The Monorail System
The monorail system has been in use for the most part of the 20th century though mostly relegated to theme parks, recreation centers and exposition centers to ferry tourists and guests. Examples of these include the Walt Disney World Monorail System that conveys 150,000 visitors in any given day. Another is the Seattle Center Monorail that serves as the main mode of transportation for the World’s Fair in 1962, serving more than 8 million passengers for the first six months of the fair and has been in use continuously up to the present day (Brief Monorail History, 2004).
Sadly, the monorail system never competed in popularity with the light rail transit and the subway because many felt that it could only be utilized for very light applications. In major cities for example, the subway beats all other mass transport systems, particularly those that move millions of commuter’s daily. The monorail system simply never got into the heads of transportation experts; although it is more applicable in terms of cost, safety and as the primary solution to traffic congestion.
In Europe, the monorail system is popular not just with recreation centers but also for mass transport. Although in the United States this had never taken root because of the development and popularity of the automobile as the main transport system for commuters. In pursuit of the “American Dream”, a family that can afford an impressive house plus two cars in the garage becomes a status symbol that everybody pines for where all that matters is the fulfillment of this elusive dream, the symbol of success and manhood.
But as progress evolved, environmental concerns are also on the rise since the mass use of automobiles contributes to as much as 20% of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere (one of the major factor in the accumulation of greenhouse gasses that contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer and the global warming phenomena). This is complemented by the rising prices of fossil based fuels. Thus, cities in the United States are turning to the monorail system as the likely alternative to address these rising environmental issues (Greenhouse Gases, 2004).
Why the monorail system? Simply because a monorail transit system runs on electricity and operates silently, therefore addressing the problems associated with carbon dioxide emission and sound pollution. Besides, a monorail transit is cheaper when compared to a conventional railway system and since it is installed above existing roadway networks, the same will not contribute to traffic congestion. The light rail transit is devised to run parallel to the roadway system which makes it prone to accidents as it comes in contact with other transport vehicles (About Light Rail, 2007).
There are two types of monorail systems now in use around the world – the straddled type or beam riding and the other one is the suspended system. During the early part of the 20th century, the suspended system was in use though only with very limited applications. The beam-straddled types on the other hand are preferred by designers because of its design flexibility, safety and economy. Most beam riding monorails run on rubber wheels over the concrete rails. However, a new design innovation surfaced that is quite popular with designers – the Maglev system or magnetic levitation. The design provides commuters with a more comfortable, safer ride and a superb braking system because the monorail train glides and floats instead of just sporting wheels that run over concrete rails (Monorail Infopage, 2006).
The word monorail is actually a misconception, particularly on the beam-straddled type because the monorail train actually runs on two rails with a parallel third rail that carries electrical power and supplies electricity to the electric motors. Practically, not much difference can be observed from its technical design which is almost similar to the light rail transit, only that the monorail sports a narrower base. Likewise, the physical architecture of monorails differ because it looks like it hugs or straddles the single concrete beam and rails, while the light rail transit and subway seems to float above the rails (Monorail Infopage, 2006).
For smaller communities, the monorail transit system is deemed ideal because it is cheaper and should be self-liquidating as it pays for its own acquisition cost. Most communities would not need the massive transport system used in large urban areas because they have a smaller population base. These communities must discourage total dependence on cars so as to sustain existing environmental settings. Thus, the better alternative is to pursue plans for a community wide monorail transit system to serve the transportation requirements of the population.
History of the Monorail System
History: The earliest application of the monorail system was at the Ruhr district in Germany which conducted its official initial run on the March 1, 1901; although its design and development started earlier. The later part of the 19th century saw the massive growth of the towns Barmen, Elberfeld and Vohwinkel where transportation was direly needed to serve the expanding population. Since a good part of the line was above the Wupper River, a conventional elevated rail line was not a popular choice. So they tried to look for solutions that will directly satisfy the needs and aesthetic priorities of the inhabitants (Monorails of Europe).
Eugen Langen of Cologne submitted a design based on the suspended double track monorail system made of steel that swings freely beneath the overhead track. Even if the cars hang suspended on the tracks, it never banked more than 15 degrees. This gave commuters at that time a magnificent view of the Wubber River below, that impressed a lot of the town leaders. The monorail system was given the name “Schwebebahn” or the suspended railway. It runs at a manageable speed of 56kph (Monorails of Europe).
The succeeding years have developed enthusiasts in the monorail system. Some produced designs and some even have constructed scaled prototypes. And owing to the popularity and mystic appeal of the system, a series of exhibition was made at designated cities around the world though not a single prototype reached production stage. Most of the exhibited monorail designs were improvements based on the suspended type of monorail design.
