News Brief Archives

      News Brief Archives
    September 5 - November 17, 2005.

Seattle Stranger analyzes monorail demise (11/17/05)
Seattle, Washington. The Stranger, Seattle’s “alternative” newspaper, has published a special issue that explores the reasons for the demise of the Seattle Monorail Project (SMP). The newspaper has been a supporter of the grassroots-produced project since its beginnings in 1997. Articles and interviews in document missteps of the SMP monorail agency, its predecessor the Elevated Transportation Company (ETC), and the lack of support from “Mayor Gridlock” Greg Nickels and City Hall leaders. Hypocrisies are pointed out with the Mayor’s complaints over financing for the monorail, yet at the same time he currently promotes an under-funded “Big Dig” sub-surface freeway along the city’s waterfront. The one-mile tunnel is estimated to cost over $4 billion and will result in more automobiles and carbon monoxide emissions in the downtown area.

Seattle Stranger, Monorail R.I.P issue.
Mayor Gridlock website

Dubailand Monorail planned (11/15/05)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates. A massive resort complex will soon be rising in the desert called Dubailand. The $5 billion resort will be made up of six themed areas, all geared towards the growing tourist market of the country of United Arab Emirates. An automated monorail people mover system will be part of the City of Arabia, a section that will be in the heart of Dubailand, a property said to be twice the size of Walt Disney World in Florida. Among the bidders for the project will be Bombardier of Canada and Mitsubishi of Japan. The monorail system will be 6.5 kilometers long and will include 14 stations. This is the third monorail project proposed for the Dubai area. Besides the Dubailand Monorail, another will be built on the man-made Palm Island and yet another is under consideration as a people mover around the 700-meter high Burj Dubai skyscraper, now under construction.

Dubailand website

Seattle votes to end project (11/8/05)
Seattle, WA. Seattle has joined the list of USA "should have-could have" cities of Los Angeles, Houston and Honolulu. Those cities all came very close to having monorail systems, yet politicians in each case managed to prevent them from being built. Voters today said no to Proposition One, which in effect brings the Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) to a close. As has been well documented in our News Briefs, the project went into a tailspin starting in June when the details of the SMP contract with Cascadia Monorail Company were revealed to the public. Monorail opponents were suddenly armed with the weaponry they needed to kill the project. The system didn't look like the concept originally sold to citizens, and financing the project would require much more money than originally promised. Politicians that had supported the monorail because of political expediency worked fast to take advantage of SMP's and Cascadia's misteps. Some monorailists are vowing to put forth better proposals for monorail in the future, but they face significant challenges considering that monorail-the technology, now has a scarred image with the public while monorail-the politics, was the main reason for the downfall. On the plus side for monorail enthusiasts, the historic Seattle Center Monorail will continue to run between Westlake Center in downtown and Seattle Center. It's the only monorail in the world to still operating with Alweg Company-built trains. The monorail was the technological precursor to many monorails in Japan, Kuala Lumpur as well as several other planned systems. It was scheduled to be demolished for construction of the 10-14 mile Green Line monorail system, yet will now continue to shuttle back and forth on its one-mile journey. The Monorail Society (TMS) salutes everyone in Seattle involved in promoting and working for a citywide monorail system over the past ten years. That includes monorail activists including Dick Falkenbury and Peter Sherwin; leaders, board members and staff members of the Elevated Transportation Company and Seattle Monorail Project; and the contractor teams of Cascadia and Team Monorail that invested a great deal of money and time in Seattle. TMS will continue to support those who will carry on the efforts for monorail, whether in Seattle or elsewhere in the world.
Seattle votes on monorail again (11/8/05)
Seattle, WA. The grassroots effort for a monorail system in Seattle is on the line again today with Proposition One. Voters have said yes four times to building a monorail system since 1997, yet the tide has turned against the project this year, according to recent polls. Opponents of monorail seized upon the opportunity to kill the project when a controversial financing plan was announced this summer and art renderings of bulky monorail trains, track and stations were revealed by Cascadia Monorail Company. If Proposition One passes, a 10-mile starter line project will move forward. If the proposition is voted down, properties acquired by the Seattle Monorail Project will be sold off and the project will shut down. However, motor vehicle taxes would still be collected. It is expected that if the monorail proposition fails, Seattle politicians will embrace light rail as be the solution to deal with traffic problems, for stated reasons of having a unified rail system with Sound Transit. Ironically, many cost estimates for light rail construction dwarf the price for monorail, because of the necessity to build much of the system as subway in the hilly, congested city.

