News Briefs Archives
July 24 - October 10, 2002

Seattle Monorail endorsements numerous, minus one flip flop. (10/10/02)
Seattle, Washington. It's a wacky city and what happens from moment to moment on the political scene is highly unpredictable. The League of Women Voters initially heartily endorsed the Monorail ballot issue, but recently took the unusual step of retracting the endorsement. The League is now "neutral" on the 14-mile starter line proposal due to concerns over cost. Still, as of Sunday KING TV released the latest poll figures, which show support for the monorail at 62%, monorail opponents at 31% and undecided at 7%. If these numbers hold until November 5, even if all undecided voters decide to vote against the monorail, the proposal will pass easily. Despite the topsy-turvy nature of the League of Women's Voters minds, the monorail initiative still has many endorsements including:

  • King County Labor Council
  • King County Democrats
  • Metropolitan Democratic Club
  • King County Conservation Voters
  • Washington State Council of City and County Employees, District 2
  • Sierra Club, Seattle Group
  • Capitol Hill Community Council
  • 11th District Democrats (Georgetown/Beacon Hill)
  • 34th District Democrats (West Seattle)
  • 36th District Republicans (Magnolia/Ballard)
  • 36th District Democrats (Magnolia/Ballard)
  • 37th District Democrats (Beacon Hill/Rainier Valley/Mount Baker)
  • Aerospace Machinists Industrial District Lodge 751
  • Teamsters Local 763
  • Seattle/King County Building & Construction Trades Council
  • Teamsters District Council
  • Mayor Greg Nickels
  • City Attorney Tom Carr
  • Governor Al Rosellini
  • Governor Dan Evans
  • Congressman "Baghdad" Jim McDermott
  • Seattle Councilmember Judy Nicastro
  • Seattle Councilmember Heidi Wills
  • Seattle Councilmember Jan Drago
  • Seattle Councilmember Nick Licata
  • State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles
  • State Senator Erik Poulsen
  • State Representative Joe McDermott
  • State Representative Toni Lysen
  • Hon. Phil Talmadge
  • House Speaker Frank Chopp
  • the Monorail Society (no surprise here!)

    Monorail Yes Website
    League of Women Voters now neutral on monorail. Seattle P-I, 10/10/02
    League pulls support for monorail proposal. Seattle Times, 10/10/02.

photo courtesy of American Maglev
  Bumpy ride delays ODU Maglev. (10/10/02)
Norfolk, Virginia. American Maglev built an elevated guideway and developed a maglev vehicle in a remarkably short period of time, eighteen months. The one-mile system at Old Dominion University was originally scheduled to begin shuttling passengers across the campus in September, becoming the first operational maglev transit system in the world. An unexpected bumpy ride is delaying the opening until 2003. Thoms V. Radovich, who coordinates the project for Lockheed Martin in Orlando, Florida, says ``we believe we have a way to smooth out the deviations." He said the train is reacting differently to the elevated guideway at ODU than it did on the ground at American Maglev's test track in Florida. Engineers are working to perfect the train's control system to adapt to the ODU guideway. In a worst-case scenario, the guideway would need to be stiffened. Because of the glitches, the project is in need of additional funds. A $7 million loan from the state and $7 million in private investments are mostly spent. Lockheed Martin plans to invest more money and backers are optimistic they'll get a federal appropriation of up to $2 million.

Glitches postpone debut of Maglev. The Virginian Pilot, 10/10/02
American Maglev website.

photo courtesy of the Star

Kuala Lumpur wheel incident not design flaw. (10/2/02)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In a report to the Malaysian Transport Ministry, the KL Monorail System company has stated that the recent wheel incident was not a design flaw. A journalist walking beneath the tracks was seriously injured when a safety guide wheel fell from one of the new trains. Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik announced the outcome of the company's investigation at a recent press conference. Sik stated "They carried out tests with one screw, three screws and six screws, the safety wheel did not drop. So it is not design failure. So they suspect it was an act of sabotage." KL Monorail is confident that there are no technical faults and they are cooperating with police to determine the actual cause of the incident. The incident resulted in a delay of the system opening to 2003. The system is currently undergoing extensive testing.

We Believe It Is Sabotage- KL Monorail. Malaysian National News Agency, 10/02/02.


