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Monday, August 6, 2007

Letter of the Day

posted by on August 6 at 10:36 AM


EDITOR: One of the monorail trains broke down this afternoon [Saturday, August 4] at about 1:30 pm. My wife, brother-in-law, I, and our 3-year-old and 3-month-old took a trip from Seattle Center to Westlake Center, after having put off a monorail ride that my 3-year-old had been asking for for at least a year. We thought, okay, it seems to be working okay, let’s risk it.

Of course, there’s nobody in charge of the monorail, in the sense that no one had Westlake Center made an announcement, offered help for alternative transportation, etc. My wife asked the ticket attendant who was a non-native English speaker, and who was somewhat freaked out. She made an inaudible, barely understandable announcement that no one near us could make out at my wife’s suggestion (the announcement, not the comprehensibility).

The one train had broken (the red train, I think), and we had already waited 30 minutes when this became clear. The other train arrived at the station, dropped off passengers, and left. The attendant said it would be another 30 minutes before the other train returned. About 200 people were waiting by that point, and the attendant was still selling tickets.

There was obviously no plan on how to proceed.

I have an iPhone (I’m a tech writer for The Seattle Times and other publications, so it’s a tool of the trade). I used Metro Transit’s awesome Trip Planner to figure out the nearest and next bus that would take us back to Seattle Center. The irritating part is that the trip planner suggested we take… the monorail!

Instead, we and a bunch of Southern tourists walked to Virginia and Third, paid $1.25 each on exit, and got in our car. It was an adventure, and our toddler was overjoyed to ride a monorail AND a bus, and the baby stayed happy.


There’s just no lights on in the monorail organization. It was as if they didn’t think this could happen.

Glenn Fleishman

RSS icon Comments


Hmm - funny b/c I took the Monorail just yesterday for grins (the #36 bus grates on me after a while). Seemed to run just fine.

Posted by yerbamatty | August 6, 2007 11:05 AM

What you have to remember is that it's a theme park ride and not a means of transportation - if it's not working it really isn't that big a deal because you can just walk the 5 or 6 blocks that it covers. Unless you really, really want to ride the monorail, in which case normal rules for waiting for theme park rides apply (slowness, disapointment, etc...)

Posted by art | August 6, 2007 11:06 AM

God. That is horrible.

Right here in Seattle on Saturday we had the equivalent of the post-Katrina Superdome terror. When will FEMA get its act together?

The saddest part is those two children. It's terrible when anybody finds themselves stranded at Westlake Center with no help finding out how to get back to the Seattle Center (except an iPhone and the Metro Trip Planner). For that to happen to a child is beyond tragic. I don't think there is much hope they will ever be able to live normal lives, do you? They're like those child soldiers in Africa. Too much pain, too young, and you can't just get over an experience like that.

Tough break, Glenn. I know sorry doesn't cut it, but I still want to say how sorry I am that you had to go through all that. You hang in there, man.

Posted by elenchos | August 6, 2007 11:09 AM

In related news, Metro bus system still unsafe as the buses break down even more frequently.

Oh, wait, sorry, I forgot we have a double standard here.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 6, 2007 11:32 AM

The monorail's for tourists. It doesn't work very well because the people who use it don't stay around long enough to make it better.

Posted by Andy | August 6, 2007 11:34 AM

i think glenn's point is that no one is MANAGING the monorail.

and that is a valid point.

nothing frustrates like baldfaced, unapologetic incompetency.

Posted by maxsolomon | August 6, 2007 12:04 PM

Sorry, Glenn. I put an ancient Irish curse on the monorail in December 2005. I would have given it second thoughts if I'd known that disappointing little kids would be part of the outcome, but I was pissed off at the time. And drunk.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | August 6, 2007 1:39 PM

I don't really get her point, either. It wasn't immediately clear to me she wasn't actually on the train when it happened (it would be frustrating to be stuck on a train in the middle of the route.. unless I had the day free, then it would be kinda fun), just annoyed that it happened at all.

I did enjoy her defensiveness about owning an iPhone, however.

#3, so good.

Posted by Dougsf | August 6, 2007 1:43 PM

why did s/he even have to mention the iphone? there are other "tools of the trade" that can check the internet. ug!!!!!! the whole argument is discredited now. snore.

Posted by audrey | August 6, 2007 2:21 PM

Those carping about the iPhone mention, don't you think it would've been confusing if Glenn had just written, "I used Metro Transitís awesome Trip Planner," without any mention of how this was accomplished from the monorail waiting area?

Unless there's a mobile version I don't know about, the trip planner website is not exactly cell-phone friendly.

Posted by lostboy | August 6, 2007 3:57 PM

Funny. When the horrible, inefficient government (as represented by Metro) ran the monorail, it had very few problems.

It's only been since the wonderful, enlightened, and remarkably efficient private sector took over the monorail that these problems have happened.

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