Angry at costs, voters likely to derail Seattle monorail plan. USA Today, 11/7/05.
Transit over roads-Vote Yes on monorail
Stop SMP-Vote No on monorail

Transrapid proposed for Holland (11/6/05)
Amsterdam, Holland. Transrapid International has presented proposals to the Dutch government for a maglev monorail system. The maglev would link Amsterdam, Schiphol International Airport, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Amersfoot and Almere. Transrapid Nederland, a joint venture between Siemens AG, ABN Amro and a several other Dutch firms presented the RandstadRapid project to the Dutch transport ministry.

Transrapid proposes Dutch maglev train project. Forbes, 11/4/05.
Transrapid website
Transrapid Nederland Consortium website
TMS Maglev Monorail page

Las Vegas airport extension study OK'd (11/3/05)
Las Vegas, NV. The Clark County Commission has given the Las Vegas Monorail Company approval to do a feasibility study for a system extension to McCarran International Airport. The study will look at different routes from the Strip to the airport as well as consider whether the approximately two-mile line would be beneficial or not. Las Vegas Monorail CEO Curtis Myles said, "The airport today brings in 56,000 people, about 80-percent are destined for locations between Russell Road and Sahara Boulevard, which is where our current system operates." The current four-mile monorail carries about 30,000 passengers per day. Myles and other monorail officials believe the airport extension would increase the system’s ridership dramatically. If the extension project moves forward, opposition is expected from taxi cab companies. Las Vegas Monorail would like to build the extension in coordination with construction for a third terminal at McCarran.
MGM head is big fan of monorail (10/31/05)
Las Vegas, Nevada. MGM Mirage chairman and chief executive Terry Lanni has high praise for the Las Vegas Monorail. He told Las Vegas Sun columnist Jeff Simpson that the company has benefited tremendously from the monorail. He said, “It’s been absolutely fabulous.” Foot-traffic from the monorail passes through retail outlets and into its casino. Lanni supports monorail extensions from the MGM to McCarran International Airport and would also like to see the planned spur line from the Las Vegas Hilton to the Riviera head south along the west side of the Strip. Most of MGM Mirage’s properties are located there and their proposed MGM City Centre Project will be located between the Monte Carlo and Bellagio resorts.

Columnist Jeff Simpson. Las Vegas Sun, 10/30/05.
Las Vegas Monorail Website
Seattle revised project details released (10/31/05)
Seattle, Washington. As the final week before the November 8 election day begins, monorail supporters are once again hitting the streets to get voters to say yes to monorail. If voters say no to Proposition 1 on the Seattle ballot, the monorail project is no more. Indicating the true grassroots nature of the monorail project’s history, posters and fliers have been popping up all over the city as monorailists campaign to win at the ballot for a fifth time. They face an uphill battle, as polls have indicated a loss of public support since financing of the project became a hot topic in the summer. A modified 10-mile system plan costing billions of dollars less than originally proposed is what is asked for on the ballot. The pro-monorail campaign group, Transit Over Roads, is pleading for donations to air a commercial they have produced supporting monorail. The ad blames politicians and “a big money highway lobby” for standing in the way of the monorail project. Monorail supporter Blair Johnson told KOMO TV "If we can get grade separated transit at the same cost as transit that is partially at grade, where it is going to be slower at grade, we can be going 50 mph, non-stop between stations. That is what is going to make transit use more practical for working adults in Seattle to use."

