News Brief Archives

News Briefs Archive
May 17 - July 31, 2004

Bombardier surprises for Seattle? (7/31/04)
Seattle, Washington. Anticipation for the August bids of Bombardier's Team Monorail and Hitachi's Cascadia Monorail is building in the Seattle area. Little is known about what type of system will be bid by each company, but some surprises may be in store. Cascadia is expected to promote a monorail based on the time-proven designs used in Japan, however with aesthetic improvements for the American market. Team Monorail was expected to suggest their M-VI monorails, a variation of trains used in Walt Disney World and the recently-opened Las Vegas Monorail. A recent article in a Seattle newspaper indicates there may be surprises in store from Bombardier's team. Seattle Weekly says Team Monorail is coming up with new "state-of-the-art driverless monorail trains with open, walk-through capability and 360-degree views." Walk-through trains have been the subject of much discussion amongst monorailists and interested parties in Seattle. If the Weekly's assertion is true, it may be that Bombardier has decided to come up with a larger train for Seattle and other potential markets before Hitachi can take advantage of their time-proven walk-through trains. The legal battles over the Monorail Recall initiative and the August due date for the Seattle Monorail Project bids make for exciting times in Seattle.

Seattle Monorail Project website
Monorail, Media. Seattle Weekly, 7/28/04.
Make Mine Walk-through. Editorial by Kim Pedersen

courtesy of Lawrence Livermore Labs

General Atomics maglev tests continue. (7/31/04)
San Diego, California. Lawrence Livermore Lab's (LLL) physicist concept for a safer, cheaper and simpler method to levitate urban and high-speed trains is undergoing tests at General Atomics facility in San Diego. Richard Post's design uses unique configurations of powerful, permanent magnets, called Halbach arrays, to create its levitating fields. An online article on LLL's website is giving us our first look at the test vehicle and track at General Atomics. The first test article does not include a passenger vehicle, as the first object of testing is to prove the so-called Inductrack system. According to LLL, the system is fail-safe upon loss of power, and simpler and lower in cost than current maglev systems. Hall Industries of Pennsylvania provided the full-scale chassis unit, which includes water tanks to test performance with varying weights. A 120-meter test track has been built for the tests.

Lawrence Livermore Labs Maglev article
Monorail Society Maglev Monorail Technical Pages


Metrail proposed for Brighton (7/20/04)
Brighton, England. The Brighton Monorail and Tram Company is proposing a monorail to link Palace Pier and Brighton Pier. Together, the piers have 8.5 million visitors each year. The Brighton Bullet would run along Madeira Drive at ground level. A mid-route station would be at Black Rock, where Brighton International Arena and other public gathering places are located. The 1.5-mile line would use the new hybrid-powered Metrail monorail technology. Metrail has a test track in Malaysia. An upcoming Monorail Society DVD by David M. Ice on Malaysia's monorails will feature outstanding footage of the Metrail test track. The Brighton system will be fully automated if built. Brighton Monorail says financing has been arranged and upon approval the line could be operational within two years.

Brighton Bullet Website
Metrail Website


Las Vegas opening numbers (7/18/04)
Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas Monorail officials like what they see! Over 30,500 people boarded the Las Vegas Monorail on Thursday, the system's first day of public operations. Ticket sales surpassed $98,000. "We're thrilled with the response we received to our first day of carrying passengers on the Las Vegas Monorail," said James Gibson, chairman and CEO of Transit Systems Management, which oversaw the project. Monorail Society members were among the first to test the system, and a TMS pictorial special of the newly-opened system is online!

Monorail Society Special Features. See the opening day, six-page pictorial!

Opening day, July 15, 2004

Las Vegas Monorail!