It took more than 50 years before the next monorail installation made an enduring impact to the industry. In 1957, a monorail system was in its experimental stage to connect a line within the Tokyo Ueno Zoo district basically to ease suburban traffic congestion. From the illustrations, the Japanese version is actually an improvement based on the German Schwebebahn, but instead of using steel wheels, rubber wheels were used. It became the forerunner of the Japanese monorail, but succeeding designs were not based on that one to instead adopt foreign technology for their major monorail installations (Monorails in History).
It was however the installation of the monorail at Disneyland, Walt Disney’s amusement park that brought tremendous popularity to the system. Disney designers modified the Alweg monorail system and produced a small-scale Alweg monorail in 1959. The Disney monorail was the most important attraction in the amusement park as viewed by millions of TV viewers which convinced think tanks and transport engineers that the transport system indeed has a future in the mass transport industry (Monorails in History).
Walt Disney’s idea was to promote the monorail system as the train of the future, but it backfired and for several years the idea of the monorail was relegated only as good for amusement parks. But there are still believers in the concept put forth by Walt Disney, to connect major cities in the United States by means of sleek beam ways running down the central transit corridors, instead of the massive but aesthetically oppressive and accident prone railways now experienced by the populace.
Though it may still take some time for transportation experts to embrace the concept of the monorail as the best alternative to cars in the United States, counterpart cities of Europe, Asia and in some areas of North America are already gearing for its full implementation. In Japan for example, its monorail system not only proved to be successful but economical as well to move millions of commuters yearly under a very minimal subsidy from the government, limited only to its first few years of operation. Since the monorail transit system is inexpensive, safe and fast; it should likewise be able to thrive independently, not only pay for its maintenance costs but with its expansion plans as well.
Monorail Systems Designs: The concept of the monorail system is to move hundreds of commuters at any given time which could only be accomplished under an efficient system. It commences with the embarkation and disembarkation points that must be designed to promote speed and ease in the entry and exit of commuters from the monorail train.
One of the requirements expressed by passengers is a well-lighted, spacious and well-ventilated terminal that would provide comfort while waiting, or alighting from the monorail.
Moreover, the cars must be aesthetically designed, properly air-conditioned and imbedded with an accompanying video or audio treat. Although the system conforms to utmost safety precautions, the terminal and cars likewise must be provided with security personnel to discourage felons from perpetuating their criminal intent at the expense of hapless commuters. This is especially required during the wee hours of the morning, particularly with commuters working the graveyard shift.
For a monorail system that plies the community’s interior, stations should be spaced not more than 500 meters apart to allow the majority of commuters to be within walking distance to the nearest loading/unloading points. When stations are located more than a kilometer apart, commuters will be forced to take their cars and park at the nearby station, increasing problems relevant to parking and traffic congestion. The planners of the monorail system intend to discourage the use of automobiles and encourage walking. This way, exercise and physical fitness is being promoted which reduces the incidence of obesity now prevailing in major urban centers (Physical Activity, 2007).
For the long distance commuters, the main monorail station must be provided with ample parking facilities because commuters are expected to leave their cars at the station when traveling to the next city. Likewise the main station serves as the end terminus for commuters coming from the inner city monorail system. It must then be provided with amenities such as a comfortable waiting area with food courts, recreation points and clean restrooms. This becomes a necessity because of the waiting time experienced in long distance travel, unlike with the inner city monorail system where cars come intermittently and with absolutely no waiting time at all.
In an era where everything is automated, the purchase of tickets is performed through automated machines while the entry to the cars is managed through electronically controlled gates. Thus, few personnel from the monorail company are visible which makes it doubly difficult for commuters to respond in case of a system failure. Therefore, proper guidelines should be posted to aid commuters in the event of an emergency.
Types of Monorail System Designs: There are basically two types of monorail systems in use with various urban centers.
The suspended type. Under this system, the monorail cars hung from an overhead railway system. The railway that supports the monorail cars could either be constructed from a steel I-Beam or a pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete beam. Both beams are placed over steel or concrete pylons and the vertical pylons are spaced at greater spans, some even at the intervals of 100 feet. This is the earliest form of monorail designs as exemplified by the Schwebebahn of Germany in the early 1900s.
Since the cars are suspended from the overhead rail, it has the tendency to sway though the resulting bank of the cars has been limited to 15%. This type is specifically designed when a magnificent view is expected from below, such as those above the river, over the entertainment zoo or maybe the botanical gardens. Although designs of this type can attain a modest speed of more than 50 kilometers per hour, its use has been delegated only to minor applications, particularly those allied with the tourism industry.
The straddled-beam type on the other hand uses the same steel I-Beam and pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete beam configuration though the cars are made to run over the beams. The beams are over 3feet in width and provided with a pair of steel rails where the traction rubber wheels of the monorail runs. A third rail is added which houses the electrical bus bars that supplies electrical power to the electric motors (Kato, Yamazaki, Amazawa & Tamotsu, 2004).
