Why Monorail Makes Good Economic Sense


Guaranteed Mobility

One anti-mass transit report claims is it more expensive to build new commuter systems than to lease every rider a $55,000 plus Jaguar XJ8 or BMW 7-series car:


Why is this report misleading?

Because monorail can provide something that neither conventional light rail nor a new Jaguar XJ8 CANNOT provide: GUARANTEED MOBILITY to and from points downtown, along the northwest corridor route, and to and from the airport, especially during rush hours. Think of it: the Jaguar or BMW is very good at providing luxury, but it is first and foremost a transportation vehicle. Its primary function is transportation. Automobiles CANNOT provide GUARANTEED MOBILITY (fast, safe, reliable) downtown nor on any main street. Light rail does a somewhat better job at mobility if given priority at intersections, but this will only snarl the vehicle traffic even more. And if portions of light rail are elevated to solve these problems, then this is attempting to accomplish what monorail is DESIGNED to accomplish.

We are not against increased mobility that expansion of roads in areas not served by the monorail. However, we believe that an Austin Monorail system makes great sense for the routes that we have identified. A comprehensive transportation plan must address both.


GUARANTEED MOBILITY will Promote Increased Ridership

Imagine if students and workers at downtown government, university, and business locations could be guaranteed to get to their offices and classrooms on time. Busses cannot guarantee mobility. Light rail cannot guarantee mobility. And certainly automobiles cannot guarantee mobility. Only monorail has the capacity to move a lot of people quickly, safely, and reliably.

Guaranteed mobility means that employees will be willing to work in new areas of the city not previously open to them without major disruption of their lifestyles. A high-tech worker who lives Northwest might consider working at a company located Southeast. A student living relatively far from her university could be guaranteed to get to class on time, without leaving home a full hour or more before class. A professor or state government worker could actually arrive at work on time. Guaranteed mobility is an enormous incentive for riders to switch to monorail. Businesses and government will reap higher productivity from workers arriving at their offices on time.


Monorail is the Only Public Transit that can Operate at a Profit. Why??


Monorails may be automated- Unlike light rail, monorails may be automated and may not require drivers. Light rail systems operate at a loss and require public subsidy money. A large portion of the operating expense must be paid to vehicle operators. Monorails offer the opportunity to become automated, thus eliminating this expense.  Because light rail operates at surface level, light rail will never offer the option of being automated and therefore will always have to be subsidized by the taxpayer.


Monorail stations can produce a profit- Dick Falkenbury, author of Initiative 41 which put monorail before the voters in Seattle, imagines additional ways in which revenue may be raised:

'The twenty-eight stations will not just be places to catch a train but commercial centers where you can get a cup of coffee, a meal, groceries, drop off or pick up dry-cleaning, check out a library book or pick up your child from day care. They will produce a profit.'

Obviously, design of monorail stations must be carefully chosen to balance out the minimalist stations we depict in our animations for less dense areas against fully enclosed stations with retail and other businesses located inside. And this is where monorails really shine. The ability of monorail stations to be incorporated into airports, hotels, shopping centers and other buildings make them ideal vehicles to integrate with local businesses. Monorails are quiet and do not intrude.

See these first two pictures on this page from the Monorail Society, which depicts the Sydney Monorail City Centre Station hidden in a shopping center, and the interior of the Oasis Shopping Centre in Broadbeach Australia, in which a monorail track has been blended into the top level of the center.

Monorails have lower operating costs and therefore lower total costs- Although monorail capital construction costs may not always be lower than light rail, one should consider 30-year operating costs, not just capital construction costs in any comparison.

Some of the factors contributing to monorails having lower operating costs are:

  1. Monorail vehicles are not subject to collisions like light rail vehicles and therefore do not have to be replaced prior to end-of-lifetime due to accidents.

  2. Unlike bus traffic, monorails do not damage the roadway and therefore avoid the cost of roadway repairs.

  3. Monorails may be automated, thereby eliminating what could be up to 80% of system operating costs (drivers)

  4. Monorails run rubber tires on smooth concrete beams. It is not unusual for these tires to last over 100,000 miles before having to be replaced. Replacement costs are low.


Existing Monorail Systems which Make a Profit Each Year:


According to The Monorail Initiative, a group supporting another monorail system for the city of Seattle, an older existing monorail called the Seattle City Monorail easily makes a profit each year.


According to the Monorail Society, the Tokyo-Haneda monorail is privately owned and turns a 'handsome profit' each year.


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Last updated: 03/27/02.