Monorail Supporters Walk The Green Line. KOMO TV, 10/29/05.
Transit Over Roads pro-monorail TV commercial

10 million mark in Las Vegas (10/29/05)
Las Vegas, Nevada. The Las Vegas Monorail carried its 10 millionth passenger since opening the four-mile system along the east side of the Las Vegas Strip in 2004. A surprised Paul Savoia, visiting Las Vegas from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, was notified shortly after entering the fare gate. Monorail officials hosted a small recognition ceremony and presented Savoia with a lifetime pass on the Monorail along with two-night future stay at the Sahara Hotel and several show tickets. “It’s an exciting day for the Las Vegas Monorail,” said Curtis Myles, president of the Las Vegas Monorail.  “We reached this milestone event today, thanks to the traveling public, our hotel partners and the Las Vegas community.  We look forward to continuing to provide this quick, unique and convenient transportation alternative for Las Vegas convention attendees and visitors and locals, alike.”  Each year, the Las Vegas Monorail will take more than 4.4 million automobile trips off the major roadways and which reduces carbon monoxide by 135 tons per year.

Las Vegas Monorail Website

Seattle revised project details released (10/20/05)
Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) has released more details on the revised plan for a 10-mile, 12-station phase one system from Interbay to West Seattle via downtown. The remainder of the originally planned 14-mile Green Line would be completed if the City approves construction permits following review of SMP’s Finance Plan. As the mayor-forced monorail measure is making its way into the homes of absentee voters and it’s only two weeks before the November 8th election, a city consultant’s report has been released that raises more questions about the financial aspects of the project. Monorail proponents were quick to react to the suspicious timing of the consultant report’s release and its findings. SMP Board Chairwoman Kristina Hill said, “I don't see what the basis is for looking at this now, except for influencing the election in some way.” Peter Sherwin, who heads up the Transit Over Roads pro-monorail campaign, told the Seattle P-I “I couldn't understand why the council needs to report on a rejected plan just as the absentee ballots are going out." Monorail proponents believe that large amounts of the new report are based on the Board-rejected finance plan of July. The SMP Board approved a new finance plan line yesterday. Meanwhile the Seattle press continues to hammer away at monorail. Both the Seattle Times and Seattle P-I have endorsed a no vote against the monorail, and negative stories on the monorail project continue to appear in the papers on a regular basis (latest article links below). One international publication sees things a bit differently. Infrastructure Journal highlighted the numerous achievements of SMP and Cascadia Monorail Company and commented, “The biggest stumbling block is a lack of support from the mayor’s office.” That article is available in pdf format on the recently upgraded Cascadia Monorail website.

Seattle Monorail Project updated project page
Transit over Roads website. Pro-monorail website.
Report warns monorail finances are risky. Seattle Times, 10/25/05.
Monorail's estimates raise questions – again. Seattle P-I, 10/25/05.
Seattle Monorail board OKs new financing plan; will voters? Seattle P-I, 10/25/05.
Seattle project trimmed by $7 billion (10/20/05)
Seattle, Washington. Will $7 billion dollars in cost reductions save the monorail project, or has the project’s damaged reputation doomed the plan already? That’s the question of the hour, and Seattle voters will decide the Green Line’s fate once and for all in a few weeks. Monorail planners responded to the outrage of citizens and politicians over the once $11.1 billion price tag by shortening the line and acting to reduce costs. The high price tag was the result of creative financing to try to get the full 13.9-mile system built with motor vehicle tax revenues that have been coming in less than expected. Now the Seattle Monorail Project is proposing a 10-mile starter line that would cost about $3.9 billion, which includes $1.7 billion in construction and operational costs plus interest on bonds. Active campaigning to build the monorail has begun by the seemingly tireless monorail grassroots army. Banners and fliers have appeared all over the city and a new website has been established to promote the passage of Proposition 1.