The beam in a monorail system is narrow and there is a tendency for the cars to topple over (derail) during high-speed runs. Thus to avert this occurrence, the sides of the car are extended over the entire depth of the concrete beam. The sides are provided with guide rollers that run parallel to the concrete or steel beam to provide horizontal stability with the monorail trains. So, aesthetically the cars looks like it hugs the concrete beam, giving due credence to its perceived stability.
One of the problems that hamper the development of the straddle-beam monorail is the design of the switching system. This is not a major consideration in railway lines because it can be accomplished by moving the railway track. When a monorail enters a junction, it either moves right or left where the proper switching method is required. Some are in the opinion that since it is a straddle-beam type, it will be doubly hard to move an entire beam to complete the switching procedure. And if it can be moved, it will also be expensive to design a system that is capable of even attempting to do the process (Pedersen & Simons Jr., 1997).
Designers have accepted the challenge to devise ways that would make the switching procedure easier. They have actually perfected two systems, the first one is the beam replacement switch which is typically a straight section of the beam that pivots to the side while a curbed section moves in its place (Disneyland); the whole operation is performed in 12 seconds. The second maneuver is called the segmented switch which is the most common system used in the majority of straddle-beam installations. The segmented track allows the beam to take a curved position. In this particular set-up, little space is utilized for the switch and monorail trains that run through it faster (Osaka Monorail) (Pedersen & Simons Jr., 1997).
Usually, the monorail is powered by electric motors and provided with rubber wheels that naturally provide commuters a more comfortable ride. Aside from the fact that the monorail operates silently, it can also travel at speeds over 100kph. Most monorails carry a car train of six to ten units where each car can accommodate 100 commuters.
The famous typical application of the straddled-beam monorail system was the one installed at the Disneyland amusement park in 1959. It was hailed then as the future of mass transit system in the United States. The design was so futuristic that the majority looked in awe of ever riding in one, once this system becomes a reality.
The Maglev design is an innovation first devised by American engineers in 1966 and used particularly on the straddled-beam monorail system. This is really a breakthrough since the monorail floats or glides as it moves, eliminating the friction created by rubber wheels when in contact with the concrete beam. In the process, the monorail system can run at speeds of over 300kph, allowing city to city runs at a reduced time. And since no contact is made between the wheels and the beam, a really perfect ride is possible (Maglev Monorail).
What is the Maglev design principle? Maglev or magnetic levitation is not a new invention. In fact, this was discovered independently by English scientist Michael Faraday and American Joseph Henry in the 1830s that eventually led to the invention of electric motors and the advent of electric powered radios and television sets (Yarbrough).
In principle, it follows the laws of magnets, i.e. “unlike poles attract each other, while like poles repel each other.” This is the basic principle that governs the maglev design of the monorail system. In layman’s terms, it actually functions just like a conventional monorail system that runs on the concrete beam (the straddled-beam type); but when electric power is applied, special segments of the rail and the car train are transformed into powerful electro magnets that are similar in polarities, naturally since like poles repel each other, the car floats or levitates. At this juncture, no contact is made between the rail and car. With a slight application of motive force or propulsion, the cars will obviously move and gain speed (Magnetic Levitation, 2006).
Due to the absence of friction that will tend to slow down a moving mass, the monorail system can now attain tremendous speeds of over 300kph, depending on the propulsion and electric motor used and the number of cars dragged. Once electrical power is cut-off, the monorail system reverts to a conventional type and initial braking is applied because of the friction created between the rubber wheels and rails. Once the speed of the car becomes manageable, the mechanical brakes are applied to stop the cars in its tracks (MagneMotion, 2003).
The application of the maglev design had been in full use, as shown on the monorail system that ply the French and English corridor and in areas surrounding the major cities of Germany. Japan is fully dependent on the maglev system as exemplified in its inner city transport system and the bullet trains that move millions of commuters to the various urban centers. In fact, without the monorail system, Japan would most likely have the worst traffic congestion registered in any urban region around the world (MagneMotion, 2003).
The United States likewise is now investing a lot to finance its own maglev monorail transit system. The areas experiencing massive growth are the ones affected not only by heavy traffic congestion but also problems allied with urban renewal, road developments and massive infrastructure programs. With the maglev system, what is envisioned are for airports to be directly connected to major centers; thus easing-up a bit on the really frightening traffic problem. Initial plans have specified the areas around Los Angeles, California as the most likely recipient of the modern maglev monorail system (Maglev Monorail).
It is expected that the new maglev system will be able to solve the traffic woes in the United States, not only on the ground but on the air as well since many can take the monorail as an alternative route being expected to navigate at speeds of over 500kph. Thus, intercity travel will be much easier, comfortable, safer and cheaper when compared to air travel.
