News Briefs Archives
February 17 - April 30, 2003

  California-Nevada Maglev gets boost. (4/30/03)
Las Vegas, Nevada. One of the last acts of the Clinton Administration was to narrow down the number of candidates for Federal funding of a maglev project in the USA. The two finalists competing for nearly $1 billion for a demonstration project are Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Airport and Baltimore-Washington DC. All has not gone well in the planning process for the finalists as numerous NIMBY groups have endangered and hampered both projects. So why not build a demonstration line through the desert instead? That's what the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission members have been suggesting all along. U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, agrees and has given the CA-NV project a big boost. Young has said he thinks Southern Nevada's proposed magnetic-levitation rail project could be built faster and at a lower cost than the two other. The California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission has now received a $1.5 million federal grant for a study, which is scheduled to be completed in 12 to 18 months. The study will focus on an initial run between Las Vegas and Primm, a 40-mile section of a proposed 269-mile system that would run from Las Vegas to Anaheim, California. "The fact that we have a leading federal agency behind us will make things easier for us in obtaining federal funding for construction, and puts us on a par with other Maglev projects around the country," California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission chairman Bruce Aguilera said in a written statement.

Studies of magnetic rail line approved. Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4/29/03.

Seattle recommendations released. (4/5/03)
Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Monorail Project continues to move forward at a blistering, record-breaking pace. This week the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority (SPMA) released their Preferred Alternatives Recommendations. The report is the Seattle Monorail Project's current recommendation for the Green Line's alignment and station locations. A huge amount of public outreach has been undertaken by the SPMA, as well as enormous amount of design work to get to this point. The report, which is available for download on the SPMA website, is full of descriptions and renderings that explain the current recommendations for routing. Over the coming months, a number of other alternatives will be studied along with the Preferred Alternative. Final decisions will be made later in the year. The SPMA also received a major boost when an independent firm's report was released stating that the chances of building the Green Line monorail on budget have improved significantly since last year. "The work the monorail board and management have done in the last six months has significantly reduced the likelihood there is going to be a major cost problem," said Dwight Sangrey of Golder Associates, who led the review.

Seattle Monorail Project website.
Report: Monorail project is on track. Seattle Times, 4/3/03.
Consultant says monorail project has 80% chance of making budget. Seattle P-I, 4/3/03.


Monorail proposed for Lagoon Park. (4/5/03)
Farmington, Utah. The owners of historic Lagoon Amusement Park are talking with developers about building a monorail system to connect the park to a possible nearby commuter-rail station. A station is proposed to be open by 2007 for as part of a high-speed rail system between Ogden and Salt Lake City. The monorail would serve park visitors as well as many of Lagoon's 1,500 young employees in the summer. The line would only be about 1/4 to 1/2 mile long, but it may also serve an intermediate station where a complex of movie theatres have been proposed, about two blocks from the rail station. Park owners are currently investigating possible sources for funding the monorail.

Lagoon looking at monorail. Salt Lake Tribune, April 2, 2003.


Pinellas County selects monorail! (3/27/03)
another TMS Exclusive!
Pinellas County, Florida.
There's no denying it now, monorail is catching on! The Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization(MPO) has selected monorail as the preferred alternative for a fixed guideway system throughout Pinellas County. Pinellas County is Florida's most densely populated county, with only 5% of developable land remaining for development. Monorail won out over elevated light rail, people mover and advanced trolley, largely because it provides the best combination of automation capability, minimum at-grade impacts, and aesthetics in Pinellas' built-up environment. The implementation plan has been examining the costs of building, and operating and maintaining a system as well as attempting to identify funding sources to pay for it. The project will get more attention over the next months as the capital and operations and maintenance costs are finalized, and potential funding sources are identified. Once all of these facts are in, officials will decide the nature and character of follow-up implementation activities.

Pinellas Mobility Initiative website.


Another delay for Kuala Lumpur. (3/27/03)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As of today, the official Monorail Malaysia website still shows March 2003 as the opening date for the Kuala Lumpur Monorail (and interestingly, April 2002 is the date of their last online press update). However, recent stories in the Malaysian press refer to another delay for the official opening. Due to an accident last August when a journalist below the tracks was seriously injured by a falling safety wheel, the monorail will not be fully operational until August, 2003. The incident has been blamed on a act of sabotage, as an investigation showed there were no technical flaws with the system. The wheel that fell was missing attachment nuts, and there were no signs of bolt breakage. All other safety wheels were securely fastened to the two-car monorail train. Al-Jeffrey Ibrahim, KL Infrastructure Group Bhd's executive director, said the incident delayed the launching date of the system's operation but it had not affected engineering certifications. The system is expected to have a daily ridership of 85,000.

