FIRST LOOK: RIDING THE LB MONORAIL TO ALL-PROBLEMS-SOLVED-VILLEBy Jeanine Birong
FIRST LOOK / LAST LOOK: During the final week on the calendar, the point at which we pivot away from one year and toward another, GreaterLongBeach.com is examining a small assortment of people, events and trends—last looks at some that made 2011 memorable, first looks at others that promise to make 2012 interesting.
Today, a first look at a proposal by Island of Long Beach to hang 60 miles of monorail track around the city, which strikes us as an absolutely fantabulous, can’t-fail solution to all our problems … you know … now that we’ve stopped being such negatrons.
At first, the idea of spending $13 billion to construct a Long Beach waterfront project that would be tied to the rest of the city via a massive monorail transit system made me feel a little bit grumpy. No, not the project, itself–everybody’s always touting one of those. The monorail is what rubbed the wrong way. Too expensive! Unnecessary! Too distracting to our city’s status as the “Aquatic Capital of the World,” “America’s Most Bike-Friendly City” and “The Town That Paid Its Most-Famous Bookstore to Go Away.”
But then I realized I was just being a negatron. I decided to take a much closer look at monorails. Am I glad I did! Now I am really stoked on the proposal to build a 60-mile monorail system right here in our own fair city of Long Beach!
I first heard about the Long Beach monorail proposal on Facebook, which has already brought countless blessings into my life, the most recent of which is the Island of Long Beach. The historical photos are super awesome and always bring joy into my dreary day. Sometimes they are even really super-poignant, too! I finally got around to checking out its website. What a revelation!
Think a monorail system is too expensive? Only if you don’t believe you get what you pay for. In other words, it’s obvious to even the casual observer that a monorail system built in Long Beach is not going to end up in bankruptcy court, like the monorail system built in Las Vegas did. Unlike Vegas, there is no way Long Beach could turn a monorail system built at a cost of $650 million into one worth only $16 million to $20 million and leaves investors out to dry—and not only because the estimated price tag for the Long Beach development is somewhere around $13 billion.
Think about it: Long Beach is the place that has invested untold millions of public dollars into the promise that the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific would be profitable tourist attractions—not Las Vegas. In Long Beach, the city guaranteed the bonds it issued in the 1990s to finance the Aquarium. That was not the case with the bonds that the State of Nevada issued to build the Las Vegas Monorail, where the people who purchased the bonds had to take an actual financial risk. In Long Beach, government officials know that’s what taxpayers are for! So, see? Big difference.
Meanwhile, I feel really sorry for the people of Seattle for failing to have the gumption to move ahead on building a monorail after having spent $124.7 million dollars on pursuing one.
Clearly these monorails failed due to lack of vision on the part of their proponents. That is definitely not a problem in the case of the Island of Long Beach, which on its website appears to have nothing but visions—some of them bordering on hallucinations.
And it’s got a history of them, too. Consider one called The Queen’s Project, originally proposed in 2008-2009 by Fountain Valley-based, 26-year-old Richard Sides III, who suggested towing the Queen Mary to San Francisco for a four-year rehabilitiation, then returning it to the seas as a full-service cruise ship. Sides sought to raise the $1.5 billion he needed for the project through Cairngorm Entertainment Group of Las Vegas, which he described as a “sister” company that also had offices in Fountain Valley.
Cairngorm Entertainment, which owns the rights to a bunch of old TV series, subsequently went into default. But the Island of Long Beach informed me via Facebook that they are an all-new group of investors. The difference is that their vision is too big to fail. That’s a relief!
According to the Island of Long Beach website, more than 60 miles of monorail track will be built—completely at their own expense! It will link San Pedro, Signal Hill, the Long Beach Airport, and Seal Beach to the new amazing Island of Long Beach. The entire project will cost $13 billion and be groundbreaking in respect to well … just about everything! Seriously, there is not a single thing not to adore about the Island of Long Beach proposal.
Let’s look a little closer:
The project includes a 50-story building and an amazing new “Roaring 1920′s Shopping, Dining and Entertainment District, sitting upon more than 100 acres, stretching along more than a mile of beautiful California coastline; featuring more than 300 retail shops, 30 restaurants, 2,000 luxury accommodations, 30 rides and attractions, theaters, a convention center, boardwalks, a cruise terminal, and one of the largest Ferris Wheels in the world!”
