Several attempts are being made to create unconventional railways, and this has been going on since the latter part of the nineteenth century. The idea is that these unconventional railways are supposedly faster, more efficient, and less expensive to construct than conventional railways. This paper examines the feasibility concerns of constructing a monorail system in small communities. A monorail system can be used for transportation of passengers and light freight, and provides a support structure that basically has a stabilizer guide rail, and a planar top surface. The stabilizer guide rail is equipped with a vertical web portion, which supports a head that extends upwardly and outwardly.
I. Introduction: Monorail Systems and Use in Small Communities
A monorail is a single rail serving as a track for a wheeled or (magnetically) levitating vehicle; also, a vehicle traveling on such a track. The head guides a vehicle along the top surface while conductors secured to the web portion transmit electrical current to the vehicle through a current collector secured to the vehicle. A portion of the stabilizer guide rail may be flexible providing a simple, inexpensive device for switching the vehicle between a plurality of tracks. The system operates equally well with a variety of vehicle propulsion and suspension systems including electro-mechanical, magnetic levitation or linear electric motors. In a preferred embodiment, the width of the support structure’s top surface is approximately half the width of the vehicle, and the side of the web portion opposite the side having the conductor includes control conduits that transmit command signals to the vehicle through a communications connector secured to the vehicle.
Types of monorail systems
Modern monorails depend on a large solid beam as the vehicles’ running surface. There are a number of competing designs divided into two broad classes, straddle-beam and suspended monorails. The most common type of monorail in use today is the straddle-beam monorail, in which the train straddles a reinforced concrete beam in the range of two to three feet (~0.6-0.9 m) wide. A rubber-tired carriage contacts the beam on the top and both sides for traction and to stabilize the vehicle. The straddle-beam style was popularized by the German company ALWEG. There is also a form of suspended monorail developed by the French company SAFEGE in which the train cars are suspended beneath the wheel carriage. In this design the carriage wheels ride inside the single beam. The Chiba Urban Monorail is presently the world’s largest suspended monorail network.
Current monorail transit system
Transportation needs do not always have to be met using government resources – the private sector can play an important role as well, especially when improved transportation can increase business and economic activity in a particular region. The Las Vegas Monorail is a perfect example. Linking seven stations over four miles to eight resorts and the Las Vegas Convention Center, the sleek, driverless monorail (think Disneyland for grownups) will provide a quick and comfortable ride through the heart of the resort corridor, currently gridlocked with commuters and tourists. The Las Vegas Monorail is scheduled to enter revenue service in early 2004. The system is expected to carry 19 million passengers in its first year of operation. (http://www.transact.org/issues/ep.asp)
Effects of a monorail transit system on small communities
The primary advantage of monorails over conventional rail systems is that they require minimal space, both horizontally and vertically. Monorail vehicles are wider than the beam, and monorail systems are commonly elevated, requiring only a minimal footprint for support pillars.
Due to a smaller footprint they are seen as more attractive than conventional elevated rail lines and block only a minimal amount of sky.
They are quieter, as modern monorails use rubber wheels on a concrete track (though some non-monorail subway systems, like certain lines of the Paris Métro and all of the Montreal metro, use the same technique and are equally quiet)
Monorails are capable of climbing and descending steeper grades than heavy or light rail systems.
Unlike conventional rail systems, straddle monorails wrap around their track and are thus not physically capable of derailing, unless the track itself suffers a catastrophic failure, which is why monorails have an excellent safety record.
Monorail vehicles are not compatible with any other type of rail infrastructure, which makes (for example) through services onto mainline tracks impossible.
Monorail lines cannot be built at grade.
In an emergency, passengers may not be able to immediately exit because the monorail vehicle is high above ground and not all systems have emergency walkways. The passengers must sometimes wait until a rescue train, fire engine or a cherry picker comes to the rescue. Newer monorail systems resolve this by building emergency walkways alongside the entire track, at the expense of visual intrusion. Suspended railways resolve this by building aircraft style evacuation slides into the vehicles. Japanese systems use the next train to tow broken down trains to the next station, but this has yet to occur.
Turnouts, especially high speed ones tend to be difficult. Traversers might be substituted.
Monorail infrastructure and vehicles are often made by the same manufacturer, with manufacturers using incompatible designs, unlike UIC railways systems.
II. History: History of Monorail Systems
History on monorail systems throughout the world
Several attempts have been made to create a system in which a double-flanged steel wheel operates on a single rail similar to the railroad type of rail. The suspended Wuppertal monorail (1901) described below is the only surviving monorail of this type used in a public transport system. Gyro monorails, which are gyroscopically balanced on a single rail, have been tested but never developed beyond the prototype stage.
Monorails have both benefited and suffered from their novelty and concept of modernity. When The Walt Disney Company placed a monorail in their Disneyland theme park in 1959, it exposed large numbers of visitors to the transportation form in a credible though miniature transit setting. At the same time, however, the Disneyland monorail and others built at other Disney properties and amusement locations have tended to identify monorails with amusements rather than practical transportation. 
III. Designs: Monorail Systems Designs
Types and different design of monorail system designs
(Preliminary draft report, November 2002)
Monorail (MRL) is guided transit mode with vehicles riding on or suspended from a single rail,
beam, or tube. Vehicles may employ steel wheel or rubber tire support and steering, and usually
operate in trains.