The Las Vegas Monorail is open! (7/15/04)
Las Vegas, Nevada. Monorail Society members gathered today to celebrate the opening of the Las Vegas Monorail. A good time was had by all (we believe) and there is much to share. Tonight's brief is very brief, but we will post details and photographs of the event and spectacular new system soon! The media was out in full force for the opening, so it's possible to get news stories about it by typing in "Las Vegas Monorail" on the following page: Google News Search

One of many pictures taken by TMS members during the opening...

photo courtesy of KOMO TV


Seattle fire cause (7/13/04)
Seattle, Washington. The reasons for the Seattle Center Monorail Blue fire on Memorial Day were the result of a series of malfunctions. Tom Albro, director of the Seattle Center Monorail, stated "It all happened in about 60 seconds." Albro went on to say that the cause is clear, but why the system failed is still under investigation. The incident began with a low-speed drive shaft breaking as it departed Seattle Center. A high-speed drive shaft then failed as well, throwing off a piece and damaging a collector shoe. The collector shoe short-circuited and melted an aluminum housing. The air became ionized and the positive and negative rails that power the train were no longer insulated from one another. Electric current arced which caused a flash fire. From that point on the fire quickly grew to engulf tires and other combustibles in the undercarriage. Circuitbreakers blew and brought the train to a halt. Smoke filled the cabin and shortly thereafter Monorail Red and the fire department rescued passengers. This was the first fire in the monorail's history, which opened in 1962 for the Seattle Century 21 World's Fair. Seattle Center and the Monorail are reporting substantial losses now that the system is closed pending the outcome of the investigation. Once operators are confident that safe operations can begin again, the undamaged Red Train will run again. It's unknown if the fire-damaged Blue Train will operate again, as the 1-mile system is slated for demolition when the new 14-mile Seattle Green Line Monorail is built along the same route.

Holiday fire on monorail retraced. Seattle P-I, 7/13/04.
Unusual events caused Seattle monorail fire.
Seattle Times, 7/13/04.


Monorack - small scale hill climber (7/11/04)
Okayama City, Japan. You don't have to design your own Niles Monorail to have a small scale system. An amazing system has been developed in Japan by the Nikkari Company in Japan. The company's beginnings date back to 1959 when the company first developed a portable mowing machine. In 1966, Nikkari debuted the Monorack M-1, the first of a series of mini-monorails that continue to be built and sold to this day. The M-1 was introduced to aid farmers maintain and harvest their mandarin orange orchards. Because of the success of the Monorack, various configurations have been developed over the years for other small scale operations. The name "Monorack" was coined from "work becomes easy," which is "monoraku" in Japanese. The monorack system provides easy transportation of people and loads on slopes without the need to cut down down trees or clear large areas. As the Nikkari website states, Monoracks can be used in the construction or maintenance of dams or power transmission steel towers, for farming on inclined land, harvesting of orchards, and for carrying people or luggage at leisure facilities. We suggest you might want one for your backyard too!

Nikkari Monorack Page-English (don't miss the Monorack video on the "Photo Album of Site" page. Note: image quality is poor)
Nikkari Co. Ltd. Home Page-English


Seattle Council: street alignment ok (7/7/04)
Seattle, Washington. There was applause in the City Council chambers yesterday, the vote was 8-0 to approve the transitway agreement for the 14-mile Green Line monorail. Councilman Jim Compton complimented the Seattle Monorail Project for presenting "a stirringly competent and effective team." The agreement includes a $54 million removal bond if the system can't be completed, it requires an independent financial review and another City Council vote to affirm the monorail project can raise enough cash to finish the $1.75 billion line. The system design details will be revealed when two teams bidding to build the system make their bids in August. The unanimous council vote was a major blow to anti-monorail forces, and a major victory for monorail proponents. We're one more major step closer in Seattle!

