lead the design effort for the initial line of Vancouver, B.C.'s Skytrain as well as the recently completed Skytrain Millennium Line. They were able to blend several firms together to design the eleven new Skytrain stations in Vancouver, B.C. Lead Designer Allan Hurt said "We will work closely with the Seattle Monorail Project to design a public consultation and design procurement process that ensures that the Seattle Monorail, its stations, and its urban design components will be distinctly Seattle --- a showcase of our city's renowned design talent and technical expertise."

B.C. team selected to design monorail. Seattle Times, 12/17/02.
Five to four. Seattle Stranger, 12/19/02. [ed: funny!]


Las Vegas spur line plan altered. (12/19/02)
Las Vegas, Nevada. On Monday the Regional Transportation Commission unveiled a revised route for the first Las Vegas Monorail spur line to carry passengers. Initially the line was designed to run from the Las Vegas Hilton via Riviera Boulevard to a station at the Riviera Hotel, follow down the middle of the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip, then turn and terminate at the Stardust. Because of concerns along the route, the spur has shortened to eight-tenths of a mile and will have only one station. That station will straddle the Strip and will serve both the Riviera and Stardust. The spur line is designed with expansion in mind and may some day connect major resorts of the west side of the Strip.

New Las Vegas Monorail Maps page. RTC Website.
Revised LV Strip monorail plan unveiled. Las Vegas Sun, 12/17/02

  Experts hired for Seattle monorail project. (12/12/02)
Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Popular Monorail Authority is growing. Yesterday, Joel Horn, the Executive Director of SPMA, announced several key position appointments. Michele Jacobson, a consultant with Lea & Elliott and formerly with San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit for twelve years, will serve as SPMA's Director of Design and Train Systems. Ven Knox, the city of Seattle's human services director, will serve as Director of Community Involvement. Daniel Malarkey has been named Director of Finance. Malarkey worked with the Elevated Transportation Co. in the development of the project's $1.75 billion plan. Ross Macfarlane, a partner at Preston, Gates & Ellis, will be Director of Legal Affairs. "We are building this agency around talented and experienced professionals," said Horn. "The citizens of Seattle entrusted this agency and board to build a monorail on time and within budget. These individuals, specialists in their fields, will deliver on that request." Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said "With the talent of this staff the Monorail is well on its way to helping create a 21st Century transit system for Seattle."

Monorail agency fills key posts. Seattle P-I, 12/12/02

photo by Keith Walls

White House likes public-private monorail. (12/11/02)
Las Vegas, Nevada. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada got a special look at the Las Vegas Monorail on December 2, (his 63rd birthday) when he toured the construction site. Reid, Democratic Senate whip, is negotiating with the Bush administration in an effort to obtain $150 million more to extend the line north from the Sahara Resort to downtown. The funding would provide much of the $350 million needed to bring the monorail downtown. The rest would come from a government loan and sales of bonds, Regional Transportation Commission General Manager Jacob Snow said. Snow also said the project has allies both on Capitol Hill and in the White House. He said the RTC is optimistic that it can get federal funding for more monorail construction. "The (Bush) administration really likes this project because of its public-private nature," he said. "We're hearing all the right things from the Federal Transit Administration." With funding and approval of the environmental impact statement, construction on the link to downtown could begin in 2004.

Reid calls monorail transportation of the future. Las Vegas Sun, 12/3/02.

Houston Monorail proposal of 1990-
too futuristic for Space City?

Houston area group formed. (11/30/02)
Houston, Texas. Ten years after a Houston Monorail plan was nixed by then-Mayor Bob Lanier, Metropolitan Elevated Transit-Houston has been formed to promote elevated transit for Houston and the surrounding metropolitan area. Beyond Houston, they also would like to see maglev connect major cities of Texas. Don Gallagher, founder of the group, says that the group was formed "to promote elevated guideway transit as an alternative that is 100% dedicated for safe and efficient travel. The savings of not using at-grade, will allow the free use of the land normally used for at-grade systems for other purposes." Downtown Houston streets are currently being torn up for a new street-level 7.5 mile light rail line. The MET-Houston group has been added to our Campaign USA section.

MET_Houston Discussion Group


Myrtle Beach to study monorail. (11/30/02)
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Atlanta-based consultant Carter & Burgess is conducting a state-funded study to look at transit options for the Myrtle Beach region. The $100,000 study is the latest in a decade to consider a monorail or light rail system for the area. The cost of building a system has prevented any action in the past, but officials believe they are quickly approaching the point that action must be taken to build. The study is focusing on the Grand Strand tourism area: east of the Intracoastal Waterway from Barefoot Landing to the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. The goal is to give tourists and locals a way to get around that keeps them off the region's highly congested roads. The Grand Strand attracts 14 million tourists each year.

Planners launch monorail study. Myrtle Beach Sun News, 11/29/02.

  Okinawa Monorail milestone. (11/30/02)
Naha, Japan. On Monday the new Hitachi monorail system on the island of Okinawa made its first test run along the entire length of the line. The train started the run at Oroku Station near the airport, moved through the line stopping at each station on the way to the end of the line at Shuri Station. A ceremony was held before the run "to ensure safe operation." At the ceremony, Okinawa Urban Monorail Company President, Governor Keiichi Inamine sprinkled Awamori (Okinawan sake) on the rail and inside the train. Then over 100 invited guests boarded the two-car train for the first ride. Test runs will continue into the spring of 2003, when the 12.8 km system is scheduled to open.

SPMA hits ground running. (11/23/02)
Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Popular Monorail Authority dashed from the starting line yesterday with its first meeting, only three days after election results were finally known. Joel Horn, who was an intergral part of putting the monorail plan together, took the helm of the SPMA as executive director. The interim 10-member board, made up of the Elevated Transportation Company board members, will be replaced in early 2003. Five members will be appointed by the current board, two by the mayor and two by the City Council. The interim SPMA board announced the hiring of Seattle-Northwest Securities as its financial adviser. Also, Salomon Smith Barney and Goldman Sachs will serve as underwriters for bond issues. Interest rates are at historic lows and the board is anxious to issue bonds as soon as possible, which could save the monorail millions of dollars. Preston Gates & Ellis and Foster Pepper & Shefelman will act as SPMA's lead legal firms. This Monday, the SPMA will run an ad in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce seeking to find the monorail project's lead architect and urban design firm. Continuing the ETC's remarkable public outreach history, another ad will be placed asking for proposals from firms to arrange six community meetings to gather comment from neighborhoods along the planned 14-mile Green Line. The Seattle Monorail project is under way!

Monorail project gets off the ground. Seattle P-I, 11/23/02.
Monorail Authority moving quickly. Seattle Times, 11/23/02.

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