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Seattle's Monorail

Last year, Seattle residents voted to build a 14-mile, $1.75 billion monorail through their city. Yesterday, the Seattle Times published the first realistic portrayals of how the monorail might look. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised:

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As can be seen, the monorail will use "iris" columns, which not only reduce the footprint of the tracks (by positioning one partly above the other) but just look cool. The article discusses some of the effects of the design:

Through downtown, planners favor "iris" columns that split like the flower, positioning the northbound track next to and above the southbound track...

That blocks views in two places, but casts less shadow than traditional, side-by-side tracks. Irises make it easier to run the monorail through tight corridors and erect stations next to buildings...

Walking up Second Avenue last week, architect Don Miles of monorail consultant Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF) wove around through the planter boxes and the bystanders as he explained how a monorail adds a "fabulous kinetic relationship" to busy street corners.

Columns would wipe out a lane of parking, but the good news is that the sidewalks would also be widened by 8 feet, Miles said. That creates space for cafe tables and street trees, he said. Clumps of people at bus stops would no longer block other pedestrians.

"It allows two groups of people having conversations to walk abreast ... without having to go single file," he said.

Well done. If the monorail looks this good in practice, Seattle will finally have not only the beginnings of a mass transit system, but a public work to be proud of.

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Comments

I hope it's much more popular than Sydney's monorail.

I'm not sure if it's been updated in the five years since I was last in Sydney (perhaps for the olympics ?) but the monorail they built in the early '90's as part of the Darling Harbour redevelopment never seemed to escape the label of 'tourist ride'.

It works, it goes to some useful places (admittedly most useful to tourists) and it's certainly takes little street space and causes no downtown pollution.

Unlike Seattle's plan Sydney's monorail is a loop of approx 3-4 miles so there's only one track and the trains run in a single direction.

I'm all for improved mass transit in any city - so make it work Seattle !

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