Monorails as a vision of the future

“What I’d say?” “Monorail!” “What’s it called?” “Monorail!” “That’s right – monorail!” I was reminded of this classic parody of The Music Man when I ran into this brief review of a new book looking back at Seattle’s attempt to build a monorail:

“Rise Above It All” by Dick Falkenbury (Falkenbury Enterprises, $14.36). The Seattle resident writes about his effort to establish a 40-mile monorail system. He describes it as a cautionary tale about “a city that once led the way.”

Read an overview of the Seattle Monorail Project here.

While all of this seems quaint – as does the monorail that takes you from the Disney World parking lot to the front gates of the Magic Kingdom – it is always interesting to consider what people in the past thought the future would be like. A quiet and elevated form of mass transit was an exciting possibility in the post-World War II era. Or perhaps we should have flying cars by now (everyone seems to remember this idea) or life should look like that of The Jetsons. But, what do we now think about the future that will look similar absurd in a few decades? The key to these follies doesn’t seem to be whether the technology is possible but whether it is worthwhile to put the new technology into widespread use. Monorails are not that difficult to build but aren’t necessarily much better than other forms of transportation. Flying cars are doable but can they be practical? It might be Google Glass or space elevators or driverless cars.

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