Costs associated with the monorail system are somewhat staggering because installation could run to around 140 million dollars per kilometer according to a recent bulletin submitted probably by anti-monorail proponents. Considering the initial installation experienced by Seattle, it was able to recover the total cost of the monorail system in less than six months. Of course, the monorail system was devised to ferry visitors and guests to the World’s Fair, a guarantee that many will flock to the site. At present though, owing to the massive congestion, the City of Seattle is already on the final phase of negotiations with the most eligible firm to install the citywide expansion of the monorail system.
The 140 million dollars price tag on a new maglev monorail system includes everything from the cars and equipment, to the centralized computer controlled system, the beam and pylon system and including the allowance for maintenance network. This is the initial cost but succeeding extension lines will come out cheaper because the main bulk of the equipment has been already in place.
This system follows a flexible design retinue, as new extensions are compatible to the existing lines. So, a community can therefore plan their monorail installation by phase, and implement only what is covered by the budget.
The best monorail design applicable for smaller communities but with dense population density could only be the straddled-beam type. The conventional type of monorail design will already do wonders to the inner community’s transportation requirements. Forget about the maglev design of the monorail system; not because of the restrictive cost but due to the fact that the inner community ferry does not need a really fast transport system.
Remember that serving a dense community needs an efficient (not necessarily fast) monorail system, particularly because stop points are expected to be 500 meters apart to load and unload commuters. A maglev system defeats the purpose of speed when a monorail system is expected to stop at every 500meters interval.
Besides, the conventional type of straddled-beam type monorail system is ideal for a community because it will come out cheap and readily affordable. And to install one, the allied cost falls within the community budget or it could be planned to cover several years of amortization, to keep the financial pressure off the coffers of the community.
Types of monorail system designs and the benefits and impacts: As mentioned earlier, there are only two types of monorail system designs – the suspended and the straddle-beam type.
The suspended type for example could be beneficial to installations over dense foliage since this provides plant scientists the opportunity to study more closely the relationship between plants and insects. When also installed over game reserves, the system gives animal experts the chance to study the habitat and animal behavior, eating and mating habits in the wilds. But when installed over river and lakes, it becomes a truly magnificent venue for the nature lovers to be one with the environment.
The straddled-beam type on the other hand is more of a standard system for transit application. When monorails run over a rigid concrete or steel rail, it exudes an aura of brute strength and durability. Therefore, it could be used to ferry people to unlimited distances and time. Simply put, this is the system ideal for the transport sector that could be developed and harnessed for the movement of goods, people and services. It just needs to undergo perfection to be beneficial to incoming generations.
It could not be questioned that the types of monorail systems have made tremendous impact on the future of the transportation industry, and maybe the social sciences as well.
The Benefits of a monorail system will trickle down to everybody, since it offers commuters a fast, safe and reliable ride that operates high above the existing roadway networks. Moreover, Commuters are assured the 99% availability of monorail rides since it only follows pre-set guide rails. Monorail structures can easily fit within the urban environment as it can coexist beside existing parks, playgrounds, shopping centers and schools campuses. And since monorails have slender beam designs, it casts smaller shadows on the ground while allowing light to pass through and offer a significantly reduced disruption of the vista (Seattle Monorail Project, 2004).
Monorail stations could be installed in areas in close proximity to existing bus and other forms of transport, making links to alighting commuters. Likewise, monorail stations could be located on really dense population centers to serve the majority of the inhabitants. Besides the ease by which it offers the commuters, the monorail operating system simply does not in any way affect the environment.
With the monorail stations created at strategic locations, these will bring in renewed economic activity to the area. With a lot of people converging to the monorail station, naturally commerce will be on the rise since commuters will need amenities as they board or alight from the monorail. Such amenities could include refreshment parlors, diners, fast food chains or perhaps even 24hour convenience stores and drug stores for the added convenience of the commuters.
Since the construction of monorail structures could be pre-fabricated off-site, it also offers reduced disruption of traffic activities while creating related impact on business and residential functions. Moreover, the monorail system is a big boost to tourism, as commuters will be treated to a sweeping view of the community as they travel on board the monorail system (Seattle Monorail Project, 2004).
Location of the monorail lines and its stop stations is a major consideration in the implementation of the project. First and foremost it must be able to serve the majority of the residents. If the monorail station is not ideally located, then this defeats the purpose and results in low revenues for the community.
The line must be along areas where the population is dense, particularly housing areas, within shopping areas, with the university belt and near sports facilities. In commercial districts, monorail stations must be located at least at every 500meters interval with a good enough spacing to allow commuters to walk rather than use their cars. Likewise, it is a must for monorail stations to be located in an area alongside terminals for busses and other modes of transport which gives commuters a link as they alight from the station.