Wilmington Monorail planners establish route. (10/2/02)
Wilmington, Delaware. A steering committee made up of Wilmington Area Planning Council staff, residents and politicians has selected a 15-mile monorail route between the northern Delaware communities of Blue Ball and Glasgow as the top pick for a proposed regional rail system. The system would be the first of its kind in Delaware. The group chose the route from among about a dozen other options. The Glasgow route was the best because it would serve people commuting to work in downtown Wilmington as well as the suburbs. It would also ease congestion on heavily traveled roads and cut down on the number of cars contributing to air pollution. State Representative David H. Ennis said that the council's commitment to studying a monorail system is due in large part to the crowded roads and Delaware's urgent need to meet federal clean air laws. To improve the state's air quality, Ennis stated that "We can either do it now and get ahead of the curve, or do it later and play catch-up.

NCCo monorail route plan chosen. The News Journal, 10/02/02
Wilmington Regional Monorail Exploratory Committee.


Seattle Center Monorail problems concern campaigners. (10/2/02)
Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Center Monorail has suffered three shutdowns in the last week, which resulted in extensive press coverage. Two days in a row last week, passengers were evacuated by fire truck ladder because one of the trains stalled. Normally, the sister train is brought up along the other train and passengers are evacuated to the other train by ramp. Unfortunately the other train is undergoing maintenance and is unavailable, which resulted in the need for fire truck ladders. Then yesterday a four-hour monorail shut down resulted from a flat tire. This time the train was able to reach a station with the passengers. One of the evacuation incidents last week was caused by a fraying tire that sliced an air hose. Operations manager Matt Abbey said "I'm just wondering if we got a bad batch of tires." According to Abbey, monorail flats occur two or three times a year. These incidents have some campaigners for the monorail ballot issue nervous, as the election is just a month away. A 14-mile monorail system is being proposed on the ballot, funded by automobile taxes. While the monorail plan is evidently popular, a combination of stall incidents on the Seattle Center Monorail and continuing negative campaigning by monorail opponents may affect the election results. On the other hand, a blitz of pro-monorail activities and advertising is hoped to counter the naysayers before November 5.

Seattle Monorail reopens after flat tire fixed. Seattle Times, 10/01/02.
Monorail rescue is second this week. Seattle Times, 9/27/02.
Monorail again breaks down, stranding 25. Seattle P-I, 9/27/02.

Tom Hawley, KVBC TV


TMS TV coverage during APTA Expo 2002. (10/2/02)
Las Vegas, Nevada. The Monorail Society received considerable positive TV coverage during the recent APTA Expo 2002 in Las Vegas. KVBC TV reporter Tom Hawley interviewed TMS President Kim Pedersen next to the Sahara Station construction site and did extensive reporting on the happenings of Expo 2002. Hawley broadcast three separate stories on monorail and TMS. Several TMS members attended Expo 2002 and were pleased to see Bombardier, Transrapid and Aerobus on prominently on display. Still, not all major monorail manufacturers were represented. Hopefully at future APTA expos, such as the next major one in Dallas in 2005, other manufacturers such as Intamin, Severn Lamb, Hitachi, American Maglev, Monorail Malaysia and others will show their wares. There were approximately 12,000 attendees of Expo 2002, and some of them were shopping for systems. Our thanks to Tom Hawley for the terrific coverage on KVBC!

Monorail coverage on KVBC TV, Las Vegas. (includes streaming video of one of the stories)
Latest Construction Pictures from Las Vegas.
APTA Expo 2002 Photo Diary.


Shanghai Transrapid guideway in place. (9/16/02)
Shanghai, China. The track girders are now in place for the Shanghai Maglev. The 30 km route runs from Pudong International Airport to downtown Shanghai. A total of 2,550 guideway girders have been installed, each weighs 190 tons and is 24 meters long. The last guideway girder was hoisted into place recently, eight months after the first girder had been installed. The maglev, using German-developed Transrapid technology, will only take eight minutes to travel between the two stations. Top speed will be around 400 kmh (248 mph). Test runs are scheduled to begin in early 2003.

photo courtesy of People's Daily

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TMS members head for APTA Expo 2002. (9/8/02)
Las Vegas, Nevada. It only happens once every three years and over 15,000 transportation professionals attend. The American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) International Public Transportation Expo will be held this year in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center from September 23rd through the 25th. Known as Expo 2002, the event is the largest transportation exposition in North Amerca. Guess what all attendees will see right in front of the convention center? Why, the Las Vegas Monorail under construction of course! For that reason, some TMS members are planning on descending on Las Vegas for the dual educational opportunity of attending the Expo and witnessing firsthand an American urban monorail under construction. To make attendance even more enticing, anyone can register to attend Expo 2002 for free at the APTA Expo 2002 Website. The huge hall will have displays of many types of transportation vehicles, as well as hundreds of suppliers displaying their wares. Major manufacturers to date have been low-key as far as monorail displays, but since Bombardier is building one right outside the hall this year, there is speculation that their display may include something related to the project. Even if they don't, the construction will no doubt get a lot of attention! Of note to maglev-monorailists, Transrapid International will have a booth at the expo and is inviting TMS members to drop by. For details on a possible gathering of Monorail Society members at the Expo, please monitor TMS Discussion Group postings.