There are two basic classes of monorail systems,
supported and suspended. The term “monorail” is used
to describe almost any transit system using an overhead
structure and vehicles with unusual arrangements of
support and guidance wheels. These run not on a single
rail, but on the surface of a rather large beam, or inside
an enclosed box structure.
When the vehicle’s passenger compartment is above the running gear, which straddles the monorail
or, more accurately, mono-beam, the system is termed a supported monorail. The ALWEG
Priliminary DRAFT Report 4-9
supported monorail was developed in West Germany during the 1950’s. Vehicles are supported by
vertically-oriented tires rolling atop the beamway, with horizontally-oriented tires pressing against
either side of the beamway to provide stability and guidance. The beam or box is not a delicate
structure with small dimensions. The beam for the ALWEG monorail, for example, is nearly 2 m
high and 1 m wide. These combine with 1.2 m2 support columns on the order of 6 m high to clear
By the mid-1970’s, several short monorails had been installed around the world, most in the range of
0.8-2.5 km. Notable in the U.S. are supported monorails at the Disney facilities in California and
Florida, which are 2/3 scale versions of the ALWEG design, and the 1.2 mile full-size ALWEG
installation linking downtown Seattle with the Seattle Center. The latter system has two trains, each
comprised of four cars, each car measuring 18 m long by 3.1 m wide and having a capacity of about
140 passengers.1 At present, a monorail is under development in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The most extensive supported monorail is Japan’s the 17 km Haneda line. The system is mostly on
aerial structures, but at-grade (ground level) segments and a tunnel are also used. A basic train
consists of six semi-permanently coupled cars totaling nearly 195 feet in length with seats for 210
passengers. Maximum service speeds are in the range of 50 mph.
Suspended monorails have their passenger compartments below
or to one side of the support structure and running gear. Vehicles
with car bodies suspended below the running gear are the older
technology, and include the world’s only true transit monorail in
Wuppertal, West Germany, where a single rail provides the
running surface for the wheels. This system has been in
operation since 1898.
More contemporary suspended monorails have been placed in service in Japan. The Shonan line, for
example, extends about 7.1 km. The guideway is a split-girder steel structure with reinforcing ribs to
increase torsional stiffness. The girders are about 1.7 m deep, and they are raised from eight to 12 m
above ground level. Vehicles are articulated. Operating speeds reach 40 mph.
Most recently added to the mix of options is System 21. This side-suspended monobeam (but tworail)
technology is under development by Futrex, a new firm in South Carolina. Inclined doubleflanged
steel support wheels on the lower left side of the car body bear on a main support rail, while
lighter struts extend from the upper left side with roller-wheels bearing on an upper rail to carry
tension loads and prevent overturning. A quarter-scale model of System 21 has been constructed; but
no full-sized passenger carrying version has yet been built or put in revenue service. The system
must be considered as developmental, and does not represent a service proven alternative.
1 – A smaller scale supported monorail system or minirail, developed in Switzerland, has been installed as a downtown people
mover on a 2.2-mile route in Sydney, Australia and as a circulator at Newark Airport in New Jersey. Vehicles consist of seven
articulated sections, with a smaller cross section structure about 30″ wide and 22″ deep. Each 7-unit vehicle seats 56 passengers.
Intended for short distance transportation, maximum speed is only about 20 mph.
Priliminary DRAFT Report 4-10
Key points regarding monorail options are:
Site-specific requirements: Guideways must be grade separated to accommodate rubber-tire
mono-beams and safe operation with third rail power distribution. At-grade crossings and instreet
operation are not feasible. High platforms must be provided at all stations. (Preliminary draft report, November 2002)
Types of monorail systems and the costs associated
The popular press in the U.S. in the mid 20th century often featured monorail ideas in a “transportation of the future” context, along with images of personal “rocket backpacks” and popular space travel, creating interest but also confusion as to which ideas were fads and which might become reality. According to Rod Diridon, director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, the real reason monorails in the United States came to be typecast with theme parks and never took flight was because “it got caught in what all mass transportation got caught in the ’50s and ’60s — the love affair with the automobile.”  (wikipedia)
Best design for a monorail system for small towns and small dense communities
Types of monorail system designs and the benefits and impacts
Best design for a monorail system for small cities and areas
Locations for the monorail line and associated stops
IV. Impacts: Monorail Systems Impacts on Small Communities
Development guidelines and right-of-way impacts
V. Costs: Monorail Systems Costs (6 pages)
Cost of production and development
Revenue of monorail transit systems
Offset of a not-for-profit monorail system
Types of cost savings and plans to put in effect
Developing a not-for-profit monorail system
VI. Problems: Problems with Building a Monorail system
Limited land to build and design a monorail routes
Vertical height limitations and right-of-way constraints
VII. Solutions: Monorail Programs
Examples of how monorails run efficiently at not-for-profit locations
Solutions in building monorail systems
VIII. Conclusion: Monorail Development in Small Communities and Areas
How to plan to build a monorail system within a small town
Success of a monorail system within small towns
There are other cities with monorails, although most are overseas. Railways are old and widely used technology that people are used to, and people tend to automatically think of railways when thinking of mass transit. Seattle is a progressive city which has had a short monorail line for more than forty years, and the people here see the advantages and promise of monorail as a technology superior to light rail for our local conditions.
Thyssen Henschel, “Magnetic Leviation Technology Super Speed Maglev System
Transrapid,” 1993, 15 pgs., Industrie AG Henschel.
Preliminary DRAFT Report 4-1. November 2002