Culture

Ray Bradbury and the Free Monorail System

Ray Bradbury may have had his head in the sky for The Martian Chronicles and other amaz- ing stories set on other worlds and dimensions, but he knew a good thing here on Earth when he saw it.

In the early Sixties, the Alweg Monorail Company offered to build a 41.8-mile long trans- portation system free of charge. It would have included two lines extending east and west of downtown Los Angeles, and a third running through the Valley to downtown. Standard Oil (now Chevron) became active in lobbying against the plan. Only a few years earlier, Standard, Gen- eral Motors, Firestone Tire and others had bought up and derailed L.A.’s Red Car system, and nu- merous other urban railway companies through- out the country.

The Los Angeles Board of Supervisions quickly rejected the Alweg offer, over Bradbury’s strenuous objections. He recalled being thrown out of the meeting for making “impolite noises.”

The entire system would have cost $123 mil- lion to build ($740 million in today’s dollars), which Alweg would have been reimbursed for out of fare receipts. The company said it would consider more miles of the system if the County wanted it. The Alweg plan can be viewed at http://bit.ly/MvuWlV.

The towers for the tracks, and the tracks themselves, would have been built in a factory and assembled on the spot like a giant erector set. Since it would run down the center of existing streets the system could have been built and op- erating within months, not years. At the time of its proposal, Alweg had already built the Disney- land and Seattle monorails, both of which are still in service.

In contract, the “Subway to the Sea” began with a projected cost of $4 billion. The estimate has already increased to $9 billion and that is only as far as Westwood. Getting to the Sea will cost billions more. Bradbury objected to this waste of time and money, as well, stating that with the pleasant climate in Southern Califormia, monorails made more sense that subways.

Instead of $9 billion for a 10-mile long sub- way, we could have had, or still could have, 549 miles of monorails. That would give us a transit system approaching the coverage of the old Red Car lines, which the city and county ripped up. By the way, the subway won’t be completed until 2036. Bradbury must have been livid.

See more about the Solid Gold Subway at: http://bit.ly/ObL8Ko

–Jim Smith 

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