Monorails: the reverse Midas-touch
As someone who lives right next to a thriving monorail line and has a great affection for the them in general, it pains me that this mode of transport is so often synonymous with planning boondoggles and unrealized visions. Even finished projects are often maligned as wasteful or inadequate for their cities’ mass transit needs, used more for fun than serious people movement. Yet monorails have proved in several places to be useful, practical and even profitable, so why does the very suggestion of a new project induce cringes everywhere else?
Two Southeast Asian locations are struggling with this question at the moment. The Putrajaya Monorail in Malaysia, with its spectacular unfinished suspension bridge, has been causing headaches with its prominence since the project was put on hold in 2004. And now, the semi-built but abandoned Jakarta Monorail is in the news again, with friction between the city government andprivate developer PT Jakarta Monorail over whether the project can (or should) be restarted and who should pay the debts accrued thus far. Looking at the unfinished portions of each project, it seems Jakarta’s two-line proposal is the less likely of the two to reach completion. Perhaps the reputation of monorails has been tarnished with too much ridicule over time for new projects to succeed, perhaps they really do tend to attract mismanagement, or perhaps they’re just ahead of their time.
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