The Sydney Monorail, built in imitation of Seattle's, has now been through the predictable phases of exuberance, delight, irritation, and boredom, and has finally arrived at the point of being more of an obstacle than a service. The Sydney Morning Herald interviews longtime monorail fan Michael Sweeney who says what little can be said in the thing's defense. He even uses the word groovy, reminding us (and the interviewer) that he's expressing a definition of coolness that prevailed in one historical moment. There was never any reason to assume the monorail would be cool forever.
Why? The usual things. It was conceived as part of a redevelopment, designed to be part of the excitement that would sell expensive real estate. Like many new North American streetcars, the point was solely to achieve a development outcome and nobody much cared whether it would be useful as transit, especially decades into the future.
It was a tiny one-way loop, only about 1 km in diameter, connecting some key tourist destinations into downtown. Even for tourists it had limited use because — like most North American streetcars again — the route was so short that you might as well walk, as most people do in this area.
As urban design, the monorail wasn't that bothersome when it sailed over the open spaces of Darling Harbour, but when it snaked through the narrow streets of the CBD, it was a heavy weight in the air on narrow streets that were already oppressive to the pedestrian.
It's not surprising that it took a new redevelopment plan to sweep away the toys of the old. Still, the calculus came down to this: It's not very useful. If you want to get somewhere on the loop, and back, you might as well walk. And there are far fewer people riding it than walking under it, perceiving it as an oppressive weight.
So it's coming down. Last ride is this Sunday.