Physical impact of the Monorail System
Development guideline and right of way impacts: Urban planning plays a vital role in the inclusion of a monorail system in an otherwise complete urban landscape. The new monorail system will naturally encroach into developed properties, roadway systems, parks, playgrounds, perhaps on some government buildings, but with a thorough system of evaluation and planning it could come up with an idea that will be less severe in impact to the existing landscape.
Once the monorail lines are properly identified, it is now up to the government to impose its political will to proceed with the project. It must negotiate with private properties that will be utilized for the monorail stations and commit owners to sell it to the government at a fair market value. However, since property values are expected to escalate, owners would most likely be adamant to sell. So expect a more confrontational form of negotiation. In the end, government can always use its power on eminent domain to force owners to capitulate though caution must be exercised since such could border on abuse (Eminent Domain, 2004).
The suitability of monorail structures with the existing roadway networks should be considered. In view of pertinent traffic congestion, construction should be conducted on specific dates. What would otherwise pose as a big problem would involve the diggings made on the ground for the foundation of the pylons. Though once these are completed and once the concrete piers are already upright, then the attachment of beams will no longer be a problem since they are mostly fabricated off-site and erected over pylons using power cranes (Pre-stressed Bridges, 2007).
In any new development, architects should be part of the process because they can tame monstrous structures to be more aesthetically appealing. A particular example is the monorail station that could be a financial risk if not properly designed and constructed according to the temper of the inhabitants. Even better is to enjoin local designers, architects and artisans to the fray, so that it involves community effort to result in more commendable solutions (SMP: Technology, 2002).
In the implementation, vigilance should be observed as there are standards that needs conformance. Appropriate clearance should be made over travel routes as mandated by existing laws; a 16.5 foot clearance should be maintained for railways to be constructed above city streets; a 14 foot clearance is likewise required above the pedestrian and bicycle lanes; and a 22 foot clearance must be maintained over city streets that are designated for major truck routes. Still there are others that need special monitoring that could otherwise put forth a negative impact on a project with really noble intentions.
The most important aspect of the monorail project is the provision for future expansions. This really is a tipsy subject because the application of technology varies. What is modern and serviceable now can be considered old hog 20 years after, so if your present day system is not flexible enough to adapt to a new technology in the future, then it becomes a redundant infrastructure that needs to be replaced. Rather than pursue an unsound investment and waste of a lot of money to the detriment of the poor taxpayers, better to renege now.
Costs of Monorail Systems
Cost of monorail production and development: It is frightening to note that a monorail system in the United States would fetch an average of 140 million dollars per kilometer to produce and develop. This maybe an exaggeration, since a typical monorail system produced and developed by Hitachi in Chongqing, China had a comparative cost of only 24 million dollars per kilometer. Questions would normally arise why it is more expensive to have a system constructed in the United States than the one built in Asia? What then is wrong with the American counterpart? (Demery Jr., 2004).
If we take a closer look at the system, we should be able to deduce a firm observation and an intellectual conclusion relevant to the issue. First a monorail is designed to be lightweight, and because of this factor it will need a smaller electric motor to run the system. Let us forget the maglev technology and concentrate more on the conventional monorail system. Due to the applied weight, only a single beam is necessary to carry the monorail trains and the pylons are spaced over wider distances.
Since this technology is devised to run above the ground and over existing roadway networks, no extensive tunneling would be required, thereby reducing the cost a bit more. As an added detail, monorails are intended for inner city travel therefore speed is not really necessary as the cars would stop at stations 500meters apart. Moreover, designers of the Chongqing monorail maintained that the capacity of their system is 30,000 commuters per hour during peak hours. This capacity is more than sufficient for relatively medium sized communities in the United States.
So, why the really big disparity in cost, if Hitachi can do it in China why can’t we duplicate it here in the United States? Or do we need to call Hitachi and install one in our backyard?
In theory the cost of a monorail system would be based on different factors. The total length of the system, in particular the longer the system would fetch a lower cost. Topography is another factor. Is the terrain flat or rolling? Are there rivers and roads to cross? Since the construction of additional bridges will a big factor. Location; is there existing access to construction equipment or will there be heavy traffic because personnel and equipment will not work 100% if there are impediments? Utilities; do we need to relocate water mains, power lines, telephone lines because this will redound to an additional cost to the system (How Much?).
There is also a question of land especially for easements; passenger requirement, the size and number of vehicles required; speed required for the system because large motors will be needed for fast cars; the number of stations since this will certainly add to the cost; special structures, such as bridges, tunnels will be a major consideration; geotechnical conditions, the character and type of sub-surface soil, this will have a relative effect on the foundation of pylons; and of course environmental concerns, such as restoration, wild life protection or solid walls to be needed.