Transit over Roads website. The vote MONORAIL YES campaign site.
Shorter monorail financing plan would shave $6.5 billion in debt. Seattle Times, 10/18/05.
Shorten Monorail, save $7 billion. Seattle P-I, 10/18/05.
  Honolulu leaders tour Tama Monorail (10/7/05)
Honolulu, Hawaii. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and members of the City Council have been given a tour of the Tama Monorail. Hitachi, Mitsui & Company and Kajima Corporation are joining forces to pitch for monorail in Honolulu. The Mayor and Councilmembers Donovan Dela Cruz, Todd Apo and Rod Tam first toured the Tama Monorail control facility, then took a 30-minute excursion on the 16.0 km system. The Mayor contends that a 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge, approved this past summer in Honolulu, must be collected on time to avoid any delays in developing a fixed guideway system. Critics are asking for a more detailed plan before the tax is levied. Mazakazu Ishikawa, official for Hitachi, touted the advantages of monorail and tried to dispel concerns over monorail structures sometimes being perceived as ugly and blocking views. "The structure is actually streamlined. They can have a lot of shrubbery and greenery around so it almost appears as if the monorail is running through a park," Ishikawa said. If Honolulu selects the Japanese team to build a system in Honolulu, Mitsui would oversee the project while Kajima builds the infrastructure and Hitachi builds the trains.

Mayor gets look at Tokyo monorail. Honolulu Star Bulletin, 10/7/05.
  Indonesian trains for Jakarta (10/4/05)
Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesia is following in the footsteps of Malaysia by developing their own Alweg-type monorail system for the Jakarta Monorail. The engineering firm PT Bukaka Teknik Utama is being contracted by PT Jakarta Monorail and the government of Jakarta to design the system. Bukaka Teknik Utama is part of a consortium developing the monorail, which also includes PT Inka, the state-owned railway plant, and PT Len, a state-owned electronics and energy firm. The Indonesian four-car train will have a total capacity of 700 passengers. Bukaka engineer Teguh Nugraha Kusnan tells us that their train will cost less than half that of an equivalent Hitachi monorail train. 2006 is targeted for completion and testing of the first prototype vehicle. The first complete train set would be completed sometime in 2007. Siemens may provide the signaling system (ATP, ATS, etc.) and power supply, not the vehicle as has been previously reported and speculated upon.

PT Bukaka Teknik Utama website
PT Len
PT Inka
TMS Alweg Technical page

Hitachi trains arrive in Singapore (9/26/05)
Sentosa Island, Singapore. The first two new Hitachi monorail trains have arrived in Singapore for the Sentosa Express system. Two more trains are still being fabricated in Japan. The $78 million system will have four stations on a 2.1 km dual-laned shuttle line between the World Trade Centre and Sentosa Island. The monorail is the first in the world to use Hitachi's new light-weight, lower-cost Hitachi Small monorail technology. Each train carries up to 184 passengers. The system is slated to open at the end of 2006. Most of the track has been installed and station construction is under way.

New Sentosa Express trains arrive at Palawan Beach Station. Channel News, 9/26/05.
TMS Sentosa Monorail page


Oakland Airport Connector to use private investment (9/16/05)
Oakland, California. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is turning to private investors to keep their three-mile proposed Oakland Airport Connector project alive. Voters have paid taxes for the project as a result of three votes, but planners say the peoplemover is still $70 million short of a projected $254 million price tag. BART is following consultant suggestions that the gap can be made up for by bringing a private firm in with a DBO process (Design-Build-Operate). Ticket prices for a ride on the system could be higher to cover costs, yet riders would avoid what is sometimes a 30-minute ride on surface streets on the current bus shuttle that runs between the airport and the BART station at Oakland Coliseum. The peoplemover would take less than ten minutes to cover the same route. Consultants believe that the system would carry over 3,000 passengers per day by 2010. BART will evaluate proposals from qualified applicants next spring. Attention monorail manufacturers wishing to break into the American market, this may be your chance! BART hopes to award a contract by the summer of 2007.

