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Puget Sound Transportation Projects

King County Monorail

Map of proposed King County Monorail system

This is a plan to build a monorail system in King County that would connect major regional hubs. A MAJOR benefit of this plan is that it would connect several areas of high employment with Seattle and points south...where many of the employees live. While Sound Transit has done a fine job with Sounder trains getting people to Seattle and express buses to some other locations, there has been little work done or planned to deal with getting large amounts of employees from Redmond, Bellevue, Bothell to Seattle and Tacoma.

Why monorail? As has been shown with Vancouver's SkyTrain a grade-separated system is capable of high speeds and reliability. While it can cost more to build than an at-grade system, the unique topography and urbanization of the Eastside area demand the smallest footprint possible. South of Bellevue you are literally stuck between the foothills and the lake, and the area from Bellevue to Bothell is highly urbanized. A twin beam monorail takes up much less space than an at-grade light rail system. Also, there is no way in the current anti tax climate that the money would be found for building light rail right-of-way on a new 520 bridge, but a monorail would take little extra room.

Note: the passage of Sound Transit 2 does allow for light rail on the Interstate 90 bridge but many of the other issues still remail.

One question is there are no systems like this in the US today. However the short line in downtown Seattle from the 1964 World's Fair has turned a profit, and Las Vegas' privately built system opened in July 2004. However, the failure of the Seattle Monorail system may negatively impact this project (see the below).

Thoughts/Future: Back to Top

While this project looked promising and would solve a major transportation issue, namely the lack of high-speed reliable transit in one of the densest areas of Puget Sound with many of the state's major employers, the failure of the Seattle Monorail Project almost certainly will kill this. While the Seattle project suffered from planning and marketing errors, it also suffered from one of the biggest problems in Western Washington: property is VERY expensive here. And since few or no previous transportation corridors exist, land must be purchased at market rate. Furthermore, the voters are very reluctant to approve any new taxes, no matter how necessary.

What will be the end result for transit on the Eastside? It is hard to say. There is a plan under discussion to implement a busway/Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along 405, which would help greatly. There are also discussions to repurpose an old railroad corridor that is lightly used currently. However, there is resistance to and issues with both plans.

Links: Back to Top

Map: © King County Monorail Website