The very high on-time performance statistics for long established and new monorail services worldwide are in no small part due to the durability and ease of repair of their vehicle and rail systems. The virtually maintenance free infrastructures of reinforced concrete and steel require little more than regular inspection, while monorail vehicles and operating systems have proven to be exceedingly reliable over the past several decades.
Incurring virtually no damage from collisions or other environmental factors, monorail performance is not impeded by equipment failure, excessive ware or damage from any external source. This sustainability of equipment and structures enhances the financial, as well as, functional performance of monorail systems and services well into the future.
Rubber-tired monorails are subject to much less vibration and related wear than steel wheel and rail systems and the tires themselves are not exposed to damaging potholes or debris that typically occur in streets, roadways, and on railroad tracks. The carefully smoothed grades and curves of monorail infrastructure, and the refined finish of contact surfaces protects the system from virtually all roadway hazards, and allows greatly extended service lives of all monorail components.
Typically operating with much lower energy use than other forms of mass transit, monorail system energy requirements are estimated to be less than ten percent of that used by at grade rail, bus, or subway systems. Significant reductions in energy demand, in both manufacturing and operations, will greatly enhance the sustainability of monorails as mass transportation service providers.
Development of more energy efficient, centrally powered monorail systems, or self-powered monorail vehicles operating independent of electrical distribution grids will dramatically reduce energy consumption and its ever-increasing costs. No other transportation mode or technology approaches the sustainability of modern monorail systems; in terms of vehicles, equipment, energy consumption, or the environments in which they so elegantly operate.
Economic sustainability is the overarching, most critical factor influencing the long-term sustainability of all transportation systems and services. With virtually every US form of public transportation operating in perpetual subsidized deficit, monorails pose the only viable, financially sustainable alternative. Recent proposals to open two 12-mile sections of Los Angeles freeway high occupancy vehicle “Diamond Lanes” to single occupant vehicles at fees of $1 to $1.40 per mile, suggest that pricing monorail tickets at $1 or more per mile may set a reliable fee baseline that could generate sufficient revenue to support operation, maintenance and construction debt service on privately developed and operated urban monorail systems. Monorail riders would achieve distinct advantages and reduced expenses for parking fees, fuel, vehicle maintenance, depreciation and insurance, along with the rigors of driving, that could add an additional dollar per mile to urban commuters’ driving expenses, broadening the reasonable fare range substantially.
Sustainable monorail systems require consistent and reliable cash flow adequate to pay all ongoing operational expenses, as well as, servicing of long-term debt incurred during construction, implementation and equipment acquisition phases of system development. The sustainability of monorail service quality and safety is directly related to the levels and consistency of revenues available for maintenance of system and service quality and safety, and is vitally dependent on a monorail system’s business and operational plans. Traditional public transit funding models based on tax revenues and subsidies lack any semblance of market competition or customer preferences, and tend to offer transportation services on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.