Seattle’s most unique and iconic form of transit, the Seattle Monorail, whisks riders from the Space Needle in Seattle Center to the Westlake Center Mall in downtown Seattle. Built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair to provide a link between the fairgrounds and downtown Seattle, the once futuristic mode of transport has become a major tourist attraction and a convenient way for locals to get to major festivals and events at Seattle Center.
Besides the existing monorail, Seattle has a tortured history of trying to build other monorails to support public transit. In 1997, voters approved an initial plan for a series of monorails to crisscross the city. Another voter initiative passed in 2000 to provide funding for a monorail study, and yet another initiative passed in 2002 to create a new monorail agency and begin construction of the first part of the system. In 2004, a citizen initiated recall election sought to end the monorail project, but once again was defeated by voters. Taxes started to be collected to pay for the project and real estate surrounding the line was purchased. Financing problems surfaced early, and the mayor and city council withdrew support for the project. A final ballot initiative was put to voters in 2005, and the project was officially “derailed.” The city dissolved the Seattle Monorail Authority and liquidated all of the real estate that it had purchased, thus ending any future talk of more monorails for the city.
Despite the drama surrounding new monorails for the city, the Seattle Monorail remains a fun and novel way to get around Seattle, and given its iconic status, it will be around for a long time. Take a ride for yourself when you are downtown!