There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Karl Parker earned his way into the monorail hall of fame with a 15-minute movie short. Why Not Monorail? documents the benefits of elevated travel along narrow concrete guideways. It may be the most important argument for this long-overlooked transit technology ever committed to videotape.
But it was with My Own Private Monorail, a more personal work than its sequel, that Parker’s vision of Washington-area transit was first realized. In this 1998 film, Parker, 31, chronicles his conversion from harried Beltway commuter to single-minded single-rail devotee. In the climactic scene, Parker is watering the plants in his grandparents’ house when he comes across a black-and-white photo of Wuppertal, Germany’s eight-mile Schwebebahn, at 102 the oldest operating monorail system in the world.
“I’ve always known that it was a suspended train, but I suddenly noticed why it was suspended,” intones the voice-over. “It was over a river. Apparently, that was all the land that was available at the time for the tracks. Suddenly an epiphany occurred.
“The river…cars…suspension…that’s it!” In the film, Parker concludes that the answer is to put suspended monorail along highway medians, and he inserts images of monorail vehicles traveling above the Beltway. A third short film, Monobeam: A Masterplan for Maryland & Virginia, expands the utopian vision even further, showing monorail cars traveling through downtown Silver Spring and along the sides of the American Legion and Wilson Bridges.
These are the most stunning aspects of this last work: computer-generated monorail cars shown moving smoothly above shots of real highway traffic. The graphics were rendered frame by frame by Parker, who is an audiovisual technician at the National Gallery of Art.
“Karl Parker offered his video production skills in 2000 in a way that has altered the image of monorail in many circles,” reads text pulled from the online “Hall of Fame” of the Monorail Society, a global advocacy group founded in 1989 by Californian Kim Pedersen. With his induction, Parker joined such legendary figures as cabdriver Dick Falkenbury, father of Seattle’s monorail movement, a remarkable phenomenon Parker hopes can be repeated here one day.
Parker has a nostalgic connection to monorail. Wuppertal, the smallish city over which the Schwebebahn, or “suspended railway,” soars, is his grandfather’s hometown. The old photo that sparked his imagination is now posted next to the front door of Parker’s basement apartment in Laurel. He also has an old electric model of the Schwebebahn that used to belong to his grandfather perched atop one of his shelves, above a vast collection of owls and Star Wars props.
“I guess the really cool thing about it is it’s a flying train,” says Parker. “It seems to break all the rules.”
Parker has a ready audience for his obsessions: the 2,800 members of the Monorail Society and the dozen enthusiasts who constitute the Maryland-Virginia Monobeam-monorail Initiative (MVMI). They believe that a technology that dates to the days of the kaiser can unclog the congestion of today’s mega-cities.
But as Maryland gears up to spend a billion or so on transit linking some of the densest communities of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, monorail is on the fringes of the debate, despite its obvious benefits. The electric-powered monorail, say Parker and his cohorts, would erase almost all the concerns about cost, land use, and disruptive construction that have curlicued the proposed Purple Line in controversy.
If angels lost their wings, they’d probably use monorail. It’s cheap, quick, and easy to build. Unlike light rail and Metrorailthe two current options for the Purple Linea monorail leaps easily over traffic or terrain below. It obviates the need for expensive tunneling and minimizes the trauma of street-level construction. Moreover, monorail is safer than the alternatives. In 1999, while the Wuppertal line was under renovation, a worker left a clamp on the rail and four people died as a car derailed and fell to the ground. Though tragic, these are the only four deaths out of more than a billion passengers in the hundred-year history of mass-transit monorail, according to the Monorail Society.
But the dream doesn’t end with the Purple Line. In Monobeam, which Parker produced for the MVMI, a map shows a monorail line running from Fredericksburg in Virginia to downtown Baltimore, traveling across the Wilson Bridge, up through Anacostia, College Park, and the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. (This is called the “Scenic Rivers Line.”) Another line stretches from Virginia’s Tysons Corner to Maryland’s Montgomery Mall, to Wheaton, Langley Park, and College Park. A smaller leg would connect Silver Spring to the Baltimore route at BWI, passing through White Oak. The MVMI would also like to see monorail out to Washington Dulles International Airport.
Parker thinks monorail can rescue the whole region from its gridlock nightmare. He’s absolutely right.
About every three months, Parker attends meetings of the MVMI in the Calverton home of Stan Doore, a 70-year-old meteorologist and “systems analyst.”
