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One Track, One Plan, One Way to Bring Austin Together: The Monorail

A monorail system would reconfigure Austin's congestion, providing a new approach to change how commuting works within the city.

Photo of Jean-Loup McIlvain-Cellier
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As Austin continues to expand, the congestion and traffic will keep breaking records of all-time highs. Employing stopgap solutions like widening highways will only be temporary reliefs but will inevitably leave Austin in the same position it is now (minus the budget and years of work) as density on the roads swells to match the new size. The traffic is a systemic problem based on the distance between residential centers and places of employment, and without changing the current system the problem will remain.

My proposition, despite the naysaying of the Simpsons, is the implementation of a monorail which would run parallel to Austin's largest highways reaching out to residential areas. A train like the Disney World monorail system or the Tokyo Monorail airport link which respectively shuttle 150,000 and 300,000 passengers daily set up as a direct line into Austin's city center would not only be a more direct means of commute but in ferrying those passengers it would free up an equal amount of space on the roads for those still driving, greatly reducing congestion both on highways and within the city streets. With a reduction in internal congestion the city's existing public transport infrastructure in the form of buses would be able to move more freely and residents could use those to navigate within Austin proper, assuming that their place of work is more than a brisk walk from the monorail station. Alternatively a dedicated shuttle bus system could be devoted to the monorail, but that seems unnecessary when the existing bus system can be made functional.

I believe that this project, while daunting, is not only functional and feasible to construct but economically viable in the long-term. If nothing else, knowing that Disney makes use of a well-used monorail to enable visitors to navigate Disney World suggests that it is the effective decision as I cannot imagine Disney doing anything economically unsound, nor can I imagine Tokyo's airport system which was designed with a high population density in mind to be inefficient in its operation.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

The average user would be employees working in Austin, living in areas like Round Rock/Georgetown, Cedar Park/Leander, or Buda/Kyle. These people have to wake up before dawn and spend an hour to drive 20 miles, which directly harms quality of life and efficiency in the workplace as resentment builds for having commuting time eat into personal time. By walking, biking, driving, or being shuttled to a monorail station near their homes and then taking a direct line into Austin's city center those employees will be getting to their jobs faster than they would while driving, without the mental strain and stress of navigating the roads, and the highways will end up clearer for those still driving. I imagine that Austin can issue passes to be purchased for the monorail, either single-use rides or on a time-based system like for the week or month. If the cost was weighed against that of the gasoline used in commute it might end up being economical for the passenger not to drive.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

I have not tested this idea, but I am aware that the idea of a monorail is very appealing to the general public. Conceptually it is flashy and futuristic, which appeals as an innovation especially in a growing city with an investment in the tech industry like Austin. Back in 2001 there was talk of implementing a monorail in Silicon Valley, and I believe they are worse off for the lack of that implementation.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

I do not have a team at present, I am an independent interested in associating with a team.

Size of your team or organization

  • I am submitting as an individual

Team or Organization URL

I do not have an organization URL

Rough budget (500 characters)

A fully-fledged monorail system would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to implement in full. This sounds like a hurdle but it needs to be weighed against the opportunity costs of commuting over time. The initial budget would focus on geographically surveying land and pathways and ensuring that in the span of a few decades a constructed monorail could last indefinitely into the future.

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

An initial test phase for a monorail system would be building a much smaller system that could eventually be added on to across Austin's busiest metropolitan region, perhaps spanning the river by I-35. In determining how effective a shuttle system is within the city proper it could be more precisely determined how effective a wider-ranging shuttle system would be reaching out to farther flung residential areas.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

The success of the monorail would be measured by the number of cars on the road. If there are counts of car density on the roads now then we can gauge both in terms of sheer volume and in terms of average speed how congested traffic is. By comparing that metric against the numbers found after the implementation of the prototype monorail we can see if there has been a tangible impact on Austin's congestion.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

The hard part will be securing city funding for building such an ambitious project, but I am convinced that intelligent city planners will recognize that Austin has two choices: adapt and evolve, or stagnate and wither. Once constructed the monorail's upkeep will be paid for by the fares of passengers and ideally subsidies provided by the government for its use, as it will be an active anti-pollution project in getting cars off of roads.

Social Media

I do not have a company handle.

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