About those monorails…

A 1960 plan to build 74.9 miles of monorails at a cost of $529.7 million never left the ground. Map provided by Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library at Metro.

There’s been some murmurings about town recently about building monorails-along-freeways as a mass transit fix for the region.

Click above to see larger image.

As long-time transit observers know, the monorail idea has, in fact, been kicked around before. The above plan, floated in 1960, never got airborne because of community opposition, in particular, to an elevated line along Wilshire Boulevard, according to the Metro library. (I highly recommend a visit to the library’s website for a firsthand view of many other transit plans put forth in the last century that went belly up).

Building a monorail along the 101 freeway was also discussed in the 1990s but never got anywhere because, in part, of concerns that the freeway would have to be widened and bridges rebuilt to accommodate support columns.

More recently, a monorail was looked at again as part of the alternatives analysis for the Westside Subway Extension project. The chart at right, taken from chapter 2 of that study, shows some of the issues involved with building elevated rail lines. Metro planners and the Board of Directors of the agency eventually chose a subway as the best mode of transit for the Wilshire corridor.

This image of a monorail station at Fairfax and Wilshire is from Metro's alternatives analysis study that reviewed different types of mass transit that could serve the Westside. One issue with monorails, the study found, was that the support infrastructure and stations would dominate the streetscape.

As for building transit along freeways, that too has long been discussed and has even come to pass — most of the Green Line is in the middle of the 105 freeway and parts of the Gold Line in Pasadena are in the middle of the 210 freeway. A Sepulveda Pass transit line is also part of the Measure R sales tax package of transit projects, but planning for that line has not yet begun — so we don’t know what exactly it will be and whether it would follow the 405 freeway or go under it, etc.

The freeway corridors are, I think everyone agrees, tempting for transit because the right-of-way is already there. But here’s the policy question: if one of our goals is to create pedestrian-friendly, transit-friendly communities, does it make sense to put rail lines in the middle of freeways — where they are often disconnected from surrounding neighborhoods?

1 reply

  1. It’s about time LA’s city planners
    started taking monorail seriously. For decades we complimented ourselves on being the city of the future… this sort of thinking really underscores that.

    As for the possibility of using existing freeway right-of-ways to build such a network, in some places (e.g. the westside) that seems inescapable; in others, like midtown, Hollywood, the south side and valley, wide boulevards allow ample space for both monorail and also greenways/bike paths.

    Sure would make streets like Venice and Van Nuys a lot nicer to look at than ten lanes of pavement and massive car dealerships.