There are lots of “systems” guys in the group, problem-solvers who aren’t afraid to tackle big, complicated projects. Among the apostles are a former Metrorail engineer, a Fairfax transportation commissioner who used to be a board member of the National Institute of Building Sciences, and Parker, a sort of minister of propaganda. The group is a mélange of dreamers, the slide-rule set, and some key low-level political figuresthe same winning combination, it should be noted, behind the Apollo space program.
The group’s been eyeing the Purple Line since 2001. While Virginia seems intent on spending more than $3 billion on Metrorail out to Dulles, Maryland officials have yet to settle on a final solution for their most pressing transit problem. Monorail might still have a chance.
The Purple Line is in large measure an effort to amend the Red Line. Although the familiar U-shaped Metrorail route successfully connects workers in the populous Montgomery County suburbs with employment centers in the city, its ’60s planners didn’t adequately account for a future when the suburbs themselves would become major work centers. The Red Line isn’t designed to move people rapidly from, say, Silver Spring to Bethesda. Depending on the time of day, that five-mile commute can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. And if you’re traveling from much of Northwest Washington to Silver Spring, or from Northeast Washington to Bethesda, forget about it. Everyone knows it’s time to link the prongs of the U.
Maryland officials are looking for more than a billion in federal assistance to help them do so, as well as stretch the line, in phases, into Prince George’s County. There are currently two proposals on the table for the Purple Line. One favors a financially infeasible extension of Metrorail. The other is a more doable 14-mile light-rail line costing $1.4 billion.
The plan would rip road surfaces to shreds during what could be a decade of massive rail construction, after which traffic would be further clogged with plodding electric streetcars. This proposal imagines light rail running from downtown Bethesda to Silver Spring to College Park to New Carrollton. It is endorsed by the county councils of both Montgomery and Prince George’s, and was backed by Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening before he left office
The light-rail plan has never impressed Doore. When he first checked in on the local transit debate, in the late ’90s, in fact, he was pushing for new highway construction.
Thirty-five years ago, he moved to Calverton, on the Montgomery-Prince George’s county line, because Calverton was to be near the eastern terminus of the planned intercounty connector (ICC). The ICC is the long-disputed “outer beltway” that, if ever completed, would join Interstates 95 and 270 through Montgomery’s midsectionand it would have made Doore’s commute to Rockville a breeze. But transit didn’t seem to be in his future.
As decades passed, the political will to build the ICC eroded. Environmentalists and those who doubted that a highway would alleviate traffic put up obstacles to the ICC for years. Looking for ways to get the road moving again, Doore discovered an elevated highway technology that he says would mitigate damage to wetlands. The idea inspired him to action, and Doore became one of the leaders of the pro-ICC movement, which he claims pushed Republican Robert Ehrlich over the edge in Maryland’s recent gubernatorial race.
The struggle embittered Doore toward smart-growth types and others he considers enemies of progress. Some of the same stone-agers, he says, were behind a plan to build the Purple Line light rail. He suspected their motives.
“The basic reason why the [light-rail proposal] has come to a head is to divert funds away from the ICC,” he says. “They couldn’t justify it with just Bethesda and Silver Spring, so they said, ‘Let’s look at College Park and then New Carrollton.’”
Doore resented the light-rail supporters for trying to scupper his beloved ICC. Then he came around to hating light rail itself. It was at a public meeting two years ago that he found some unlikely future allies: hikers and bikers. With a Purple Line trolley taking years to implement, the county had gone ahead and built a gravel trail along much of the county-owned Georgetown Branch freight line’s abandoned right of way, joining Chevy Chase with a popular paved trail that begins in Bethesda and goes all the way to Georgetown along the same rail bed. The Montgomery County Council is adamant that the current trail alignment from Bethesda through Chevy Chase is only temporary. When the time comes, the council says, the trail will have to move to one side (although it will be paved and extended to Silver Spring) and trees will have to come down to make room for transit.
But hikers and bikers have gotten used to a good thing. Some have joined with certain Chevy Chase interests in trying to scrap the trolley altogether. Some are worried that a Purple Line trolley would push their treasured trail into a gutter, or even completely off the right of way.
Doore’s ICC-related research into elevated highways led him to suggest to officials an alternative to light rail: an elevated transit system for the Georgetown Branch. Although many of the trees along the path would still have to come down, this plan would leave plenty of room for a trail. Further research led him to monorail.
