Did you Know...?

bulletWe believe that Cap. Metro does not fairly compare monorail and light rail capital construction costs and is therefore highly biased in favor of light rail:

The Cap. Metro study which ranked light rail transit (LRT) first and monorail sixth (last) used cost information that compared typical light rail capital costs per mile of representative systems (typically 12.4 to 58.6 million, with an average capital cost of $30.0 million and a median of $25.3 million), against three of the most expensive monorail projects either planned or in existence at $103 - $186 million/mile (and the quoted cost figure of $162 million/mile for the Las Vegas monorail system is exaggerated). This is only one problem with this cost study. We post what we believe is a comprehensive list of flaws below:

1. Cap Metro's light rail costs are based on other 'representative' LRT systems, NOT Cap Metros's OWN ESTIMATED LRT System Costs for Austin.

2. The 'representative' Light Rail Costs listed are not even representative of what is being proposed for new LRT systems or extensions to existing LRT systems based on our research into the Federal Transit Administration's 2001 Annual Report on New Starts (FY02)! Instead, the capital construction costs for LRT systems quoted by Cap Metro average significantly less in cost per mile than the systems listed in the 2001 Annual Report on New Starts (FY02).

3. Three of the lowest-cost LRT systems or extensions listed by the Cap Metro study are not representative of the capital construction costs incurred by entirely new rapid transit systems.

4. The Cap Metro study does not list the most expensive light rail segment in the country: Central Link LRT (MOS-1), Seattle WA, at $352 Million / Mile, nor even their Central Link LRT (MOS-2 and MOS-3), Seattle WA segment at $83 Million / Mile.

5. The Monorails selected as 'representative' Monorail systems by the Cap Metro study are three of the most expensive Monorail systems either planned or operating and are not representative of typical Monorail capital construction costs. One should look instead at the cost structure of Seattle's planned Monorail system.

For a complete discussion of these issues and other cost comparisons between Monorail and LRT, please see this page.


Cap Metro's own projected light rail projected rider-ship figures appear to be in conflict:

1. Projected 2025 demand for Austin’s initial north-south light-rail line is 3,700 passengers in the peak hour in the peak direction; the Austin projections show a demand of 1,200 passengers during the peak 15-minutes of the day in the peak direction- the equivalent of 4,800 passengers per hour) (Revised Executive Summary Milestone 2: Urban Transit Vehicles, p. 6).
2. Weekday year 2025 transit passenger trips: 165,131 (Revised Executive Summary Milestone 1 10-12-01, p. 16, Appendix A, Alternative 1)

Using their figure of 165,131 transit passenger trips per day (we assume that this means per any one weekday, and not as a total for all five weekdays) and estimating an 18 hour commuter day (our estimate), this comes out to 9174 passengers per hour or 4587 passengers per hour per direction. Yet, this is the average over 18 hours; therefore, how can Cap Metro also use approximately this same figure as a peak rider-ship number (rush-hour rider-ship). If Cap Metro has an answer to this question or if we are misinterpreting this data, we would certainly like to know- otherwise, this could seriously affect their cost projections. We will, however, try to resolve this apparent conflict by procuring data from other sources, such as Cap Metro's submissions to the Federal Transit Administration.


Cap. Metro is proposing that portions of their light rail route alternatives (Alternatives 4 and 5)  or all of their light rail route (Alternative 6- except for East Austin spur) could be elevated (source: Rapid Transit Project Revised Executive Summary Milestone 1 10-12-01 pp. 9-11). Light rail relies on flanged steel wheels. Derailments do occur. Which alternative would you rather have for the elevated portions of the transit line: a light rail vehicle which relies on flanged steel wheels that can derail, or a monorail which was designed for elevated operation and cannot derail?


Two cars derail at 40th/Wabash on April 6, 1972. One car is totally on the ground; the end can be seen under the side door of the car leaning against the structure. (AP wire photo, contributed by Michael Roegner)

See story link here.

See more light rail safety issues here.

bulletIn Japan, where monorails are widely used, in 37 years of operation, there has not been a single injury or fatality caused by the operation of monorails? In contrast, according to this site with data compiled from United States Department of Transportation data there have been 81 fatalities due to light rail in the years 1990-1997 alone?

Also, consider the visual impact of such an elevated light rail structure: the support structure is likely to be wider and have more visual impact than that of a narrow-beam monorail. In addition, the overhead wires for such an elevated light rail system would still have to be placed above the elevated transit-way! Can you think of an uglier system?


More than 20 Monorail Systems made by BOMBARDIER/VON ROLL/ADTRANZ are in operation worldwide? Darling Harbor-Sydney, Australia; Canada; Japan; Singapore; Newark International Airport (opened 1995); Disney; Las Vegas Source: DMJM+Harris Monorail Technology Assessment (p. 52)


According to the Light Rail Terminology webpage, the term 'Light Rail Vehicle' or LRV was introduced to 'try to give the tram or trolley a more upmarket image'


On an  'S-shaped' curve on a light-rail system in Salt Lake City, the light rail vehicles can screech so much that 'crews, equipped with buckets and brushes, go out once a week to "lubricate" the inside edge of TRAX's tracks through the S-curve.'  "We're still experimenting with a vegetable-based oil and a graphite mixture", aid UTA rail-services director Paul O'Brien.' 

· Is this where you want your hard-earned tax money going? To pay crews to go out weekly and squirt vegetable oil on the tracks to keep them from screeching? In contrast, Monorail, being rubber-wheel on concrete beam technology, can never screech and will never require crews to lubricate the rails weekly with the equivalent of essentially salad dressing and pencil shavings. Is it a wonder that Monorail will have lower maintenance costs?

Read about it here


The Cap Metro Milestone-2 study twists facts to present benefits as detriments. A quote from this study reads:

· 'Because the guideway is a beam, it is not possible to provide simple at-grade crossings, and consequently monorail systems are almost always elevated.'


In reality, the facts have been twisted by the study to imply that 'at-grade' crossings are always desirable. The entire objective of Monorail is to provide grade separation so that interference by or with surface vehicles is not possible. The statement should read:

· 'Because Monorail systems are almost always elevated, the guideway can be a beam which allows Monorail to glide effortlessly over congested surface traffic.'

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Last updated: 04/13/03.