Monorail safety wheel incident has no effect on its certification process. Malaysia Utusan, 3/24/03.

  Petition filed in King County. (3/24/03)
King County, Washington. It's spreading! The monorail movement of Seattle has officially moved to the suburbs. The Citizens for King County Monorail today filed for an initiative to ask voters to design a monorail system that could connect to the Seattle Monorail, currently under design. The initiative follows the example of Seattle's Initiative 53, which resulted in the Seattle Monorail Project. The King County Monorail initiative calls for evaluation of monorail corridors connecting Seattle with Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Bothell, Kenmore, Shoreline, Tukwila, Burien, SeaTac, Federal Way, Auburn, Kent, Renton, Newcastle or Issaquah, with potential links to Pierce and Snohomish Counties. Cleve Stockmeyer, chairman for the group, states that current road improvement plans by the state don't focus on the problem facing commuters. Stockmeyer said "Conceptually, monorail could carry people from Redmond to Seattle in 23 minutes. No other proposals provide rapid mobility like that." The group needs to collect 45,000 signatures within 90 days for the measure to appear on the November ballot.

Citizens for King County Monorail website.
Monorail supporters file petition. King County Journal, 3/24/03.
Monorail backers want more. Seattle P-I, 3/22/03.

Las Vegas train tests to begin. (3/22/03)
Las Vegas, Nevada. The builders of the Las Vegas Monorail state they are ahead of schedule and under budget. How many rail transit systems can claim that? This week the first of nine Bombardier M-VI trains will move under its own power for the first time. Even though much of the system is still under construction, enough guideway has been completed that trains will be able to make test runs between the Operations Maintenance and Storage Facility (OMSF) at the Sahara and a crossover switch at the Chamber of Commerce. The trains are so striking in design that there is some concern that some auto drivers below may be distracted as they get their first look at the slick trains running alongside and down the center of Paradise Road. The M-VIs will travel the route at an average of 25 mph, with a top speed of 45 mph. Train cars continue to arrive by truck from Canada at a rate of one per week.

Las Vegas Monorail tests to begin. Las Vegas Sun, 3/21/03 (includes some photos).

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Chongqing Monorail forerunner of more. (3/18/03)
Chongqing, China. The builders of the Chongqing Monorail are taking a unique "you start-we'll finish" approach. Hitachi Ltd. Of Japan will supply the system with two four-car train sets. The Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd. will then build 19 additional train sets with technical assistance provided by Hitachi. The manufacturing of the train's ceiling, side panels, electrical wiring, and piping has been modularized, allowing a simpler construction process, greater flexibility and easier maintenance. In addition, this process requires fewer weld points and parts than previous methods. The Chongqing Monorail System will be 13.5 km long, with a total of 14 stations. While Chongqing will have the first Alweg-based monorail system in China, the Chinese are not waiting for the mid-2004 opening to forge ahead with plans for other monorails. Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hefei are also planning monorail systems. Hitachi Ltd., in close association with it's partners, is pursuing more monorail contracts outside of Japan, including in the USA, and has been awarded contracts in China and Singapore.

Chongqing Monorail website
Hitachi Monorail website

  Chiba Monorail suffering financial woes. (3/18/03)
Chiba, Japan. According to publictransit.com, the Chiba Monorail system is has large operating deficits as a result of lower ridership than hoped for. A panel may be established to deal with financial restructuring, cost saving measures, and as an unlikely last resort, closure and dismantling of the system. Prior to construction, the 18-station, 15.5 km Safege-type system was forecast to become profitable after nine years of operation and pay back all accumulated deficits after 14 years. The first segment opened in 1988 and the most recent extension opened in 1999. In 2001, passenger traffic was at 44,000 per day, falling far short of the pre-construction forecast of 174,000 per day by year 2000. The economy, a declining number of school-age children and slower-than-anticipated commercial and residential development in the area are cited as reasons for lower ridership than expected.
  Dortmund H-Bahn expansion. (3/15/03)
Dortmund, Germany. Thanks to a monorail expedition discovery by tMS member Amaury Jacquot, we have learned that a major line extension is under construction on the Dortmund University H-Bahn. The 1.8 kilometer long main route currently connects two university campuses. A short spur line connects the line with the urban railway (S-Bahn) and the district of Eichlinghofen. The spur line is now being extended by 1.2 kilometers to a science park. To see Amaury's pictures of the line being built, visit our Construction Gallery. Also, the Dortmund H-Bahn website has been upgraded to included new images and videos of the line.