BART may raise fares from airport to Coliseum. The Argus, 9/26/05.


Fifth time for Seattle voters (9/24/05)
Seattle, Washington. Eight years after the first yes vote for a monorail system in Seattle, the Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) will most likely come to a grinding halt after a hastily called vote is made on November's ballot. The measure is the result of pressure from Mayor Greg Nickels for SMP to place one on the ballot or he would. Nickels withdrew his support for the project on September 16th and has acted to swiftly cancel the monorail. Voters will either approve a shorter 10.6-mile monorail system from West Seattle to Interbay or the project will shut down. Less than a year ago Seattle voters resoundingly defeated a repeal measure that would have killed the project, it was the fourth vote in favor of the monorail. The project ran into trouble with motor vehicle taxes not coming in as predicted and a high project cost that would have required extended financing. Some state that the Cascadia renderings bore little resemblence to the sleek designs shown to voters in earlier days, which also resulted in a loss of public confidence. Even so, the process was close to a contract signing with the Cascadia Monorail Company, yet the tide almost completely turned against the project because of the finance plan revealed in June. Some monorail supporters suggest that the price of the system was the flaw, not the financing. Dick Falkenbury, the founder of the Seattle grassroots efforts for an expanded system, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "I could get this down to an affordable price, come up with a plan, and do it in a week." Sadly, the "kill it now" train seems to have left the station.

City says no but 'godfather of monorail' still thinks yes. Seattle P-I, 9/24/05.
Monorail will go to voters for 5th time. Seattle P-I, 9/24/05.
To state, monorail seen as trouble for transit plans. Seattle P-I, 9/24/05.
Shorter monorail route on November ballot. Seattle Times, 9/24/05.
Monorail running short. Seattle Times, 9/24/05.


Seattle mayor withdraws support (9/16/05)
Seattle, Washington. Mayor Greg Nickels today withdrew the city's support of the Seattle Monorail Project (SMP). He is canceling the agreement for construction permits along city streets. The Mayor stated "Put simply, the monorail does not have enough money to pay for the project. The financing plan presented to me is not prudent. It relies on a risky assumption that money from car tabs will grow faster than expert economists consider reasonable." He wants an advisory measure put on the November 8th ballot, asking Seattleites for a fifth vote on the project. "A fifth vote just demonstrates again that monorail is always held to a higher standard over other transit projects," stated Kim Pedersen, President of The Monorail Society (TMS). Pedersen said, "Sound Transit was only voted with approval once and was later given much more time to get their house in order when they had serious financial troubles. Evidently the monorail, with four positive votes, will not be afforded that opportunity." The SMP board will hold a special session tomorrow on how to deal with the Mayor's decision. As of this afternoon, Mayor Nickel's website continues to tout his number one priority as to "Get Seattle Moving," by among other things, "putting relentess focus on building light rail, [and] partnering with the monorail." He is also known for having committed Seattle to the Kyoto Protocols and challenging other cities to do the same. Monorail is generally considered to be more environment friendly than automobile gridlock.

Mayor derails monorail. Puget Sound Business Journal, 9/16/05.
Nickels rejects latest monorail plan. Seattle Times, 9/16/05.
Mayor abandons monorail. Seattle P-I, 9/16/05.
Mayor Nickels press release on monorail support withdrawal. Mayor Nickels website, 9/16/05.
Mayor Nickels Priorities page
Mayor Nickels Environmental Action Agenda page
Seattle Monorail Project website


Seattle Monorail Project approves plan (9/14/05)
Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) Board of Directors, under the pressure of a September 15th deadline presented by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, tonight voted to approve a "policy direction" plan for the 14-mile Green Line. The vote came after interim project director John Haley presented his suggested actions to, as he said, "nudge the project forward." In his short period of time with SMP, Haley said he has looked at several options to deal with the financially-challenged project. He rejected options for 1) canceling the project, 2) going back to voters, or 3) starting over (reprocurement). The new policy direction plan to proceed with the project includes elements presented to the board last week by a Technical Peer Review Group and SMP's Action Plan financial advisor (see story from 9/7/05 below). Haley stressed that efforts will continue to ensure a competitive price with Cascadia Monorail Company. There will also be efforts to reduce project costs both in construction and operation. The new finance plan will reduce principal and interest by billions of dollars from the controversial plan rejected by the board in July. Haley stressed that the new finance plan is still a work in process and there is more room for improvement. Haley's goal is for a system groundbreaking next year, after contract approval and a public review process.

