Hello, my name is Bryan, and I’m a transit geek.

Yes, one of my hobbies since I was a kid is watching and living the vehicles and the operations of most forms of transit:  buses, trains, ferries, streetcars, and whatnot.  I have, however, a special fascination for the monorail.

The Seattle Center Monorail was born the same year I was, in 1962.  When I was very young, it was futuristic.  As I was growing up, it remained a marvel of transportation to me, gliding through the air so effortlessly and quietly.  Later in life, it became a source of inspiration and dreams of what could be, as plans came and went for a monorail system connecting the four corners of the City of Seattle.  You can count me among those who would have seen the monorail plan work.  With those dreams dashed for the moment, I have seen the lustre of the monorail fall away.  I have seen it described in articles as a “vintage” monorail.

Recently, although it has been going through some refurbishing, there are some issues that have caused some issues recently such as a small fire and a number of mechanical issues aboard.  Yesterday, a leaking air valve malfunction caused the monorail train to stop midway between its two stations, necessitating the full load of 200 passengers to be rescued via fire department ladders.  The other train, in testing after being refurbished, was eventually put into use early to shuttle passengers between the stuck train and the station.

I have to admit that I wish I had been there.  No, I don’t want to see the thing break down and inconvenience a trainload of passengers.  But it would have been interesting to experience just what happens when something goes wrong, and to witness all of the people doing things right to make sure that all is well ad that people can be taken off the train safely.  The rescuers who pulled off this feat are truly skilled and gifted with the abilities to make things work.  My hat is off to them!

I would only hope that we can get a citywide plan working and together somehow.  While the thought of a fleet of monorails criss-crossing the city seems to not be feasible for now, the light rail seems to be the next best step.  Perhaps the monorail is not best suited for now as a transportation alternative to light rail   But it does seem to work well for short, bust segments like getting large numbers of people from a downtown transit and tourist hub (Westlake Mall) to a busy and popular attraction (the Seattle Center).  There are certainly other applications out there where a monorail might be a very efficient way of getting people between two busy and well-defined points.  The Waterfront/Ferry Terminal to Downtown comes to mind, or Downtown Seattle to the Hospitals, or perhaps even Downtown to the U-District.

In any case, I just had two thoughts on the article about the monorail breaking down with a full load of passengers aboard.  One is that it reminded me that the monorail is still there doing it’s job (mostly) well, considering it’s limited budget.  Second, it reminded me of a comment from my post of a few weeks back on the ferry Elwha breaking down:

Ahoy to newspaper writers, TV editors, and bloggers — GET A LIFE! If 200 people on a light rail train had to be towed to their destination, it wouldn’t have been the result of a breakdown of management at the transit system’s offices. It would have been the result of a breakdown of a part on the train. The bus has mechanical problems sometimes. Your car has mechanical problems sometimes. So does the ferry. Get over it, media!

So I guess I will not blame this one on any possible breakdowns of management at Seattle Monorail Services.  We will have to write it up as a mechanical breakdown of the train itself.  So there.