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As a lifelong user of public transportation, I started reading “The Little Monorail That Could” (3/7) with great enthusiasm. I’ve been fascinated with the possibilities of this technology for years, and I looked forward to an insightful piece that would enlighten me on the pros and cons, and the tradeoffs involved in adding monorail to our area’s transportation mix.
Alas, reading David Morton’s barely disguised ad for the Georgia Monorail Consortium simply engendered in me hostility toward the whole monorail “movement.”
Morton’s “research” seems to have consisted almost entirely of talking with local monorail enthusiasts and the CEO of the Consortium. Nowhere is there any evidence that he sought the views of critics of the technology. Instead, he dismisses concerns about monopoly suppliers, rerouting difficulties, and public acceptance of what is essentially a different form of elevated train as “lies.” Supporters of light rail are castigated as ’50s nostalgia freaks, even though Morton himself notes that such a system would work along the original Bethesda-to-Silver Spring route.
Nowhere does Morton explain how the new monobeam technology actually works. Are cars suspended in air, hanging off the sides of the single beam? Gus D’Angelo’s illustrations don’t help, because they seem to be based on traditional monorail technology.
Buried in this multi-page paean to this monobeam monorail was this glaring fact: “Owens [of the Consortium] hasn’t actually built one of these things yet. Neither has South Carolina-based Futrex, although Futrex has built a quarter-scale modelwith federal aidin Charleston.”
So Morton is proposing to build one of the major transportation projects in the region using unproven technology? And, having told us that the federal government subsidized construction of the scale model, he then approvingly quotes Owens: “Subsidizing is socialism.”
A longtime reader has to wish that Jack Shafer were still at the helm of the Washington City Paper. Apparently, no one there recognizes the difference between journalism and advertising.