The City Council today yanked its support for the Seattle Monorail, dealing a blow that council members declared would kill the embattled transit project.
In a unanimous vote, the nine-member council passed a resolution saying the city will deny street-use permits for the monorail’s proposed 14-mile Green Line.
A unanimous vote.
While the pragmatist in me agrees with the Council’s decision, I can’t help but feel wistful for what might have been. The Monorail was a bold, outrageous and exciting dream, and as columnist Danny Westneat poignantly observes in today’s Seattle Times: “Cities would wither without dreamers.”
And so rather than mourn the death of the Monorail, I’ve decided to celebrate the imagination and passion of the dreamers who envisioned it, by proposing a truly unique elevated transit vision of my own: The Seattle Rollercoaster Project.
Of course, it will take a couple hundred million dollars to determine the final route and design, but I’m guessing existing elevations would surely support a gravity-powered track along the West Seattle to downtown portion of the SMP’s proposed Green Line… and unlike the Monorail, the SRP would rely on a tried and true rail technology that has been widely used in thousands of locations for over 100 years.
Still, all transit technologies have their plusses and minuses. On the plus side, the SRP could potentially speed passengers from West Seattle to the downtown waterfront in under a minute… depending on the number of loop-the-loops and hair-raising, hairpin turns. On the minus side, the return trip back up the long, rickety, chain-driven ramp could take well over an hour, and the open-air cars aren’t well suited towards our rainy clime. (And of course, the biggest drawback is that you have to be taller than Mickey to ride.)
But in a city where voters have four times approved an elevated rail system based on Disneyland technology, why not just choose the most popular amusement park ride of them all? I’ve never seen anybody zig-zag through a 45-minute line with two, screaming, sugar-jacked kids in tow, just to ride a city bus… but a rollercoaster would virtually guarantee ridership, even under the worst conditions. Indeed, no transportation alternative is more likely to coax Seattlites out of their precious cars and onto public transit than the SRP.
But why stop there when we can truly turn Seattle into the most magical place on earth? We could recreate the pioneer days of the original “Skid Row” by building a giant flume ride down Yesler! And don’t tear down that Viaduct, when with few modifications we could transform it into a frighteningly realistic knockoff of the “Earthquake” ride at Universal Studios!
Yes, all it takes to solve our region’s transportation needs is a little imagination and a dream.
Or, barring that… I suppose we could settle for a coherent, multi-modal regional strategy, and a boring transportation package that tediously prioritizes fixing and replacing the decaying infrastructure we already have.
Still, that rollercoaster sure would be fun.