Monorail Guide

BUILD IT

lie #1: There's No Private Funding

lie #2: The Technology Won't Work

Ugly Beauty

Enemies & Allies

Light Rail is a Bad Idea

CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS, the mayor, and the daily newspapers argue that we can't build a monorail system because no one will want to live next to monorail stations or monorail tracks. It's the lamest and most easily refuted argument against building a citywide monorail system. Growing up in Chicago, where my family lived two blocks from noisy L trains and on the same block as even noisier (if less frequent) elevated commuter trains, I can tell you from personal experience that people will live near rapid-transit lines. In fact, in Chicago people clamor to live near the L.

Jeff Vasilatos has worked at Regent Realty, an apartment rental service in Chicago, for five years. An apartment close to the L is not a problem for his customers--in fact, it's a selling point. "The closer an apartment is to an L stop, the easier it is to rent," says Vasilatos. "A two-bedroom apartment in Old Irving Park, nine blocks from the nearest L stop, might rent for $800. You take the same two-bedroom and put it in Lake View, near the L, and the rent might be $1,500 or $1,600."

Why do apartments closer to the L rent for more? "People don't want to take a bus to get to the train," says Vasilatos. "No one likes to ride the bus--not when a train can get you places so much faster."

But we don't have to look to Chicago for examples of people willing to live near an elevated rapid-transit system. Our current two-stop monorail runs up Fifth Avenue, past hundreds of apartments and condos, and according to every last building manager I spoke with, the monorail running up Fifth Avenue doesn't hurt their ability to rent.

Damon Meyer is the concierge at the year-old 320-unit Fountain Court Apartments at Fifth and Wall, where studios start at $750 and two-bedrooms rent for as much as $2,600. "We don't have any trouble renting apartments," Meyer says. "There haven't been any complaints about the monorail that I know of. Some people ask about it when they come to look at an apartment, and we take them to one of the apartments on the Fifth Avenue side and wait for a train to go by. If the window is open, you can hear it; if it's closed, you can't. It's not a big deal."

Donna Putich manages the 60-unit Lee Court Apartments at Fifth and Blanchard. She says no one has ever moved out because of the monorail "People have moved because of the buses. Oh, the buses are much worse than the monorail. The noise of the buses, and the fumes from the buses are very irritating. The monorail doesn't stink, and it goes by pretty fast."

Dale Boudreau has managed the 59-unit Windham Apartments directly across the street from Lee Court for seven years. The studios and one-bedrooms rent from $625 to $825 per month. Does he have any problem renting apartments that face the monorail? "No. I don't think anyone really has ever had a problem living next to the monorail." Has anyone ever moved into an apartment on the Fifth Avenue side and then ask to be moved to a different apartment on the other side of the building? "No one has ever asked to be moved. Even people who live in apartments with the monorail going by right outside their window don't have a problem with it. Most people seem to think it's kinda neat, kinda Seattle. It's like having a view of the Space Needle."

If you don't believe building managers, I also asked some tenants. Zach Pollock lives in a second-floor apartment on the Fifth Avenue side of Fountain Court, directly across from the tracks. 'The train goes by my window at eye level," he says. "It's really not that bad. I'd rather have the monorail go by than a bus sitting down there idling."

A monorail system won't hurt apartment rentals or property values along its route, nor will it hurt businesses, large or small. Monorail opponents often claim that Fifth Avenue between Pine and Denny doesn't have much retail business, ignoring the fact that the same blocks of Third, Fourth, Sixth and Seventh Avenues--none of which have monorails--don't have much retail business, either. When developers began building in Belltown, Fifth Avenue got just as many new apartments, condos, and businesses as any other block. And according to Bob Rice, co-owner and manager of Kitchen and Bathworks at Fifth and Virginia, "there are no negative impacts at all to being located next to the monorail. In fact, it's a nice landmark to have right in front of the showroom. In a few ads, we have a line drawing of our building with the monorail right there in the foreground."

Maureen Miller, marketing manager for the four-year-old Palace Kitchen, agrees with Rice. "Being under the monorail has been great. It's something we advertise."