Private interests might be killing the renewed future possibilities of the Monorail.
Private interests might be killing the renewed future possibilities of the Monorail. Charles Mudede

The really sad thing about the Monorail is it's not operated by the city, but by Seattle Monorail Services, a privately owned company, which first received the right to make profits from the line in 2004 (these rights were extended for another decade by the city in 2014). The reason why this is sad is because it means that the Seattle Center Monorail is condemned to a tourist function at the very moment its potential public utility is becoming apparent.

This is the present situation: The traffic in the South Lake Union and Belltown area has become so bad that it has formed a barrier that has Queen Anne on one side and Downtown and Capitol Hill on the other. Cars often take forever to cross this barrier, and buses, particularly the Route 8, get caught in this traffic. When we combine these developments with, one, the dramatic increase in Link riders that occurred immediately after the opening of University of Washington Station and Capitol Hill Station and, two, the fact that the monorail and Link have stations in the same downtown location, the absurdity of Seattle Center Monorail's tourist function becomes more and more visible.

The line runs from Westlake Center to the other side of this barrier, the Seattle Center. It also runs every 10 minutes and takes only 5 minutes to complete a trip. The old and kitschy monorail can become an important piece of downtown's public transportation infrastructure. It provides a pretty good bridge over the frequently congested streets of Belltown and South Lake Union. But this opportunity or way of thinking is far from the concerns of the privately owned Seattle Monorail Services, which, according to one of its representatives, has no interest in connecting its ticketing with ORCA cards, and, according to its website, sees Link solely as a way to transport tourists from the airport to its Westlake platform. The business of making a profit might turn out to be, on the public end of the equation, a big waste for a city whose transportation needs have vastly expanded with its rapidly growing population.

It also may not be a bad idea to extend the Monorail to Lower Queen Anne. Indeed, it doesn't take much imagination to see this and other possibilities.