Most know monorail as one of the landmarks of Florida’s Disney World, and like Uncle Walt himself, Doore the highwayman is now a believer in what may be the Earth’s most progressive mass-transit technology. The paradox eludes him. For Doore, it’s all about what’s practical. “No single system is going to solve the problem,” he says.
Doore joined the Monorail Society, and soon he connected with local monorail enthusiasts to form the MVMI. The group has since moved away from its Purple Line-related beginnings. It now advocates a different, outer route for a Purple Line monorail that it believes would serve more people, in a larger plan justified by the savings made possible by a cheaper technology. And that route would be just part of the expansive net of monorail covering the region. In the past two years, Doore has met with monorail manufacturers and politicians (he says he had a two-hour meeting last fall with then-candidate Ehrlich’s chief of staff), and has made the rounds of dozens of public forums throughout the area preaching the gospel. He is monorail’s ambassador to the Washington area.
But the MVMI has yet to score a concrete success. When the group puts its agenda before Purple Line planners, it encounters the myths that have held back the technology’s worldwide diffusion for over half a century.
In the 15-year history of the Purple Line debate, monorail has twice landed in the discard bin.
The first time was shortly after 1988, when the county purchased the Georgetown Branch, which cuts through many residential neighborhoods, for $10 million. As it was, light rail, which would travel at grade level along the route, gave the NIMBYs fits. County planners believed that elevating the system with monorailgiving passengers a potentially better view of yards and living roomsensured that such a package would be a nonstarter, notwithstanding their lingering hang-ups about its technical viability.
Monorail made another appearance in the 2001 Maryland Capital Beltway Corridor Transportation Study, commissioned by the state’s transportation agency. The study chucked monorail for further consideration because monorail wasn’t compatible with the existing Metrorail system, previous monorails hadn’t been “applied on such a large system,” and it is harder to predict ridership levels for monorail than for heavy or light rail.
“They don’t know what it is, so they say it’s incompatible,” says Parker. “It shows a kind of a snooty ignorance on their part.”
Someone’s been telling lies about monorail for a very, very long time.
Monorail is better because it’s thin. Thinness means construction’s a cinch, comparable in expense to that of light rail (when light rail has no obstacles to contend with), and with far less traumatic impact than the alternatives. Narrow concrete pillars are the only contact a monorail line has with the ground. Metrorail and light-rail trolleys are essentially trains; they need two steel rails for each direction. But monorail needs just one slim concrete guideway for each direction.
The latest monorail innovation reduces the infrastructure even further: It uses just one guideway for both directions. Cars ride in slots on either side of a single narrow concrete beam, the broadband of public transit: a monobeam. With just one guideway, a monobeam line hardly casts a shadow.
“There’s nothing fantastic about it, nothing unusual,” says Bill Owen, president of the Georgia Monorail Consortium, one of two U.S. purveyors of monobeam systems. “[It’s] just a big long bridge. A long narrow bridge.”
“It’s Tinkertoy stuff,” says Doore. “Tinkertoy is modular. You can punch a hole in the ground, bring in a pillar, stick it in, put the top of the pillar on, and once you have two of those, you can get a prefab beam and set it in place.” The MVMI loved it so much that it changed its nameit was originally the Maryland-Virginia Monorail Initiativedemoting “monorail” to second billing.
Monorail and its progeny have been around longer than most people realize. It’s the perfect future we forgot to have. After Wuppertal, it appeared at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland in Anaheim, Calif., in 1959, again at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, and then at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. François Truffaut featured the experimental French Chateauneuf line in his 1966 adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, the only bright spot in an otherwise bleak movie.
You can roll out monorail or monobeam across city or suburb almost as easily as ribbon from a spool. Whereas Metrorail requires billions in tunneling and light rail tears up streets and interferes with traffic, an elevated monorail leaps blithely above the fray, over highways and streams, along the sides of bridges, and even through buildings. You know how Disney World’s monorail slips smoothly through the A-frame Contemporary Resort? Just like that.
