Public Interest Transportation Forum -

Would an "Elevated Bus" work as a Monorail?

Donald F. Padelford of Seattle shared with PITF a letter he sent July 30, 2000 to Seattle City Council:


I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of efforts to extend the monorail. I do note that it has a considerable amount of popular support. Another transit mode that seems to be garnering support from, among others, the King County Executive, is bus rapid transit (BRT). I *am* a proponent of BRT, as well as other cost-effective transit methodologies (cost-effectiveness, or its lack, being the reason I am an opponent of Sound Transit's light rail plan -- but that's another issue).

If I recall correctly the monorail initiative didn't actually call for monorail per se, but rather elevated, rubber-tired transit. As I was riding the monorail the other day, for the first time in maybe a decade, bumping along to the Experience Music Project, it occurred to me that, hey this thing is just an elevated bus that hugs its guideway. This started me thinking about elevated-guideway buses. Are there any other such systems? If so, what do they look like?

It turns out there are, though not many, that they work well, and that the technology is thoroughly proven. These systems have many of the virtues of the monorail (freedom from traffic; quiet operation), as well as with those of BRT (able to run on surface streets, HOV lanes, tunnels; can be built in segments as funds allow). At the same time they avoid some of the pitfalls of a monorail (it *has* to be elevated and is thus unsuitable for most neighborhoods; it can only work as a total system, i.e. it can't be used to bypass congestion at one point and then revert to regular roads where the congestion ends -- also a characteristic of light rail, of course).

Here is my point. If the council is inclined to entertain the idea of extending the monorail, then may I suggest it open up the field to all "elevated-guideway, rubber-tired transit" technologies. As I have stated above, I think you will find some very attractive alternatives that combine the "best of both worlds."


Donald F. Padelford


Letter from the operator of an elevated-guideway bus system in Australia (62KB Microsoft Word document).


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Last modified: February 07, 2011