General Atomics building test track. (3/11/03)
San Diego, California. A new type of maglev system is coming. It's a hybrid of the EDS and EMS type of suspension systems; it uses Halbach Array permanent magnets for suspension and a Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM) for propulsion and additional suspension. Since there is no active control nor cryogenic magnets, General Atomics claims a much simpler onboard control system. The company is in the process of building a 120 meter full-scale test track with a 50 m radius curve at their facility in San Diego. They will build a full-scale chassis, power and control systems. The testing will validate their understanding of the vehicle dynamics, and when successful, allows them to transition to building a demonstration system. California University at PA (South of Pittsburgh) is a potential site for the demonstration test track site. Actual urban deployment is planned for after the demonstration testing is complete.

TMS Maglev Monorail Page
TMS Maglev Monorail Technical Page (includes new paper on General Atomics Maglev)


Seattle Monorail nominated for landmark status. (2/27/03)
Seattle, Washington. Yesterday the Seattle Landmarks Board unanimously nominated the historic Seattle Center Monorail for landmark status. A public hearing and vote are scheduled April 16th to designate the old line a landmark. The Seattle Popular Monorail Authority (SPMA) has plans to demolish the old monorail tracks to make way for part of a new 14-mile "Green Line" through the city. In fact, it may be that the SPMA would have to go back to voters yet again if forced to decide upon another route. Ed Brighton, a leader in the monorail preservation movement, has suggested moving the alignment back to the originally-planned Second Avenue alignment through Belltown. Several Landmarks board members remarked that they consider the original pylons and track to be every bit as much a landmark as the 41-year old Alweg trains. "The reality is, it's an operational system," board member Larry Kreisman said. "They work well together and have worked well together for 41 years. It's a prototype, and it's rare Seattle can say we have a prototype of anything."

Old tracks? They're a landmark: City board blocks monorail demolition plans. Seattle Times, 3/6/03.
Latest monorail debate over pillars is 'brutal.' Seattle PI, 3/6/03.

Clarian people mover, Indianapolis


Airport people movers overpriced and monopolized? (2/27/03)
San Jose, California. Consultant firm Jakes Associates recently initiated a campaign for more affordable people mover systems at airports worldwide. The company's business journal, Forward Thinking, states "since the 1960's, the airport people mover market has been dominated by a single, high-priced product and now costs more per mile than many urban subway systems. Why pay a premium for more of the same, when there are other proven, cost effective procurement and technology options?" The most recent example opened this week at San Francisco International Airport. The $430 million AirTrain system uses the airport-dominated Bombardier CX-100 technology. It features massive guideways and columns that dwarf monorail structures, yet the CX-100 system capabilities could easily be matched by several cheaper monorail technologies. Jakes Associates, headed by Andrew Jakes, has been successful implementing low-cost people movers, most notably in Las Vegas and the Clarian People Mover built by Schwager Davis Inc. (SDI) in Indianapolis, Indiana. The company has also been recently awarded contracts with Hong Kong and Oakland International Airports, so we may see an increasing number of monorail manufacturer bids breaking into the airport people mover business. As Jakes states, "the time has come to end market domination by a single product, supplier, and consultant."

Jakes Associates website.


Falkenbury resigns from SPMA board. (2/24/03)
TMS first to publish!
Seattle, Washington.
The father of the Seattle Monorail movement, Dick Falkenbury, shocked supporters today with the announcement of his resignation from the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority (SPMA). "It's complicated," Falkenbury told tMS tonight. Citing that there are multiple reasons for his departure, he stated that he would continue to be voice during the development phase of the voter-approved monorail system. He went on to say that board members have been told that their opinions aren't sought, that they are only to be "unbiased judges" in the process. As most monorail supporters know, Mr. Falkenbury is a man of many opinions and ideas! In fact, his opinion that monorail would be a good idea for Seattle was supported three times with yes votes by citizens. One rumor circulating the industry is that Bombardier of Canada is the pre-ordained choice as the future supplier for Seattle. Bombardier is supplying a M-VI monorail system for Las Vegas, but many monorailists in Seattle would prefer an Alweg-type system that would more closely mirror the large 41-year old Seattle Center Monorail. Falkenbury has stated on numerous occasions his preference for "nothing less than what we have." Now that he is outside the constraints of the SPMA, he will be more vocal in supporting large scale monorail trains. Stay tuned, it's getting more interesting by the minute!