Register to attend Expo 2002 for free!

photo courtesy of Düsseldorf Airport/Andrea Wiese
  Düsseldorf Airport Skytrain open. (8/31/02)
Düsseldorf, Germany. We have another new monorail system in the world! Düsseldorf Airport opened their SkyTrain officially on July 1st. The fully automated suspended SkyTrain monorail operates above the airport grounds at a height of 23 meters along a 2.5 kilometer dual-guideway line. Top speed of the Siemens-built monorail is 50 km/h. The SkyTrain operates between a new Düsseldorf Airport Rail Station, where people coming and going to the airport can connect to local trains and high-speed ICE trains too. There is one station along the route at Parking Structure 4 and another at the end of the line is inside the modern new terminal building. Since it is only the second of its type in the world, there have been some unfortunate upstart bugs to work out. During the first two weeks of operation, trains went out of service six times. On at least one occasion passengers were stuck in vehicles for up to 40 minutes and a few even suffered "panic attacks," according to reports in the German press. Siemens provided replacement bus services while bugs were worked out. Various problems surfaced during initial operations. One problem was a defective cable that caused a break in the data transmission between one vehicle ("cabin") and the control station. Also a loose connection in an antenna of the cabin produced problems. Hopefully most of the bugs have been worked out and this mini-SAFEGE monorail will prove to be a popular transportation system for airport visitors. The system is currently back on schedule with operations between 3:45 AM and 12:45 AM. Some wonderful Düsseldorf SkyTrain images have just been added to our Special Features page. Also, more information on the technology behind the Siemens H-Bahn suspended monorail can be found in the Technical Pages.

Hitachi Monorail website premier (8/24/02)
Tokyo, Japan. This week gave us more evidence of the growing popularity of monorail. We received notice from one of our friends at Hitachi Ltd. that a new website has premiered, the Hitachi Monorail Website. The website has interesting information on the three types of monorail that Hitachi offers, along with a new classification names of each type. Hitachi Monorail Type One (Large), Two (Standard) and Three (Small) designations will make it easier to differentiate the different size systems. Technical data of each type of system is included on the site. Other pages are still in development, including pages on monorail cars, switches, total systems and specifications. Another Japanese monorail website has been updated recently. Be sure to explore the new Tokyo-Haneda Monorail website.

The Hitachi Monorail Website.
Tokyo Monorail Website. Don't miss clicking on the Japanese version for more pictures!


Nevada Maglev progress (8/24/02)
Las Vegas, Nevada. For years, organizers in Nevada and California have been working on a plan for a Transrapid Maglev between Las Vegas and Anaheim, California. That plan may be one step closer to reality as support may come in the form of money allocated to important studies. $2 million has been included for the maglev in a transportation funding package for Nevada for the 2003 federal budget. The $2 million will go toward an environmental impact statement for the first stretch of the bi-state line, a 40-mile stretch from Las Vegas to Primm. Primm is on the state border between Nevada and California and features several high-profile casino resorts, visible to thousands of daily motorists entering Nevada from California on their way to Las Vegas. The 18-month study will begin this year. The transportation bill still needs to make its way through the full Senate and House of Representatives before it becomes final. Maglev supporters believe the line could be built much quicker than others planned in the USA, as much of the alignment follows freeways through the desert. Less residents along the route would most likely result in far less NIMBY opposition. 267 mph zipping through the desert, ride 'em cowboys!

Funding on track for Southern Nevada train. Las Vegas Business Press, 8/16/02.


Seattle Monorail ballot agreement (8/24/02)
Seattle, Washington. Grassroots work does it again in Seattle. Monorail supporters this week filed 6,200 petition signatures and have now hopefully secured a spot for the proposed Seattle Monorail 14-mile Green Line on the November 5 ballot. Realizing the dangers of opposing the people-popular monorail effort, a majority of City Council members said that they would not attempt to add their own version of a monorail ordinance to the ballot, which could confuse voters. Four members of the council appeared at a monorail-campaign news conference to talk about it. Councilwoman Jan Drago, said she recently became satisfied the monorail project is feasible, "I am convinced to the core that monorail is the only hope for citizens of Seattle to have control over our future transit destiny. I hope to live a long and healthy life, and I hope to have a transit system that moves people around the city in our lifetime," said Drago, 62. "I don't want to be part of the generation that punts on this issue." The King County Department of Records and Elections will likely certify the petitions within a week.

