after zipping our way to the top of the Space Needle and wandering our way, gobsmacked, through the Chihuly Gallery & Garden, we headed to downtown Seattle via the Monorail, which was also built to connect visitors to the World’s Fair grounds with downtown. the project cost $3.5 million in 1962 and opened several months prior to opening day of the Fair. over 80 million people ride the Monorail during the course of the Fair, though now ridership is about 2 million per year (I wonder if we counted as two people each — one for each direction).
the Monorail has two tracks and two trains. we rode on both — the short one in the middle of the day and the longer one going back during rush hour. the original trains operate today as they did when the Monorail opened in 1962. their top speed is 45 mph and a driver pushes it up to that speed — preferably on the straightaway and not on that last curve before it goes through the Experience Music Project building. the Monorail that exists today runs for about a mile along (above) Fifth Avenue. as one friend put it, the goal was to make it like the El in Chicago. that did not happen. now it runs from the Seattle Center — home to the Space Needle, Experience Music Project, Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, the Pacific Science Center, and an array of music and conference venues — to the Westlake Shopping Center.
there have been three noteworthy accidents involving the Monorail — two of which occurred in the last decade. no major injuries in any instances — two fires and one collision that took a door off one train as the two passed one another on a curve.
the running joke from our tour guide on the Underground Tour (about which more later) is that the Monorail is (yet another) example of Seattle starting in enthusiastically on public works projects and then running out of public interest, enthusiasm, money, or all of the above. the proposal dating from 1997 outlined a five-line monorail system to spread all across Seattle, incorporating the existing red line that we rode. after eight failed ballot initiatives proposing and spending almost $125 million in taxpayer funds (levied on all the cars registered in Seattle) to attempt to expand the line, the supervising authority agreed to dissolve itself (in failure). perhaps everyone in Seattle who wishes to illustrate a failed endeavor refers to the Monorail?