Revenues associated with the monorail transit system: What local transport advocates are doing is scare the hell out of those who see the monorail system as vital to the future of a community. They sow lies and false information downgrading the relevance of the monorail system, while also trumpeting the virtues of a competing system. However you look at it, the monorail system will be the most preferred system in the future, particularly if manufacturers have perfected the design segments that others find questionable.
The main source of contention involves the cost parameters, since many are in the opinion that a reliable monorail system costs too much; an assumption that is practically different from data submitted by foreign firms. The monorail system they imply will never be in a position to reap profits for the community. Well, the succeeding information will prove them wrong.
Granting that we follow the monorail installation in Chongqing, China, the total distance covered by the system is 17.5 kilometers with a total of 17 stations, the total production and development cost is 420 million dollars. This probable installation is more than ideal for a medium sized community. It is projected that the average cost per ticket at the monorail is 1.20 dollars, so from a conservative estimate the expected ticket sales per day for a 24 hour run is a whooping half a million dollars.
For the entire month the gross ticket sales should be around 15 million dollars and annually it should be around the vicinity of 200 million dollars. This is not a bad investment, for after all the revenues should be able to pay the acquisition cost of the monorail transit system in less than five years.
Certainly for a small community an initial 5kilometer stretch of monorail line will solve the perceived traffic congestion and ease the transportation need of the inhabitants. And if we follow the pattern after the one in Chongqing, China, that will only be a little short of 100 million dollars. It is indeed attainable considering the community’s varied fund sources that would augment revenue collection.
Offset of a not-for-profit monorail system: In most instances, monorail systems are designed to be a non-profit making endeavor, as service to the constituents are more paramount than the profits that trickle down to the treasury of the community. To offset the possible cost of a not for profit monorail system, additional tax measures are added to non-essential commodities. Example of this are the additional taxes levied to the registration of motor vehicles which could be put in force until all of the acquisition cost of the monorail system has been paid for.
In effect, taxes would be responsible for the amortization without charging additional fees from the riding commuters, except perhaps some amount to pay for the wages of the personnel and also for maintenance expenses to keep the system running.
This arrangement has been devised to free the commuters from additional transportation burden, while putting the strain on the pocket of the more affluent members of society (the vehicles owner).
Other revenues could also be taken from sin products – notably cigarette and liquor that are the favorite pastime of the rich.
Types of cost savings and plans to put in effect: One of the contingency measures that will surely redound to savings in the monorail transit system is the downsizing of its existing employee base to the barest minimum so only those who can contribute and has the capacity to work extended hours will man the transit system.
Another important cost saving device is to determine accurately how many commuters will ride on particular periods during the day to field only sufficient trips to ferry commuters. Never send your monorail cars full time to save on the electrical energy. Full force of your cars will be available during peak hours, then as demand decreases schedule trips say every hour thereafter or to follow housewives marketing frenzy.
In case majority of commuters return home for lunch, then maybe a full complement of monorail trains will be fielded to accommodate them including the students. During the afternoon runs, see to it that the workers and students are readily accommodated while intermittent runs are fielded only during the night and dawn to ferry those working the night shift.
It is just a matter of adjusting to commuter’s needs and the monorail transit system could save a lot particularly in terms of energy and the wear and tear of the motor and the rubber wheels.
Developing a not-for-profit monorail system: In the plans for a monorail system, consider the users of the system, particularly the poor and probably the middle class. Therefore it is imperative that it should be developed not with money making mechanisms, but should be a not for profit venture. The sole purpose is to help alleviate the already suffering poor folks and the labor sector.
The government must shop for a monorail system that fits the current need of the community, of course laden with enough technological flexibility to allow for expansion. Shop around, particularly models from other countries where the price is really competitive. Hitachi of Japan for example has models that are as low as 5 million dollars per kilometer or top of the line systems that command as much as 60 million dollars per kilometer.
There are a lot of factors that will affect the overall design cost. The manufacturers must be well aware of the physical conditions of the community, so they can present a more factual cost breakdown of the monorail system intended for your locality.
The government can plan what tax measures must be devised to pay for the cost of a monorail system. Or if the budget is too small and putting more tax levy would already be coercive, then perhaps allow construction by phases, but prioritize areas mostly in need of the monorail system.
Problems with Building a Monorail
Limited land to build and design monorail routes. Let’s face the fact that present-day cities were not designed to accommodate a monorail system, simply because these systems were not yet existent when the cities made drastic changes to its physical make-up. So setting up a novel system to an old city is really a very challenging endeavor, particularly to city planners.
Initially, a monorail system runs over an elevated track while supported by sleek pylons. Normally if the street is a boulevard, it has a central island that could very well accommodate the pylon of a monorail system. But what if the monorail system hovers over a city street, where no space is allocated for the pylons. This indeed poses a problem. Some will try to squeeze the monorail system over the sidewalk, thereby sacrificing the space for pedestrian traffic, but this is not a good idea since, the monorail structure would most certainly block the edifice of the building and damage its aesthetic appeal.