Monorail backers win a round as Seattle Council OKs agreement. Seattle Times, 7/7/04.
Seattle City Council adds monorail conditions. Seattle P-I, 7/7/04.
Seattle Monorail Project website


TMS Viva Las Vegas Day (7/3/04)
Las Vegas, Nevada. Members of the Monorail Society (TMS) will gather for a celebration on opening day of the Las Vegas Monorail. The monorail will open to the public for the first time at 8:00 AM on Thursday, July 15th and TMS intends to be there for the historic moment. TMS President Kim Pedersen and Vice President Keith Walls will enjoy some of the first rides with fellow members. Pedersen said, "Since the Monorail Society was formed in 1989, this is the largest monorail system to open in America. I look forward to meeting up and enjoying the moment with VP Keith and other TMS members that have been saying they HAVE to be there!" There will be no fee to participate in the festivities, other than the expenses of getting there, accomodations and purchasing tickets. Bring some money for TMS Store items too, a limited number of hats, t-shirts and DVDs will be available for purchase. The TMS Viva Las Vegas Day headquarters will be at the Sahara Resort, which has the northernmost monorail station of the 4-mile system. It also happens to have reasonable hotel room rates, especially if you use their Sahara Resort Website online reservation system. The agenda plan is as follows:

  • Wednesday June 14th; Media and VIP Party. Unfortunately we are unable to invite members to this event, but we certainly plan to cover the festivities in an upcoming special feature on the website. Depending on schedule, we may have a meeting of members in the evening however, a Monorail Eve of sorts. TMS items will be available for purchase. Sign up for the TMS Viva Las Vegas Day (see below) and we'll e-mail you details before the event.
  • Thursday July 15th; the BIG DAY! TMS members will meet between 7:00 AM and 7:30 AM on the Sahara Resort Monorail access pedestrian bridge, directly over Paradise Road. If you aren't staying at the resort, there usually is plenty of parking available by the station or in the hotel multi-level garage. We'll buy monorail tickets and at 8:00 AM be among the first riders to experience the brand new Bombardier M-VI trains. At approximately10:00 AM, a photography walking tour of the monorail will commence, starting beneath the same Sahara Station. This will not be for the faint of heart, because it's likely that we might walk the four miles of the line to get good picture angles. Of course you'll be able to bail out along the way and jump on an air-conditioned monorail whenever you choose. If you haven't heard, it gets hot in Las Vegas in July, so dress accordingly. Remember the sunscreen and of course, bring a camera. An afternoon break will be welcome at this point, and some of us will be leaving town. For those staying into the eve, a grand finale buffet dinner may be in order, then perhaps some night monorail rides to enjoy the lights of Las Vegas from a whole new view!

If you wish to attend, please contact the Monorail Society at monorailsociety@gmail.com and let us know by Sunday, July 11th. We'd like to get an idea of how many folks will attend and share information with you. We'll put you on a special e-mail update list. All plans are subject to change. See you in Vegas, baby!

Las Vegas Monorail Website
Monorail Society Store (use PayPal and will ship your hat or t-shirt right away by Priority Mail)


Las Vegas to open July 15! (6/29/04)
Las Vegas, Nevada. We have a date! The much-anticipated opening of the Las Vegas Monorail will be on Thursday, July 15th. "We're eager to start carrying passengers on the Las Vegas Monorail," said James Gibson, chairman and CEO of Transit Systems Management, the management firm for the Las Vegas Monorail. "This is a very rewarding day for all of us who have devoted years to this project. It's the culmination of years of hard work led by the late Robert N. Broadbent, whose vision will become a reality on July 15." An estimated 20 million riders will board the sleek Bombardier M-VI trains each year. Before the public gets a chance to ride, VIP passengers will ride the Monorail during media and VIP events on Wednesday, July 14. John Haycock, chairman of the board of Las Vegas Monorail Company said "Completing a project of this magnitude entirely with private money and coming in under budget is a tremendous accomplishment, especially since this is a unique system that is the most advanced of its kind in the world." For the first 60 days, the Las Vegas Monorail will operate daily from 8 AM to midnight. The cost to ride the system one-way will be $3, or less. Daily, multi-day and multi-ride passes will be available for purchase. After the first 60 days, the monorail will operate daily from 6 AM to 2 AM.

