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Urban Gridlock

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Monorail Idea Might Be Good For The Country


By James Donahue

February 2006


Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite Sci-Fi authors from the past, appears to still be alive and kicking in the Los Angeles area. I recently read a proposal from his pen for building a monorail system to offer fast public transit in and around that automobile clogged city before the traffic jam goes into a permanent freeze.


The way he put it: “The freeways that were once a fast-moving way to get from one part of the city to another will become part of a slow-moving glacier edging down the hills to nowhere.”


Bradbury noted that the problem is so critical that the city does not have time to acquire land, dig deep trenches, and install a badly needed subway system. Instead, he proposes the construction of an above-ground monorail transit system that can be constructed in much less time, and quickly ease the burden of getting about that overpopulated home of American gridlock.


This writer knows what Bradbury is talking about. When I last visited Los Angeles some 30 years ago the maze of highways was already so packed with cars a drive had to be quick witted to get around the city safely. My experience even then was so alarming that I have never felt a desire to return to that place.


But I have been caught in gridlock in San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago and Indianapolis. I can say from experience that monumental traffic jams that bring eight-lanes of traffic to a virtual stand-still for hours is happening everywhere.


There are too many people and too many cars.


What is worse, America has dismantled its bus system, torn up its railroad track, and is in the process of losing its airline industry. There is no relief in dependable mass transit systems anywhere except a few places like the Buffalo area subway, New York subway and railway system, the Seattle rail and the San Francisco Bart. They are working and working well for people who use them.


Bradbury argues that the monorail “is extraordinary in that it can be built elsewhere and then carried in and installed in mid-street with little confusion and no destruction of businesses. In a matter of a few months a line could be built from Long Beach all the way along Western Avenue to the mountains with little disturbance to citizens and no threat to local businesses.


“Compared to the heavy elevated (railways) of the past, the monorail is virtually soundless. Anyway who has ridden the Disneyland or Seattle monorails knows how quietly they move.


“They also have been virtually accident-free,” the author writes.


Indeed, if they are that good, and that easy to build, what is stopping us from installing a national monorail system designed to not only carry people through our overcrowded cities, but also move the masses from coast to coast?


We believe there has been some heavy political lobbying by the automobile industry over the years to force Americans to buy cars rather than rely on dependable mass transit systems. Thus we have turned away from railroads, subways and bus systems in favor of the comfort of owning and operating our private automobiles.


Now that cars are found to be polluting the atmosphere, they are as costly to purchase as homes, and gasoline prices are getting so high most people can’t afford to operate them, the nation is going into a kind of forced gridlock. Everybody is staying home because they can no longer afford to travel.


Now is the time for the nation to consider a complete overhaul of our public transportation system. Airplanes are not going to be the answer because fuel costs are destroying profits. Bradbury’s monorail system might just offer a solution, if an efficient and low cost operating system can be found.


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