These are just some of the problems that faze planners, but just follow the saying that “if there’s a will, then there must be a way.” This has been the likely jest of many and they were able to find a win- win solution that has been found acceptable to the government, the property owners and the general public.
On second thought the monorail structures are not really classified as product of monstrosity, only that these must be designed by architects so that these structures can properly blend with the encompassing landscape. Besides, the monorail has a futuristic appeal and its mere presence would give the space an added dimension.
Vertical height limitations and right-of-way constraints: Much as we would like to see the monorail system as not too lofty particularly over city streets, we cannot do otherwise because of height restrictions that dictate the design of the structures. If a monorail crosses over a city street then the height restriction of 16.5 feet applies to allow through traffic to pass. And in the case of major thoroughfares, a 22 feet height restriction is observed to allow for the passage of trucks below.
There are still other lists of restrictions that have to be followed making the final outcome of the monorail installation look like a freaky monster just coming in for a drink.
Aside from the height restrictions there are statutes that bar the presence of monorail structures over a certain street system and mandated by right-of-way constraints. These were devised by lawmakers so that everybody else can have access to equal provisions to light and ventilation. This is an important statute, particularly on roads where skyscrapers are dominant, because the sun could only be visible on certain hours of the day. And if a monorail system is added, then it would certainly be a negative factor to add to the problem (Article 4, 2007).
If only the urban planners could start from scratch, then the allied problems concerning the location of streets that will play host to the monorail system would be amply provided without altering the landscape. Also the monorail station could be strategically located without having to negotiate with property owners.
These are just some of the ideal conditions under which a professional urban planner would fervently hope for.
Examples of how monorails run efficiently at not-for-profit locations: It is a case of distorted illusion if our government denies our low-income earners the right to access affordable modes of transportation with the operation of monorail service for profit. The monorail system is a public transport and must be kept cheap if not free for the average commuter. To operate the system simply because the city wants to profit from it is a form of dereliction of duty in the service of your constituents. Some cities are actually selling the advertisement rights of their monorail trains and stations to interested companies for a fee, just to reduce the fares collected on their monorail systems (Luo, 2004).
A good example of a non-profit monorail service is the Las Vegas Monorail System. It has successfully enticed large companies to advertise using the monorail trains as well as adopt stations for a contract amount so they could operate the monorail system at reduced prices. They have actually placed the burden on the companies not on the commuters to keep the monorail system always serving the general public. Collection of fares for the Las Vegas monorail is not really a question to gawk at because the majority of commuters are tourists out for a good time, to gamble and perhaps savor the local entertainment flavor. These people will have lots of money to spend. Besides, casino owners can subsidize the operation of the monorail system, since they benefit most from it (Friess, 2004).
Likewise beset with problems from the beginning due of errors committed by the manufacturer, the monorail system of Las Vegas is churning out finally and the public is starting to reap the rewards of an improved inner city transport system. The monorail system is expected to run efficiently as no further breakdown looms ahead, so this comes as a big boost to the tourism industry. In fact, if not for the delays, a second line would have already been in operation since the government was scheduled to provide funds for the extension. Nevertheless, the city is proceeding to the next phase, a monorail line that will connect the international airport to the downtown area which will not be funded by way of government subsidy but through the infusion of fresh private capital (Las Vegas Monorail).
Another monorail system that has put skeptics in bad light is the Airtrain Network that connects major points in and around Newark Liberty International Airport. This Monorail System is 1.9 kilometers in length and commuters are given a free ride if they shuttle in and around the terminal. If commuters want to get off and enter the terminal from the downtown station, a fare equivalent to 5.5 dollars is collected. This again is a good example of a monorail system that works efficiently at no extra cost to the riding public (Newark).
However, if one really wants to pursue and investigate the efficiency of a monorail system, a visit to the suburbs of Japan would be appropriate to know first hand the importance of the system. Japan relies heavily on the monorail system for its inner city transportation needs. Although sad to say, their system is geared as a profit making venture. In the hindsight, the Japanese government may just be right in their use of the monorail system, because the people in Japan can afford the fare. Since the Japanese populace is considered one of the highest earning ethnic groups in the world, so even a raise in fare will not really matter (Monorails).
Solutions in building monorail systems: The main problem that plagues cities in the 21st century is traffic congestion brought about by the people’s penchant for automobiles. Despite the escalating fuel cost, many would visit automobile showrooms to purchase cars, adding only to the crises condition on our roads and highways. As the number of cars on the road increase, the construction of roads and highways is somewhat at a stand still to produce a marked disparity and bringing the ratio down even further. It is expected that traffic would really be unbearable within the next ten years or so if nothing radical is done to resolve it.