Las Vegas Monorail Website


Almaty: Big win for Severn-Lamb (6/24/04)
Midland, England. Severn-Lamb will soon join the "big kids" of monorail manufacturing with a deal to build a $451 million monorail for Almaty, the capital city of Kazakhstan. If the deal goes through, Severn-Lamb will spend the next five years building 46 trains, each with six cars. The Almaty Monorail will have 50 miles of track. Heinz Roosen, managing director of Severn-Lamb, said "This is a massive project and we will definitely be needing some help with it." The system is being financed by a group of American financiers, who will operate it for the first ten years. Severn-Lamb has supplied peoplemover-scale monorails in Italy and Malaysia, but the Almaty system will include new, larger trains that feature walk-through capability. Roosen said "It's like having a BMW Series 3 and now we've gone straight to the Series 7." Almaty started building a subway system ten years ago but abandoned the project because it became too expensive.

Heading East for £247m monorail deal. icBirmingham, 6/24/04.
Severn-Lamb, United Kingdom
Severn-Lamb USA


San Diego group formed. (6/24/04)
San Diego, California. TMS member Fred Willis has joined the ranks of monorailists stepping up to the plate to actively promote monorail. He has created a new website called SDMonorail.com, the latest effort to join our World Campaign for monorail. Willis says "Monorails are the only means of commuter transit likely to allow any further transit expansion between central San Diego and north San Diego communities because of the strength of environmental groups protecting intervening wetlands." The area is already home to the now-famous San Diego Trolley system, with its bright red trains, but SDMonorail.com points out "as extensions are needed, freeways and hostile terrain have made costs for light-rail of questionable recovery. Furthermore, light rail construction heavily impacts areas through which it is routed, and when completed, has a deleterious effect on intersecting pedestrian walks, vehicle traffic and business traffic on any crossed or shared surface street." Good luck to you Fred, and all those who join you with your efforts for monorail in San Diego.

San Diego Monorail website

  Jakarta breaks ground. (6/13/04)
Jakarta, Indonesia. A new system has been added to our growing World List of Monorails. Ground is being broken Monday for a major new Alweg-type monorail system in Jakarta. Two lines are being built; the "Green Line" with 14.8 kilometers and 17 stations, and the "Blue Line" with 12.2 kilometers and 12 stations. PT Jakarta Monorail is building the system, a consortium of Indonesian and foreign investors, including the Hitachi Asia Company. If built to completion, this will be Hitachi's largest straddle beam monorail system outside of Japan. At one point it appeared that MTrans of Malaysia would be supplying the system, but Hitachi successfully wrestled the contract from their grasp. Indonesia's President Megawati Soekarnoputri is scheduled to preside over the groundbreaking ceremony for the US $630 million project.

Putrajaya system postponed. (6/8/04)
Putrajaya, Malaysia. The 9 km-monorail system under construction in Putrajaya, the new federal administrative capital of Malaysia, has been postponed. The elaborate $105 million system will connect the new city with a major rail line station. The KLIA Express serves that station and connects to both Kuala Lumpur and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. That monorail and multi-modal station, with some of its approach and departure monorail track, is complete. Subway tunnels for the downtown portion of the system are also complete and a signature suspension bridge, built for the exclusive use of the monorail, is nearing completion. Many of the architecturally striking structures of the new city are complete, but have not been occupied yet. The monorail delay is planned to be in effect until about 30% of the core area structures are occupied.

