Larry Bost, of Marietta, has been pushing an idea of late that may find some support among suburban commuters.
His proposal, which is surprisingly well researched, involves the construction of a monorail along the pre-existing interstate system surrounding Metro Atlanta.
Such a monorail, he says, would be a far more worthy investment than our continual expansion of highways surrounding Atlanta. He’s drawn up a plan that outlines 15 different stations for the proposed metro Atlanta monorail, with seven stations outside the Perimeter, seven along I-285, and only one station inside the Perimeter.
One key advantage of a monorail system in Atlanta is that it planners would simply build on top of the existing highway system along the center of expressways, eliminating the need for any additional land acquisition.
The costs, according to the Monorail Society, vary greatly depending on factors like the total length of the system, the number of stations, the speed of the train, and the topography of the land. Given that variability, a monorail system could cost anywhere between $10 million to $100 million per mile of track.
For comparison, the US Department of Transportation estimates that the construction of a new highway in urban areas can cost between $4.9 million to $19.5 million per lane mile, while simply adding a new lane to an existing highway can run anywhere between $2.4 million to $6.9 million per mile (twice that if adding a lane to each side).
But as both the Monorail Society and Bost emphasize, a monorail has the best chance of turning an actual profit once constructed.
Outside the United States, other countries have used monorails with incredible success. For the 1964 Olympics, Japan built a monorail for Tokyo, and the system has turned a profit every year since. China opened a 62-station, 34-mile long monorail in Chonggung in 2005 and will likely continue investing in the technology in the future. Even India has recently come on board with the idea, investing $2 billion in a 35-station, 36-mile long monorail system in Chennai.
Additionally, monorails are different than urban subway systems in that their target clientele consists of suburban commuters. In a city with notorious sprawl out to the suburbs and with suburban voters typically less willing to fund urban transit systems, Atlanta could be the perfect candidate for monorail construction in the United States.
As the legislature continues to toss around ideas about how to improve Georgia’s crumbling infrastructure, a suburban monorail is an idea at least worth considering as just one part of the solution to Georgia’s transportation woes.