Monorail decision eased for voters. Seattle Times, 8/22/02.
Monorail proposal appears headed for ballot. Seattle P-I, 8/22/02.

  Kuala Lumpur opening delayed to 2003. (8/24/02)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Monorail Malaysia certainly has had its share of growing pains. First a financial crisis in 1998 stopped the project. Then Hitachi was dropped as the lead contractor, as the Malaysians decided they could build the system themselves for a lot less money. Building something for the first time is always a challenge, and they have found this to be the case with the Kuala Lumpur Monorail. One incident occurred when a stationery test train parked at the temporary staging yard rolled into a work train.. Recently, a guidance safety wheel fell from one vehicle, seriously injuring a pedestrian below. Operations have been suspended while an investigation takes place. 24 of this type of wheel are on the Kuala Lumpur train vehicles. Only one fell from the train, and each one is attached by six fastening bolts. The six fastening bolts of the one wheel have not been found. Either a serious flaw in maintenance procedures or foul play are the likely cause. None of the other 23 wheels on the same train showed any unusual traits and were securely fastened. Because of the recent incident, Monorail Malaysia has decided to delay the system public opening until all trains are satisfactorily checked and tested. Extra safety precautions will be implemented wherever necessary. A new target date for the opening of the system is now January 2003.

photo courtesy of the Star

Kuala Lumpur wheel incident. (8/17/02)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A journalist suffered serious injuries to his head and body when a back-up guidance wheel from a monorail on a test run in Jalan Sultan Ismail landed on him. David Chelliah, 41, was struck by a falling 13.4 kg wheel while he crossed the road below the tracks. Chelliah suffered a hairline fracture on his skull and blood clot in his head. Doctors are closely monitoring him after a lengthy surgery to remove the clot. The wheel is one of 24 safety wheels attached to Monorail Malaysia's two-car trains. The wheels are attached to take over in the unlikely case of punctures or failures of the rubber guide tires that run along the side of the beamway. Operators of the system were surprised at the incident because each of the safety wheels are secured by six fasteners. Initial findings revealed that the remaining 23 safety wheels on the train were secured properly. The Kuala Lumpur Monorail was testing between six downtown stations. The entire 8.6 km system is scheduled to start full service by next month, yet because of the incident officials have stopped testing until further notice.

Newsman hurt by falling wheel. Kuala Lumpur Star, 8/17/02.
Newsman undergoes surgery. Kuala Lumpur Star, 8/18/02.

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Petitions again in Seattle. (8/13/02)
Seattle, Washington. Monorail supporters have been burned by the Seattle City Council before, and it seems they again smell a rat. Yet another petition drive is under way to ensure that their proposed 14-mile Green Line measure reaches the November 5th ballot. City Council members have promised to refer the Elevated Transportation Company (ETC) plan to the voters, but judging by their anti-monorail efforts in the past, some monorailists don't trust them. State law allows the petition drive as an alternative, and only 4,000 valid signatures are needed this time. Even though the City Council and the ETC have reached almost total agreement about details that should be in a ballot measure, pro-monorail people aren't willing to risk missing the Sept. 20 deadline to file for the ballot. "We want to make sure the ETC plan is on the ballot. This is the best way to make sure," said Tom Weeks, who is both a monorail campaign official and board chairman of the ETC. Peter Sherwin, co-chairman of the Rise Above It All campaign organization, has already distributed petitions at many locations throughout the city. As of last weekend, 2,000 signatures were already collected, so reaching their goal of 6,000 seems assured. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels was approached at Pike Place Market and signed the petition as well. Meanwhile, Citizens Against Monorail, officially registered last week to fight the proposal.

Monorail still awaits ballot placement. Seattle P-I, 8/13/02.
Monorail activists launch petition campaign. Seattle Times, 8/13/02.


ETC adopts Seattle Monorail plan! (8/6/02)
Seattle, Washington. The Elevated Transit Co. (ETC) last night adopted a plan to build a monorail system in the City of Seattle. The moment was the result of an enormous amount of work by ETC staff, board members and volunteers. Seven years ago Dick Falkenbury started the monorail movement in Seattle. After last night's historic vote, Falkenbury stated "It's time for Seattle to be the future again." The Seattle Center Monorail and Space Needle were built for the 1962 Seattle Century 21 World's Fair. Many expected the monorail to be expanded soon after the fair ended. It took a few years longer than expected and required a determined group of Seattle monorail believers to get the process to this point. Now it's up to the City Council to put the monorail on the November ballot. Seattleites will then vote whether to tax themselves or not to get the system on November 5. It's campaign time! Good luck Seattle and congratulations for the amazing accomplishment of so much work in a relatively short period of time. All aboard the Green Line!