Putrajaya monorail project postponed. Utusan Express, 6/9/04.

photo courtesy of Seattle Times


Fire aftermath (6/1/04)
Seattle, Washington. A no-fatality fire on a bus rarely catches worldwide attention. Put that bus up on a concrete beam and call it a monorail, the world will hear about it! That's what happened yesterday with a fire and evacuation of Monorail Blue at Seattle Center. The story is certainly dramatic, with frightened passengers having no place to go until firemen raised ladders to open doors for rescue. The fire started in the rear area of the train as it left Seattle Center. It stopped as it emerged from the Experience Music Project tunnel at 5:20 PM. At 5:30 firefighters arrived on the scene and evacuated passengers. About 50 passengers had already transferred to Monorail Red, which had pulled up next to the rear end of Blue. Smoke entering Red prevented a complete evacuation to the other train, so ladders were used for the rest of the passengers. First indications are that a short in electrical wiring to the motor caused the fire. Passengers heard loud pops and saw yellow sparks before the train filled with smoke. Monorail operations have been suspended indefinitely. Reaction has been quick and in some cases, very predictable. Monorail opponents are using the incident to back their contention that the 14-mile Green Line should not be built (ed: sure, freeways are safer). Monorailists, however, are looking at the event as an important lesson on safety. Dick Falkenbury, founder of the monorail movement in Seattle and TMS Hall of Famer, stated "I hope that the monorail industry takes advantage of this situation and investigates this incident to discover what should have been done, design changes that may be necessary and how to prevent even this level of danger in the future. I am well aware that there are far greater dangers on nearly any other transit that you care to name, but we should seize this opportunity to improve our record and system even more." Another TMS member, Daniel Ahlstrom, posted on a monorail discussion group "not that it wasn't going to be a requirement already, but that about seals the deal for having an emergency walkway, wouldn't you say?" Peter Sherwin, monorail champion and spokesman for Monorail Now said "If they would've had this incident on the new monorail, the doors would've opened, the people would've stepped out onto the catwalk and they would've walked away from the train."

150 rescued from monorail fire. Seattle P-I, 6/1/04
Fire shuts down monorail; riders flee smoke-filled train. Seattle Times, 6/1/04
Monorails out of service indefinitely. KOMO TV, 6/1/04 (includes video).

photo courtesy of KOMO TV


Fire on Seattle Center Monorail. (5/31/04)
Seattle, Washington. Developing...Monorail Blue caught fire today on the south side of the Experience Music Project. No reports of injuries as of this moment. Links below...

Fire on Seattle Center Monorail. KOMO TV, 5/31/04.
Fire hits Seattle Center Monorail. Seattle Times, 5/31/04.
Fire hits monorail at Seattle Center. Seattle P-I, 5/31/04.


Seattle monorailists fight recall. (5/30/04)
Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) and monorailists are fighting back against a recall effort to kill the 14-mile Green Line. SMP, several businesses, organizations and individuals are filing two actions in an effort to derail a monorail recall. Former Governor Dan Evans and Earth Day founder Dinis Hayes are part of the group fighting the recall. They have filed a petition and complaint, which if accepted by a judge, will stop the recall initiative. Ross Macfarlane, SMP's legal and environmontal affairs director, says the recall initiative "is not proper to go to a ballot, even if (its backers) get enough signatures." Monorail opponents have been circulating petitions for a measure that would derail the proposed monorail project by banning construction of it on city streets, if approved by City Council members or city voters. An earlier recall petition failed because enough signatures couldn't be gathered. Businesses joining the legal effort to fight the recall include The Space Needle Corporation, the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Glassblowing Studio and Gallery and Nitze-Stagen & Co., owners of the Starbucks headquarters building. Obviously, monorail support has come a long way in Seattle! Peter Hurley of the Transportation Choices Coalition called the recall effort "a waste of time and effort ... people have already voted (on the monorail) three times, and there is a process laid out." In other SMP news, the bid due date has been delayed two months from June 15. This will give the City Council more time to deal with alignment issues as well as give Cascadia Monorail and Team Monorail more time to prepare their bids.

Monorail officials ask for recall initiative to be tossed. Seattle Times, 5/29/04.
Monorail backers fight recall effort. Seattle P-I, 5/29/04.