If this looks to you like a project that will solve all of Long Beach’s transportation problems, you are apparently looking at it the right way. The amazing monorail will be able to move 460,000 people an hour–just about the city’s entire current population.
A side benefit: No more unemployment! The Island of Long Beach says it will create 300,000 jobs—and none of them will be boring jobs, like running a monorail system, because the monorail will be completely automated and won’t require humans at the controls. This will likely provide a helpful cost savings to the monorail—not that saving money makes a difference to the monorail people because, as the Island of Long Beach recently explained to me via Facebook, “the monorail is never expected to make a profit; its purpose is to introduce a revolutionary transportation system that goes beyond public transportation.”
The fact that the Island of Long Beach plans to build this new monorail without a single dollar of taxpayer money is also awesome. Considering the price tag for this project is going to be $13 billion dollars, we know our city can’t afford it.
Island of Long Beach informed me that it’s only the budget to restore the Queen Mary that is $1.5 billion. That only leaves $11.5 billion for the monorail and the 50-story building. You’re getting confused by the numbers, right? Me, too! But don’t get nervous. You and I aren’t brilliant like the people at Island of Long Beach, and asking the developers if we can have a look at the budget for all of this when we’re pretty much destined not to understand it would just be slowing them down.
I’ve seen and read enough to trust that Robert Sides III is a visionary, besides the fact that he’s all but told me so. That and the fact that the Facebook posts by the Island of Long Beach are so neat-o tells me all I need to know to throw my complete support behind this monorail.
Knowing that the going rate for monorails around the world is only about $138.2 million per mile of track gives me a really good feeling. Again, you get what you pay for, and monorails promise to be the quietest form of transportation—and this one will reduce the average Long Beacher’s commute by 90 percent. Right now, it takes me about 17 minutes to get to work by car—slimming my commute time to 1.7 minutes is going to free up a total of about 612 minutes a month for me! Is there such a think as having too much leisure time? I may be about to find out!
Anyway, now that I am so excited to see this historical awesomeness ensue, I really-really-really want to see the monorail map because I want to be sure it is going to be as super-convenient for me as the promotional websites promise.
OK, so there is no map, yet. Makes sense. The project is only in the fetal stage. As Islandof Long Beach told me, this is going to be a collaborative effort on the part of Island of Long Beach and the City of Long Beach as to how and where all the monorail track will go.
Being a part of the City of Long Beach, I have decided to propose my own map because I think it will be really cool if we do it this way, and I want to be absolutely certain it runs through my neighborhood, and all the places I like to go—otherwise walking to the stations will increase my commute time. I was also a bit bummed there wasn’t any track planned to go to Lakewood, which I affectionately consider to be “Tomorrow’s City Today,” and since I have errands out that way—I included Lakewood in my route! (I know, I’ve been hanging around the Island of Long Beach sites so long that I’ve become awesome, too!)
After finishing my monorail map, I couldn’t help but share my excitement. I posted it to my Facebook page. My enthusiasm turned out to be contagious, and it wasn’t long until a dear friend on Catalina Island requested to be included in the fun! Together my friends and family decided to kick up the new monorail route with a chunnel to Avalon Harbor. Too expensive? Hey, like the people at Island of Long Beach have taught me, we’re way past that kind of pointless worry—this transportation idea is so revolutionarily novel that the expenses involved should not even be an issue.
The important thing is the vision, and considering it usually takes us about 45 minutes via the Catalina Express to cover those 26 miles across the sea, I can’t wait until I can be in Avalon in 4.5 minutes! The only faster way would be with a Star Trek-style transporter.
And this brings me to my only criticism of Island of Long Beach and itsmonorail system—these people simply aren’t dreaming big enough! Smart developers would double down on the opportunity to create a non-profit transportation system. Why not? It’s easy to drop in the support systems—some only require a 10 x 10 footprint from the average property they install on. Some monorail systems simply sit above existing neighborhoods; all they need is a clearance of 45 feet. It’s really convenient—and don’t let people who don’t want monorails hoving above their homes tell you otherwise. Remember, the system is quiet. Yep, the quiet part is definitely the best part of the monorail concept.
Of course, it will change the appearance of the neighborhoods … to awesome! Like Shamu, as one facebook friend of mine declared, and she is right. It is definitely going to be cheerful to wake up to Shamu quietly drifting by every morning as I drink my coffee.
For more info on monorails, check out the Monorail Society at http://www.monorails.org/.