It’s as if no one had ever been to Disney World, when of course, everyone has. There, in Orlando, is the most heavily used monorail on the globe. Disney’s sleek fleet of Canadian-built craft moves as many as 200,000 passengers a day. Since 1971, more than 1 billion visitors to the park have experienced this magic-carpet ride, gliding over parking lots and Florida swamp on that elegant 15-mile guideway, through the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
Bad timing stalled monorail’s chug to inevitable world supremacy, theorizes Parker. Monorail was innovating rail technology in the ’50s, just as postwar prosperity enabled highways to cover the globe. Monorail seemed a “last-ditch gimmick effort to save rail,” says Parker. “It was like the movie theaters trying
3-D and Smell-O-Vision to keep people away from their televisions.” Also, Disney helped “typecast” monorail as a theme-park ride, not a serious mode of transportation.
With planners already dismissive of monorail, certain misperceptions took root.
•Not enough companies make monorail technologyanyone who chooses it becomes hostage to only a few small shops with the power to jack prices. A monorail supplier, goes the fear, might also go under at a moment’s notice. But the beauty of monorail is its simplicity: Parts are common, available in any rail yard.
•Routing monorail cars from one guideway to another is too complicated. It’s not. Just ask any of the dozens of cities that have implemented monorail.
•People don’t like the sky directly overhead filled with moving vehicles. “The structure itself is something smaller than a Metrorail structure, but it’s still intrusive,” says Henry Kay, director of planning for the Maryland Transit Administration. “My guess is people really wouldn’t want that outside their front door.” But, again, experience in the cities that have monorail shows that monorail is too quiet and unobtrusive to upset many people. Of course, there will always be the cranky NIMBYs whom nothing pleases.
Several long-running systems have put all the myths to rest. No one loves monorail as much as the Japanese, who have built four systems since 1985. A nine-mile line opened in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics has moved as many commuters as at Disney Worldat a profit. A more modern monorail in Osaka proved an important escape route for fleeing residents of neighboring Kobe after that city’s 1995 earthquake; the pillars survived the tremors.
Monorail’s small but growing history of success is hard to ignore. It’s slowly winning converts. The people of Seattle have gone to the polls three times to force their reluctant elected leaders to build a 58-mile monorail system, which will be the largest system in the country by far. A smaller system is under way along the Las Vegas Strip. Recently, none other than Dr. Gridlock, the Washington Post’s traffic guru, has embraced tomorrow. On June 13, 2002, he wrote: “I have often wondered why we shouldn’t be developing a monorail system. It takes up less space and is quieter and less polluting than highways.”
In 2001, Montgomery County’s transportation department, revisiting the issue, commissioned a study of monorail technology that concluded that existing systems proved the technology time-tested, safe, easily to repair, easily compatible with other types of transit, visually understated, and able to operate in all types of weather. “[M]onorail systems should be considered a viable mode of premium transit in future studies in Montgomery County,” the study reads.
Owen, an engineering consultant who lives in the Atlanta suburbs, retired 30 years ago from Lockheed Martin, where he worked on planes and secret programs. “‘Special projects’ is all I can say.” He converted to monorailism in the ’80s, at a time when Atlanta was implementing its heavy-rail transit system. “I thought [heavy rail] is such an outdated way of moving people,” he says. “It’s the same way they were moving people in 1840. And I thought that was silly, here in the time of sending people to the moon.” So Owen looked skyward and contemplated a short journey to outer space.
“The traffic indicated you had to go up a level. Think 3-D. Don’t think 2-D. We think in terms of the world being one
single-surface ball. It’s not. You have an imaginary sphere 20 feet out from Earth’s sphere. Why not just go out there and use it?”
Owen refined the monorail idea, reduced it to a monobeam, chopping away at monorail’s cost and whittling its already svelte physical profile. The wheels of monobeam cars roll on steel rails nestled within slots on either side of the same guideway, which is also where the electric power source lies. Concrete completely cowls the wheels and electric connections, protecting both from the elements. The recent blizzard would have been no more than a pleasant distraction for the passenger of a monobeam car. Two-hundred-mph winds couldn’t unhinge the wheel from its slot, says Owen; wheel traction would only improve. Nor are there the potential problems of people touching an electrified “third rail.” Patented Neoprene sound dampeners below the steel rails keep things quiet.
Owen estimates his Georgia Monorail Consortium could construct the 14-mile Purple Line, Bethesda to New Carrollton, for $350 million, and do it in about three and half years, with government cooperation. That’s one-fourth the estimated cost for a light-rail line along the same route, and less than one-tenth the estimated cost of past Metrorail plans.