Computer bugs causing Las Vegas delays. (5/25/04)
Las Vegas, Nevada. A computer program is causing the delays for the opening of the Las Vegas Monorail. Programmers have been unable to solve a glitch that impacts arrival and departure times of the trains. Most of the time the system works fine, but 10 percent of the time trains have been either arriving too early or too late. Responsibility for getting things right falls on Bombardier Transportation's shoulders, supplier of the monorail system. As negotiated in their contract, Bombardier is being charged a hefty $85,000 for each day the system isn't open. Phase One of the Las Vegas Monorail is made up of four miles of dual-guideway with seven stations. The computer problems have led some to wonder what kind of computer difficulties could occur with Seattle's proposed 14-mile, 20-station system, with portions of the alignment being shared for bi-directional use on a single beam. Still, the bidders have yet to weigh in on this aspect.

Delays Continue for the New Monorail System. KLAS TV, 5/24/04.

  Non-transit engineer attacks Seattle project. (5/21/04)
Seattle, Washington. Efforts to overturn three votes for monorail in Seattle are kicking into high gear. The latest attack comes in the form of complaints from an engineer claiming that his firm has quit Team Monorail. One problem with the assertion however, his firm was never part of Team Monorail. Engineer Jon Magnusson of Magnusson Klemencic Associates held a press conference yesterday to publicize his "concerns" with the Seattle Monorail Project (SMP). SMP officials were banned from the event and stated that Magnusson had never expressed his concerns directly to project managers. On one online discussion group, longtime monorail champion Peter Sherwin wrote "word has it that he is the lead engineer for the new WAMU building the president of which is a major [monorail] opponent - he has made plenty of gold from Seattle public BUILDING projects and perhaps is miffed that this wave of transit projects leaves him without his "due" - he has no transit or bridge experience - this would be a little like bring the best brain surgeon in to comment on a skin condition - or a movie star to comment on geopolitics - there is strong evidence that this was done with the opponents help." Still, some of Magnusson's statements do parallel concerns held by some monorail proponents. In his press conference, Magnusson stated that the new monorail might be impossible to expand and create choke points due to the four miles of single-track sections dotted along the 14-mile system. All this controversy takes place before Team Monorail and Cascadia Monorail Company, the experienced monorail builders and bidders on the project, have weighed in with their technical expertise with bids for the system. Many are anxious to hear what they have to say about single-tracking and other issues, as they are certainly qualified to speak from experience on how to build a monorail. Their bids are scheduled to be opened June 15th.

Engineer raises monorail concerns. Seattle P-I, 5/21/04
Engineer harshly criticizes monorail plan. Seattle Times, 5/21/04
Engineer: monorail design flawed. Seattle Weekly, 5/20/04

California-maglev vs. steel wheel debate (5/17/04)
State of California. In 2001 the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) selected traditional steel-wheel trains for its proposed statewide high-speed rail (HSR) system. On the other hand, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has selected maglev monorails for its own HSR network, proposed for Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Yet another maglev is being proposed to run from Las Vegas to Anaheim called the California-Nevada Super Speed Train. Both maglev projects would use Germany's Transrapid technology, which recently went into revenue service in Shanghai, China. SCAG's maglev project manager, Zahi Faranesh, project says "Steel on steel, by 2020 or 2030, will be passe technology." SCAG rejected steel-wheel technology trains as too costly to operate, too slow to compete with airlines and too old technology. California's HSR would be built with public funds, but the Southern California maglev proponents system maintain their project could be built without a public subsidy. The planning agency is proposing to form a joint powers agency and issue tax-exempt bonds to build the system. Once operating, the maglev would pay off the bonds with fares. Similar debates are occurring throughout the USA regarding which technology to use for future HSR corridors.

High-speed rail debate rages. North County Times, 5/15/04.
California Maglev Project.
California-Nevada Super Speed Train (maglev)
Transrapid USA
California High Speed Rail Authority
TGV steel-wheel HSR accidents (including grade crossing and derailment accidents). Trainweb. (Consider California earthquakes and riding on steel rails at 200-mph!)

    / News Briefs Archives