Seattle Monorail Project website
Tax forecast to be lowered, monorail director says. Seattle Times, 9/15/05.
Monorail talks go on after deadline missed. Seattle Times, 9/15/05.


Options for Seattle presented (9/7/05)
Seattle, Washington. Seattle Monorail Project Board of Directors heard many ideas to help save the project. The Technical Peer Review Group of John Eastman, Don Irwin and Jen Liew reported on their study of the contract documents between SMP and Cascadia Monorail Company. They found the contract price to be at an acceptable level, given the many special features that are required of the contractor. Some suggestions for improvement included moving the turn back station further north of Seattle Center, reconsidering the high 2,500-year earthquake standards, better integration with other transit systems and double-tracking across the West Seattle Bridge as well as in Ballard. More vehicles were also suggested for capacity, yet the high price of the Hitachi vehicles was questioned. Eastman, Irwin and Liew were hired to review the project as part of SMP's Monorail Action Plan, which was established after controversy over financing surfaced. After the peer review group made their presentation, Kevin Phelps, SMP's Action Plan financial advisor, made initial recommendations to overcome money challenges to the project. He addressed a controversy over growth of the motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) and stated that a 6.1 percent annual growth is "defensible." He said that lower estimates touted by monorail opponents do not match estimated population growth figures and expected auto purchase trends. He then went on to make several recommendations. He believes that SMP should assume Federal funds will become available for the system, as they are for many other transit systems, including the Seattle Center Monorail. Phelps also thinks parking fees could bring more money in to the agency. Some SMP-owned properties along the line could be surplussed once the project is complete, and that money from those anticipated sales should be included in planning. Revenues may also be possible from redevelopment in areas around the monorail and SMP agency overhead could be able to be reduced once the project is under way. With these recommendations and others, and suggested adjustments to the original finance plan, Phelps believes that the previous $11.4 billion in principal and interest over 50 years can be reduced by $3 billion to $4 billion. He went on to emphasize the importance of building the monorail, as voters have asked for four times. Phelps was previously the finance committee chairman at Sound Transit, where he is credited with having helped rescue that agency from its early troubles.

New monorail plan relies on old tax estimate. Seattle Times, 9/7/05.
Seattle Monorail Project website


More study money for BART/Oakland Airport (9/5/05)
Oakland, California. Since the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system opened in the early 1970s, a transit link between the Oakland International Airport and the BART system has been proposed. Several feasibility, engineering and environmental studies have been undertaken. 30 years later and there is still no transit link other than shuttle busses. The Port of Oakland has decided to spend $500,000 for yet another study. Curiously, BART believes the system would cost as much as $330 million for what would only be a 3.2 mile system. The expensive cost estimate has led some to wonder if this is more of a jobs program than an effort to really build an efficient and economic transit system. It certainly continues to be an economic boon for those studying it. Washington Group International has proposed Hitachi Monorail and Itochu/CHSST is proposing maglev for the line. Bombardier, MTR Corporation and Sumitomo/Mitsubishi are all proposing large AGT systems similar to many airport peoplemovers, essentially track-guided busses on very large road-sized guideways. BART asked the port for $500,000 earlier this year after failing to attract interest from companies to design and build the airport connector. The agency wants to study and advertise the project again and see whether private funds could be tapped to help pay for the system.

Port OKs $500,000 to study monorail. Oakland Tribune, 9/5/05.
BART Oakland Airport Connector web page

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