June 02, 2004

Troubled Times for Monorail Fans.

Is there anything that could possibly be sadder than a monorail catching fire? Well, that's exactly what happened Monday afternoon when the Seattle Monorail, a fine little line built for the 1962 World's Fair and which I rode a few dozen times, caught fire shortly after leaving the Seattle Center station. The police arrived quickly and nobody was seriously injured, although the monorail remains shut down and a small child was tragically forced to relinquish his blue plastic balloon sword:
I tapped the man in front of me on the shoulder (and asked) if he would take care of my son. He grabbed my son and tried to pull him toward the floor as my son clung to him and cried. My son held tight to the blue plastic balloon sword that a clown had made for him at the Folklife Festival.

I told him that he had to let it go in order to use his hands to keep himself safe when it was time to get off that train. I will never forget the imagery of seeing that blue balloon sword, a symbol of powerlessness, floating down from the open door of the train.
I might be a little fuzzy on the details, but I'm pretty sure that was a scene in at least three or four of the foreign films I was forced to watch in college.

The monorail fire comes on the heels of continued controversy over the new 14-mile-long, $1.75 billion Seattle Monorail Project which was approved by voters in November 2002 (and discussed for many years before that, going back to when I lived there), but still remains in the planning stage, with many fighting for the project's cancellation.

If there's one thing we here at The Donk love more than monorails, it's Vegas. So when Keith and I saw the new Las Vegas Monorail firsthand (the station was right outside our room at the Sahara), we were practically giddy with excitement and anticipation. A few minirails currently exist in Las Vegas -- one connecting Mandalay Bay, the Luxor, and Excalibur, and another connecting Treasure Island and the Mirage -- but the under-construction Las Vegas Monorail would run along the east side of the Strip for practically its entire length, from the Sahara down to the MGM Grand.

Unfortunately, technical glitches and safety concerns have prompted repeated delays in the monorail's opening. Originally scheduled to begin taking paying passengers in January, that opening was pushed back to March, and then to the currently announced "Summer," with no specific date mentioned as yet. Another big negative is that the monorail will only operate from 8:00 a.m. to midnight, which would be fine if this were the Topeka or Shreveport Monorail, but pretty freaking ridiculous in Las Vegas, a city where even the wicker stores are open 24 hours.

And I haven't even gotten into that whole did-the-Raja-Chulan-to-Bukit-Nanas-Monorail-slam-into-a-fallen-tree controversy.
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