The only solution is probably to impose exorbitant taxes on vehicles to discourage people from buying one – just like what was applied to the cigarette. But there must be an alternate transport system to encourage people to give up their cars. And probably the best solution is the monorail system because it can be devised to serve the inner nook and cranny of the city. The subway is best only in terms of long distance travel but never with inner city transport.
The monorail system is designed to ply overhead. In principle commuters will not be affected by the congestion below, since it has a definite track. Therefore, going in and out of the city center will not be burden anymore where shopping and dining could be done in ease to revive the excitement within. Since monorail stations are found in strategic locations, these likewise allow commuters to just walk around and there is really no need to invest in cars; a sentiment shared in New York City with only 25% of the population owns and maintain cars.
A cumbersome time to get caught up in the city proper is during game days, particularly with upcoming basketball and baseball games. All roads going to the stadium and ballparks are clogged, that to see the games becomes an exercise in patience and perseverance. Nevertheless, a monorail system and station that mystically exits on the stadium entrance will certainly be a great relief.
The monorail will be the thing of the future, especially if the kinks of the present installation procedures are effectively ironed out. As the popularity and advantage of the monorail sinks into the consciousness of the inhabitants, the dependence on the automobile will start to wane which would serve as a signal that the plausibility of the monorail system is now accepted.
And as the number of cars on the streets diminishes, traffic congestion will clear out and the environment will be cleaner since carbon dioxide emissions will be controlled. Only then will cities live under a vibrant and healthier environment.
If we were given the privilege to examine more closely other forms of transport systems (light rail, heavy rail, subway, etc.), the consensus would point out to the promise of the monorail system. Although at present, the technological edge that is supposed to define the system has not yet been perfected; the monorail system would eventually prove its worth in the coming years, that it is indeed the better alternative or maybe the only alternative.
In concept the monorail dwarfs other system because it is practically installed overhead while running on its own tracks and separated from all the congestion felt on the roads. When people see the advantages of the monorail, particularly on the side of convenience and economy, they will most likely voluntarily give up their cars and embrace wholeheartedly the monorail system.
So whether you are in a large urban area or a small community, you must be served by a monorail system, because it is the only way to travel in style, safety and convenience at truly affordable fare rates.
How do we plan the development of the monorail system in a small community? The best way to start is with communities that have not yet progressed commercially because the infrastructure system is not yet well defined. You can actually alter the urban landscape to be in line with the plans of a local monorail system. What derail a community’s desire to include a monorail system in its development program are the restrictions put in place by legislators, obviously to prevent overcrowding.
In smaller communities, the restrictions are not as encompassing when compared to larger urban areas. Therefore, developing a monorail system will not be as difficult. Besides, a smaller community will probably need only a few kilometers of monorail line and with corresponding stops and stations. It is not therefore a complicated matter nor would it be difficult to convince property owners on the merits of the monorail system being considered.
Like most urban areas, the community must tap the expertise of professionals in the planning of the new monorail line. Expertise is important because the monorail system carries permanent structures that cannot be uprooted when one gets tired of it. Moreover, they know the system thoroughly so that future expansion plans will jibe with the system now being planned.
Once all the necessary details are ironed out, it is up to the government to scout for a system that fits their requirements. If the community officials are discouraged by the expense incurred by most cities in their monorail programs, look for other options. Compare technologies and corresponding prices and send your detailed plans and specifications to manufacturers so they can present a more accurate estimate of the system that will suit your needs.
It will be a surprise for the community officials to learn that there are other systems that are way out cheaper but with comparable technological edge, particularly those applied in other countries. Check with authorities having jurisdiction over the monorail system, so you will be informed of its good points and negative perceptions about the product installed.
Perhaps conduct an ocular inspection on the system being undertaken by the company, together with some members of the council, to convince everybody that a particular system will work seamlessly for your community. When everybody becomes satisfied with the performance of the system being proposed, the next step would be to sign the contract and let the installation commence.
The success of a monorail system in a smaller community would depend largely on the response of the inhabitants. Because even if the community has the best monorail system installed, if the community refuses to patronize it then all efforts will just come to naught, even though how noble the intentions may be.
The endeavor must involve community effort and everybody must contribute to make it work. Always make the inhabitants feel that this is their monorail because they are paying for it. This is especially true if the funds used to finance the monorail system come from taxes levied against motor vehicles registered with the local motor vehicles offices or probably from additional taxes imposed on those who patronize the local dining facilities.
In the end, when inhabitants see the relevance of the new monorail system, they will just gravitate towards it and enjoy the ease and convenience that the system offers. Of course, monorail systems in smaller communities are not expected to operate for intended profits, but fares are collected simply to cover maintenance expenses and employee wages.
Need I say more!
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