Monorail Position - Against: Coming and going

The proposed new Seattle Green Line monorail supposedly will serve the Queen Anne neighborhood. However, when you look beyond the slogans ("Rise above it all"), what you find is that the monorail stations are so few and far between that the vast majority of Queen Anne residents live too far from a station to make using the monorail worthwhile.

The only real value of the monorail would be to move people to and from downtown; virtually nobody who lives on Queen Anne Hill commutes to West Seattle.

To see how useless the Green Line would be to most Queen Anne residents, it is helpful to use a few examples.

* From Sixth Avenue West and Galer Street, on the south side of Queen Anne Hill, the No. 2 Express bus takes about 17 minutes to reach Second and Seneca downtown in morning rush-hour traffic. To use the monorail for this trip, you could walk to the station on First North and Republican - almost a mile, and a 20-minute walk - then take a 7-minute monorail ride to Second and Madison. This would take 27 minutes, or 10 minutes longer than the bus. You would reach downtown on the bus before you even got to the monorail station on foot.

* Or you could take the No. 2 bus down to the stop at Queen Anne Avenue and Mercer Street (6 minutes), walk the couple of blocks to the monorail station on First North (3 minutes), wait in an open-air station for the monorail (an average of 4 minutes), then take the monorail to Second and Madison (7 minutes). This would entail a total of about 20 minutes, or 3 minutes longer than just taking the bus the entire way. And it would require paying an extra half-fare to board the monorail.

* The same thing would be true if you wanted to get downtown from the north side of Queen Anne on the No. 17 bus, the west side of Queen Anne on the No. 3 or No. 4 bus, or the middle of Queen Anne on the No. 13 bus: if you got off any of these buses and transferred to the monorail at either of the Seattle Center stations, it would cost you an extra half-fare; require, on average, a 4-minute wait in an open-air station; and usually be slower than staying on the bus for the entire trip.

Why would anybody do this? The bus trip is a "one-seat ride"; you stay in the same seat the entire trip. This is the gold standard of transit systems. Many studies have shown that transit riders hate to transfer. In fact, transit experts agree that having to leave one vehicle and board another is such a hassle that it has the same negative effect on ridership as actually making the trip longer. This is referred to as the transfer penalty, and it is given a time value of at least 10 minutes.

So, using the monorail to get from the top of Queen Anne Hill to downtown would not only actually take a few minutes longer than just staying on the bus the entire way - it would be perceived as taking about 13 minutes longer, because you would have to transfer from the bus to the monorail, instead of enjoying a one-seat ride on the bus the entire trip.

* One final example, which I find especially illuminating: The return trip from Third and Seneca downtown to Sixth West and Galer atop Queen Anne takes 20 minutes on the No. 2 Express bus in the afternoon rush hour. If you wanted to use the monorail, it would take 7 minutes from Second and Madison downtown to the First Avenue North station, then a 20-minute hike up a very steep hill to Sixth West and Galer. This would take a total of 27 minutes - 7 minutes longer than the bus.

Or you could take the monorail to the First Avenue North station and then transfer to the No. 2 bus to take you up the hill to Sixth West and Galer. What is ironic about this is that you would have to stand outside at the bus stop and wait about 6 minutes for the No. 2 bus, which would be the exact bus that left downtown when you got on the monorail. So you would arrive at Sixth West and Galer at exactly the same time, on exactly the same bus as if you had taken the bus all the way from downtown, but you would have to pay full price on the monorail and half price on the bus, and you would have to stand outside for 6 minutes at the Seattle Center, waiting for the bus to catch up with you, instead of sitting on the same seat inside the bus the entire trip.

So, in reality, for all Queen Anne residents except the small fraction who live within a few blocks of a monorail station, using the mono-rail would be less convenient, and usually slower and more expensive, than just taking the bus.

Greg Buck has been a Queen Anne resident for 23 years.

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