What Happened to Monorails
Monorails were once predicted to be the public-transportation system of the future — what happened?
In 1959, Disneyland in California introduced a monorail system that attracted attention throughout the world. It wasn’t the world’s first monorail, but its futuristic appearance captured people’s imaginations, leading many to expect monorails to become the primary public-transportation systems of big cities.
In fact, many cities did build monorail systems. They don’t take up much space, are inexpensive to create, make little noise, and wind through cities at a height where they don’t impede pedestrians or vehicles on surface roads. But monorails also present challenges: They can’t connect directly to conventional railways and subways, so passengers have to transfer, and the tracks are usually made of concrete, making it difficult to establish switch tracks.
Monorails are still popular in amusement parks, which have more controlled environments and no need to tie into existing transportation systems, but they also continue to play an important role in cities like Tokyo, where a monorail carries a total of 127,000 passengers a day. In Asia, a number of new monorails have been planned.
One of the strongest advocates of monorails was a Swede named Axel Lennart Wenner-Gren, who helped found the Electrolux group. He developed the monorail system that is still the most popular, which is called the Alweg system after the initial letters of his name.