Elevated Transportation Company Website.
ETC gives final approval to Monorail plan headed for November vote. Seattle Times, 8/6/02.
Company OKs monorail plan. Seattle P-I, 8/6/02.

  Dhaka narrows to two bidders. (7/30/02)
Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Ministry of Communications (Railroads), has narrowed selection for a Dhaka transit rail system to Transco Holdings with Severn Lamb monorail technology and Owen Transit Group, Inc. in combination with a Bangladesh firm, Associated Resources Management Co. (ARMCO) with HighRoad monobeam technology. Both teams have offered to obtain financing of the 32-mile transit system, build it, and operate the system for 25-30 years, then transfer it to the government. The Bangladesh MoC(R) has also invited bidders to submit proposals for a 150+ mile system between Dhaka and Chittagong.
  Stronger tire technology (7/30/02)
Paris, France. As history has shown, technology jumps around considerably. Perhaps a new development in aviation could have repercussions with monorail technology. In July of 2000 an Air France Concorde crashed, killing all passengers and crew with the aircraft's first fatal accident. It was found that debris on the runway ruptured a tire during the take off roll, which started a series of events that brought the plane down. Now, after a high priority focus on the problem, Michelin is scheduled to obtain certification for their new Near Zero Growth tire (NZG). The NZG is very resistant to tire blowouts, even at extreme speeds. The tire is comprised of two bead wires, four casing plies, seven crown plies and a crown protection ply. Tire technology has been called the main limitation to higher monorail speeds. Top speeds for rubber-tire monorails is said to be around 70 mph, but no monorail currently operates at that speed. 50 mph is the top limit for most transit monorails. However, if given longer track, the Alweg Monorail in Seattle could easily obtain higher speeds. The Concorde tires endure speeds up to 225 kt. in less than 60 seconds during take off, and on landing accelerate from zero to 150 kt.-plus instantaneously. Tire temperature increases from -50C at cruise flight level to +100C, and 150C on the crown during the landing roll. Can some of this technology be translated to monorail tires?

Jacksonville ridership dismal (7/30/02)
Jacksonville, Florida. No matter what the technology, if a system is poorly planned, it probably will fail to live up to expectations. This appears to be the case for the Jacksonville Skyway Monorail system. The downtown circulator was built with some optimistic predictions of 50,000 riders per day. Unfortunately, the ridership has been very low and and appears to be getting lower. Ridership is currently around 2,000 passengers per day. The JTA's 2001-2002 budget shows the Skyway will lose an estimated $3.34 million this fiscal year, $360,000 more than it lost last year. In 1986, Skyway advocates predicted the system would produce a $9 million surplus when the full system was up and running. A deficit continues to grow because the system doesn't make money. It cost $4.14 million to run the Skyway this year (up from $3.54 million last year), but the system earned just $803,000 in parking and passenger fees. JTA funds have been shifted from the bus system to keep trains running. Monorail opponents have ceased upon this data to attack monorail as a technology, ignoring the fact that any technology would have failed along this chosen corridor. The system doesn't go beyond downtown, and getting people TO AND FROM downtown is what is needed in most urban areas, not just around downtown. There are no current plans to extend the Skyway beyond its present length.

Riderless Express. ABC News, 7/29/02.


Okinawa Monorail nears completion (7/24/02)
Naha, Okinawa. 2003 will be a big year historically for the Japanese island, Okinawa. It will mark the opening of the first rail system on the island since World War II. The 12.8 km system weaves its way from Naha Airport through downtown along narrow corridors. In several places the track follows waterways in ways reminiscent of Wuppertal's Schwebebahn in Germany. This time however, the system is an Alweg-based straddle system and built by Hitachi. Walk-through two car trains operate on a guideway that has the same dimensions of the1964 Tokyo-Haneda Monorail. This is the first time since 1964 that Hitachi has used this size guideway for an urban application. Kitakyushu, Osaka, Tama and Tokyo Disney Resort have the larger Japanese Monorail Association standard track for straddle monorails. Officials expect a ridership of 150,000 passengers per day. TMS Vice President Keith Walls today discovered a large amount of excellent online photographs of the system and the link is below.

Okinawa Monorail picture page. Okinawa Website.
TMS ALWEG guideway comparison page.

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