The Coastal Post - April, 1997

Is There A Monorail In Our Future?

BY JOAN REUTINGER

Did you see the article about trains in the Sunday, March 9 edition of the IJ? The first article says Michael Arnold's disappointed about the Calthorpe study on a Marin-Sonoma light rail commuter train, because it doesn't link with the City (you'd have to take the ferry or bus to the City), and because a train service would be hideously expensive. Arnold asks, "How did Calthorpe derive the conclusion there would be thousands of train commuters? You can't tell from this study who these people are or whether this represents a conservative or an optimistic assumption."

The Dorothy Hughes article is a nostalgic piece. "Life was easy. No traffic jams, no smog." She goes on, "We took the train to the top of Mt. Tam and to West Marin." How she got to West Marin by train is anyone's guess, unless she meant Point Reyes Station. There was no train to West Marin after the abortive efforts of William Kent in 1905 to establish service.

But the other article by Ernest Lautsch was more informative. It was entitled "I see the future-and it works: a Disney-like monorail." He writes, "I know my timing is off, but the other night-well, quite frankly, for a long time I was wondering why the people pushing all of this mass transit don't think about the future. I mean, what is so futuristic about another train carrying passengers?"

He goes on to explain that the Disneyland monorail has been in place since 1955; that a monorail could be installed right down the middle of Highway 101, pylons on each side for two-directional traffic. It all seems so easy. Highway 101 wouldn't be torn up for long, just long enough to get the pylons in place. "There would be no pollution. It would be quiet, since it's electric, and it would be no bother to anyone on the ground-homes, farm animals (there are none along the freeway), humans or cars. Since there would be no on-ground street crossings, it could roll along at higher speeds and go in a straighter line between cities than the old trains that planners are so eager to pour all our tax dollars into."

Has anyone ever even thought of a monorail? Our planners seem bent on trains. All the plans are about trains-ever since 1972, and that's over 30 years ago. Just think of the money we've wasted on plans! And now we have a $400,000 plan by Calthorpe which would cost nearly $900 million to be paid for by the taxpayers if they vote for a half-cent tax measure by a two-thirds majority.

The monorail would have to have plans too, but wouldn't it be better to get the rail question settled once and for all? But after so much money has been expended for tracks, by both the federal government, the county, and the Bridge District, I suppose that's too much to ask.