Falkenbury quits to hunt for job. Seattle Times, 2/ 25/03.


Pinellas County workshops near. (2/24/03)
Pinellas County, Florida. Planners for a countywide monorail system are seeking input from local citizens in March. Five public workshops will give residents a chance to see what the proposed system may look like and give them an opportunity to voice their opinions on the project. "I think the ridership numbers are good and show the project is feasible," said Brian Smith, county planning director. "Now the question is . . . is this what we want to do?" The county's transportation planning board hired Tampa consultant, Grimail Crawford Inc., to help prepare for the possible bid for federal funding. Grimail Crawford estimates that the system will cost between $20-million to $45-million per mile. The Pinellas County proposal is for an eventual 37 miles of rail. 21,000 to 54,000 people are expected to ride the system each day, depending on technology and routes selected. The County will seek Federal and local funds to build the project.

Will the county support a rail? St. Petersburg Times, 2/23/03.

Station rendering courtesy of Pinellas Mobility Initiative and Grimail Crawford.

  Karachi extends bid period. (2/24/03)
Karachi, Pakistan. Only two bids have been submitted to Karachi Mass Transit Program officials for a proposed city rail system. As a result of the low number of bids, the date of submission for bids has been extended to mid-March. The city government had issued international tenders for six proposed corridors of rail-based mass transit system in Karachi on Build Operate Transfer (BOT). MTrans of Malaysia and a consortium of German, Arab, Swiss company named InterGlobe Euro-Arab group have submitted their proposals. Mtrans is currently completing construction of a 8.5 km monorail system in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Interglobe is offering maglev technology.

Seattle Monorail Project backs landmark status. (2/23/03)
Seattle, Washington. During the planning process for the Seattle Monorail Project, the Elevated Transportation Company selected an alignment believed to guarantee the largest ridership possible. Part of that 14-mile "Green Line" included the same route down Fifth Avenue that the current 41-year old Alweg monorail runs on. This raised concerns amongst those in favor of preserving the historic monorail. This week the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority (SPMA) has eased some of those concerns by endorsing landmark status for the existing monorail. The SPMA states on its website that "the Seattle Monorail Project is committed to preserving the historic Alweg trains either in active service as part of the new monorail, on a new monorail guideway, or on display in a museum or other setting." tMS President Kim Pedersen said "ideally the Alwegs would be capable of running on the new 14-mile guideway. Wouldn't it be fantastic if these original trains would run from Ballard to West Seattle? It would fulfill the Alweg Company's hopes for a citywide monorail system and would also virtually guarantee that the new system isn't a lesser capable sub-scale monorail technology." A final decision for the Green Line's alignment and station locations is anticipated in late November 2003.

Seattle Monorail Project website

  First M-VI cars arrive in Las Vegas. (2/19/03)
Las Vegas, Nevada. When it opens early next year, the Las Vegas Monorail System will consist of nine Bombardier M-VI monorail trains. The first cars arrived this week after a four day flatbed truck journey from Kingston, Canada. The first two to arrive were center cars. A few days later two end cars arrived. All were lifted via crane onto the beam, then pushed into the Operations Storage Maintenance Facility (OSMF) using the new MRV (Monorail Recovery Vehicle). The four-car trains will be capable of carrying 224 passengers, 72 seated and 152 standing. Initial testing will begin on the northernmost segment of the system within the next couple of months. Anticipation for the system will certainly be raised a notch once people see one of the sleak M-VI trains cruising up and down Paradise Road! We'll be there to get pictures for all monorailists to enjoy.
  Rescue money for ODU Maglev. (2/17/03)
Norfolk, Virginia. Dominion University's magnetic levitation train has been sitting idle since the fall due to lack of money to fix a bumpy ride. Congress has set aside $2 million in a compromise budget plan that will finish the maglev project. "I'm wearing a large smile," said Robert L. Fenning, ODU vice president for administration and finance. "We're so pleased we have the opportunity now to advance the project." ODU is partnered with American Maglev Technology Inc., of Marietta, GA, to develop and build the nation's first passenger-carrying maglev on its campus. Unforseen problems ate up the original $16 million budgeted for the project. American Maglev president Tony Morris and Fenning say that the $2 million should be enough to finish the project. Efforts will focus on building and installing new computer controls developed by Lockheed Martin, with the advice of ODU professors, to smooth out the ride.
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