Monobeam has an even higher capacity than Metrorail. Owen’s vehicles would be slightly smaller than Metrorail cars and travel at an average speed of 36 mph, compared with 33 mph for Metrorail. They would show up at stationsspaced as far apart as Metrorail stationsevery two to four minutes, but that interval could be reduced to 15 seconds at peak travel times, when they could move up to 2,400 people every 10 minutes. During rush hour, six-car Metrorail trains move 2,100 people every 12 minutes.
Owen hasn’t actually built one of these things yet. Neither has South Carolina-based Futrex, the other monobeam manufacturer, although Futrex has constructed a quarter-scale modelwith federal aidin Charleston.
But one of these days, monobeam’s time will come. Owen says his group has received private-sector backing to build and operate proposed systems in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. He says there’s a profit to be made in operating monorail, unlike conventional transit options.
“Subsidizing is socialism,” says Owen. “You should never subsidize. That’s not what Thomas Jefferson talked about. There’s no provision in the Constitution to subsidize anything.”
Monorail: No new taxes.
Baltimore’s light-rail transit, a north-south line built in the early ’90s, is hardly a resounding success. Approaching the city from Glen Burnie in the south, the streetcars glide smoothly through suburban neighborhoods and industrial precincts along what was once a freight-train rail bed, clanging a tinny bell at every stop like an overgrown ice-cream truck. Great for you, bad for automobile trafficwhich gets held up on either side of the track at every intersection. Once you get downtown, though, the situation changes. The trolley has to stop for red lights, and the slow crawl down Howard Street hardly beats walking. For the critical segment from Camden Yards to Lexington Market, the trolley takes seven minutes; two feet will get you there in 11.
Howard Street, once Baltimore’s central retail district, was already well in decline when light-rail work began. Closing down the street for the duration of the construction sealed its fate. “Take a photograph of a cemetery with tracks running through it. That is Howard Street,” one retailer told the Baltimore Sun in 1993. Constricted now to just one or two lanes of automobile traffic, Howard has yet to revive.
Light rail isn’t that light. Those battle-ready modern-day trolleys are just as heavy per cubic foot as heavy rail; the smaller vehicles simply carry a “lighter” load of passengers. Their smaller sizeeach “train” is the equivalent of a Metrorail car or twoallows them to mix among traffic at street level. It’s cheaper than heavy rail, simply because you usually don’t have to tunnel or build gigantic underground stations to manage long trains and big crowds.
The one real advantage light rail has over monorail is in the nostalgia department. Unless you’ve spent a lot of time in Tokyo, Orlando, or the Philadelphia Zoo, you’re not going to drip memories of monorail. But streetcars were the trusty stalwarts of the urban landscape until the ’50s, when many of the aging active citizens of todaythose who speak in bumper stickers and start e-mail campaigns and vote with a vengeancecame of age. They remember streetcars. They remember their sudden disappearance. They see streetcars in traditionalist cities like Boston where streetcars never disappeared. They feel loss and a tinge of guilt, and they want to relive yesterday.
To Luddite light-rail fans, the cluttered overhead wires that power streetcars are vital to the total recall of a black-and-white time: A time before highways and oil dependence. A time when gentlemen wore hats, and children and dogs named Spot hopped on the rear bumper for a free ride. Since then, we got smart enough to dig holes and hide the lines that connect our homes to the power grid. But the light-rail lobby wants to unearth a dead technology and once again tangle the skies with wire.
If only the updated streetcars in use around the globe, snub-nosed and utilitarian, possessed the charm of their streamlined predecessors. “They are built like locomotives,” says Owen. “They are tough cars.” Because they ride in the streets, like everything else subject to the traffic gods, trolleys get in accidents. And when they do, they make a bigger mess; streetcars, after all, are heftier than tanks. Light-rail accidents are responsible for about a dozen fatalities every year in the U.S. Four peoplenone of them passengershave been killed by Baltimore light rail in the past 10 years.
Granted, Purple Line light rail would avoid some of these problems. For the 4.4 miles of tracks from Bethesda to Silver Spring, it would never cross traffic. Then, beginning in downtown Silver Spring, the light rail would tunnel under Takoma Park to University Boulevard. What would happen from there to New Carrollton has yet to be determined, although that may be the hardest part.
