The Monorail Society

Why Monorails are a Bad Idea

YouTuber "Adam Something" has videos supporting trains and mass transit, but recently he posted a video explaining Why Monorails Are A Bad Idea. It's a fairly popular video garnering over a million views in less than a year.

Adam's complaints (and our rebuttal)

  1. Since monorail track is only for monorails, conventional trains can't use it. The example given is how, with several sets of conventional track, you can have passenger trains and freight trains using the same lines.

    Yes Adam, monorail track is only for monorail trains. There will definitely not be any conventional/steel wheeled trains up on the monorail track.

  2. Monorail track switches are 1) far more complicated than conventional rail switches, and 2) if there’s a problem with a switch it takes far, far longer to repair than a conventional rail switch, and 3) conventional trains can move much faster over their switches.

    Switch maintenance issues? Does Japan, China, Egypt, Sau Paulo, Las Vegas, Disneyland, Disney World, Korea, and India have switch issues threatening their monorail systems? Anyone? As far as moving slow over switches; monorails are not designed for nor are they required to reach the speeds of conventional trains. Monorails are for dense inner-city transit, with top speeds of only about 40 mph, consequently they don't need high-speed switches. High-speed trains traversing vast countryside between cities require high-speed switches.

  3. Monorails are elevated and therefore more expensive to build than conventional (at grade level) rail systems.

    Yes Adam, monorails are usually elevated, so yes, installation it typically more expensive than laying track on the ground. The extra cost is well worth the benefits of having track that is up and out of the way.

  4. If a monorail is added to a conventional light rail system, existing maintenance equipment and training can't be used on the monorail. Equipment to service the monorail must be purchased and the service staff trained in its use.

    Yes Adam, like any machine, a monorail needs maintenance equipment, and support personnel need to be trained in the use of such equipment.

  5. Conventional trains can move more people than monorail. He starts by showing how a typical lightrail line in Europe has more riders in 5 months than the Sydney monorail had in it's entire 26 year lifetime. He then shows how the lightrail line's numbers match even those of the longest monorail line in the world (China’s Chonaoeu line) - even though the monorail line is much longer and with many more stations.

    Monorails can move as many people as they're designed to move. Build one to move 20 people and it will move 20 people. Build one to move 20 million people, and it will move 20 million people. There is nothing magical or mysterious here, it’s just an elevated train. And as with anything, if placed in an in an environment facilitating and maximizing its usage, prominence and value, it will succeed. The Sydney monorail was never designed nor intended to move many people. Chinese monorails have exactly the number of riders China wants them to have.

He shows pictures of Elon Musk, and states with a laugh: "Monorails are a version of high-tech, futuristic, over-priced, over-hyped, yet very low capacity transit, which are for the few and not the many."

TMS says: Monorails are for everyone! Hundreds of thousands of people from rich and diverse socio-economic statuses ride monorails every day. Monorails futuristic? That's funny, Wikipedia says they've existed since 1820.

Try again Adam!

TMS - 6/4/2019