Lancer Kind, Science Fiction author

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A better vision of mass transit in a movie from the Sixties

25 January, 2009 (23:57) | Uncategorized | By: Lancer Kind

The 1961 film Fahrenheit 451 was recently on the TV and I was struck by how modern it felt.

In fact, it featured a monorail that was superior to the one constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair held in Seattle.

One of the biggest controversies about building mass transit is where the stops should be.  Naturally, there is a lot at stake for businesses and home owners who would benefit if there is easy access to catching a ride.

What was unique about the monorail in the Fahrenheit film, constructed at Saran France by SAFEGE in 1959, was that the car was suspended from the monorail so passengers could exit via a ramp reaching from the bottom.  In reality, this feature was used as an emergency exit, while in the movie it was used as the means for boarding and disembarking.

Unfortunately, the track has been dismantled.  It’s amazing to me that this system seems superior in that it supports the ability to stop at any point on the track where today, the Seattle monorail only has two stops, one at each end of the track.  It’s odd how a 1961 film is like a documentary about what was better in the past.  Like a comedian recently said, he enjoys telling youths that the SF films from the ’80s are documentaries about what life was like, that the flying cars were great for a while but were too much trouble in the end.  :-)

If disembarkation doesn’t require a platform, the system is like a bus that can stop anywhere, thus not requiring all the up-front planning and design that goes into a usual train system.  If you find one location doesn’t work well as a stop, you just move the mono-rail sign elsewhere and stop there!

Potential negatives: no escalator but most people need the exercise anyway.  If you really want them, you could still build some elevated stops (handicap access would be nice).  I bet some slick Japanese engineer out there (hey, that’s where origami came from) could probably design moving stairs that can be raised and lowered.

It turns out there are operational “upside down” monorails in Japan.  Here is the one in Chiba, which is near Tokyo:

And the Shonan monorail:

Apparently there are a slew of all kinds of monorails in Japan.  There’s even a Monorail Society that documents monorails from around the world and they sell dvds.  Maybe now that we have a U.S. president that can string together intelligent words, we can get some good national infrastructure built.  It would be too bad to disappoint all those people from the ’60s by saying that the monorails were like the flying car’s, that we couldn’t make it happen.

It’s the least we could do after making those nice people watch years of Leave it to Beaver.