The tunnel represents much of the light rail’s estimated $1.4 billion expense, to say nothing of the incalculable costs of the above-ground disruptions during construction. And the bigger the project becomes, the longer it would take to finish. The Bethesda-to-Silver Spring portion could be completed by 2008. But why wait a decade or two to reach New Carrollton the hard way, when monorail could get us there in a blink?
The merits of Metrorail are hardly worth mentioning. On the basis of the Capital Beltway Corridor Transportation Study, state officials dismissed Metrorail on a route outside the Beltway because, although such a plan would serve more people than light rail, the marginal extra ridership couldn’t justify quadrupling the cost. Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan recently moved his Metrorail plan south and presented to the Montgomery County Council a proposed route running just between the current Medical Center and Silver Spring Red Line stops, mostly along the Beltway. Out of respect for Duncan, the council forwarded it to the Montgomery County Planning Commission in January for review. The commission called it too expensive.
Besides, light rail has a certain momentum from having been on the drawing board so long. Only recently has Gov. Ehrlich, who says he is undecided on the issue, let Metrorail back into the discussion. Years of fighting off the opposition have hardened the minds of light-rail supporters against alternatives at this stage of the game. After the purchase of the Georgetown Branch right of way, opposition arose quickly among residents of Chevy Chase to the prospect of mass transit along the newly acquired route that backed their properties. The Columbia Country Club, through which the route passed, became the epicenter of NIMBY resistance. Duncan’s Metrorail plans, not coincidentally, are designed to bypass Chevy Chase altogether.
Sure, coal freight to Georgetown ran the route for years, but those hauls were once a week, not every 10 or 15 minutes. A dedicated busway was considered, but planners say there was no chance residents would put up with the noise and exhaust of an all-day parade of buses. Trolleys, while still unacceptable to many in Chevy Chase, became the best option. They ran cleaner than buses and were also quieter.
What was originally a quaint plan to join two downtowns by the easiest of links has since tripled in length and now involves blazing a trail through some of the most urbanized Maryland suburbs. Given the short distance between Bethesda and Silver Spring, use of light rail along that leg would be reasonableif it were the only leg being built. It would be easy and inexpensive to do. The finish line, though, has been extended 10 miles, and the path now includes a long stretch where light rail would have rough going.
It’s monorail, stupid.
Perhaps the planners and politicians are right: Area residents simply wouldn’t put up with the sight of such elevated splendor, whatever its benefits. Washington, after all, isn’t exactly Seattle.
Pierre L’Enfant gave D.C. wide, rationally plotted boulevards, bringing sunlight into its streets, a physical metaphor for the founding ideals of the American capital-to-be. But rarely in the two centuries since has the Washington area allowed itself such optimistic visions of the future. Classical columns and colonial-era taste have always hemmed our imagination. We’ve never even hosted a world’s fair. Lately, the dark clouds of impending dirty-bomb doom have made the comfortable past more appealing than ever.
The last local attempts to live today as if it were tomorrow did more to blunt inspiration than to awaken it. Forward thinking of the ’60s gave us superhighways through residential neighborhoods and the super-scale brutalist architecture of Marcel Breuer’s HUD headquarters, in which individual enterprise is reduced to peepholes in a waffle of concrete panels. Metrorail’s underground stations look as if the concave facades of the HUD building had tipped over, forming large dim vaults with an even dimmer attitude toward humanity. And the Metro trains themselves? Gilded Age technology at the sunset of the Space Age.
It took a decade and a giant campaign to get monorail construction in Seattle on the verge of starting. By that standard, the campaign for local monorail is in its infancy. Its successes in getting out the word are hard to measure.
In 2001, My Own Private Monorail was selected for screening at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. To promote it, Parker printed up cardboard sheets of cutout monorail models. Unfortunately, the screening took place on Sept. 13. Only 20 or 30 people showed up, says Parker.
Along with Why Not Monorail, the short made its appearance on a Montgomery County public-access cable channel last month as part of a two-segment “Monorail Showcase,” which also included the Parker-produced short pushing the MVMI’s regional plan. In honor of the special occasion, Doore recorded a brief introduction from a highway overpass, although his monotone voice is difficult to hear above the roar of traffic below.
The media burst gathered force as Doore was invited to a segment of News Counterpoint, the public channel’s talk show. But the News Counterpoint host couldn’t find anyone to counter Doore’s point, so Doore got the floor to himself. And monorail won the day. CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Illustrations by Gus D’Angelo.