PLENTY SUMMER 2020 | Page 33

Taking Development Pressure off the Agricultural reserve As we look for solutions for removing commuter traffic, development pressure, and storm water runoff from the Agricultural Reserve, we should consider a new approach to our transportation challenges in the I-270 Corridor. That new approach, we believe, is monorail. by robert eisinger Ever since going to Disney World back in the 70s, I have been intrigued by monorail: a transportation system that rides above ground, is built offsite, is erected like a Lego set at night, doesn’t interfere with roadways or underground utilities, and quietly runs on environmentally clean electricity, all while projecting a futuristic image. These qualities inspired me to form The High Road Foundation, a 501c4 nonprofit dedicated to studying monorail, and to promote whatever transit technology made sense to help fix the crazy automotive traffic problems we have in our region. The first thing I wanted to understand was the true cost of monorail versus competing transportation technologies, like Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). I discovered that the annual operating costs per passenger for monorail are about half of a BRT or light or heavy rail, and that the lifespan of the monorail system exceeds 50 years, compared to BRT, which needs to be completely replaced every 10-12 years. Light rail and heavy rail tend to require much more maintenance since they travel through surface dirt and stormwater. Their metal wheels wear out their metal rails over time, while monorail’s rubber tires provide a gentler ride and are much easier and less expensive to replace, to identify just a couple components elements for operating savings. Monorail is also the only transit mode that can penetrate habitable space while you are sitting next to it having a cup of coffee. Look at Disney World and the monorail coming into its Disney Contemporary Resort. It was built 50 years ago and remains virtually unchanged. It’s timeless. So even if the initial costs were more for monorail, I believe the lower long-term oper- Monorail glides into the lobby at Disney Contemporary Resort. ating costs and some station costs could be shifted to developers and make this a more sound investment. Monorails are much more environmentally friendly than surface transit from construction through their lifespan. A primary issue is stormwater runoff. Pavement on 1-270—and even the MARC track beds—shed storm water into the many streams going through the Agricultural Reserve. Monorail has a very small Monorail has a very storm water footprint...only small stormwater footprint by comparison, only touching the touching the ground every 100-120 feet, and because ground every 100-120 it would also be removing feet, and because it would also be removing traffic from the traffic from the roadway it would consequently remove roadway it would much of the road pollution consequently remove much of the road pollution entering the Ag entering the Ag Reserve’s streambeds. Reserve’s streambeds. plenty I summer growing 2020 33