Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Godwin's Law and the transit equivalent

In Internet discussion, there is "Godwin's Law":

It states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." In other words, Godwin put forth the hyperbolic observation that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope— someone inevitably criticizes some point made in the discussion by comparing it to beliefs held by Hitler and the Nazis.

In discussions about transit, the equivalent is reached when people either bring up monorails or personal rapid transit, because "heavy rail" or light rail or streetcars are somehow obsolete or more importantly, not sexy enough technologies.

Today's letter to the editor in the Examiner:

Transportation planners keep pushing outdated technology

The mentality of transit planners must change. We should be building cantilevered or conventional monorail instead of heavy rail systems like Metrorail.

A cantilevered monorail would have nearly the same capacity as heavy rail at much less cost and less obtrusiveness, and provide greater convenience and better service to its users.

G. Stanley Doore, Silver Spring


is an example of the Godwin's Law for transit.
 The Las Vegas Monorail
Tiffany Brown, Las Vegas Sun. The Las Vegas Monorail is shown Monday, June 22, 2009. The Las Vegas Monorail Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 but will continue to operate, company officials said.

Monorail might be cheaper than tunneling, but there is no example of a monorail operating over the kinds of distances that the heavy rail system does in the DC area. Plus, you need above-ground land for pylons to hold up the tracks. And, it's ugly to look at, a pollution of the viewshed, far more intensive than by comparison the surgical insertion of wires for streetcars.

There are a few monorails/people movers in operation in Detroit (2.9 miles), Miami (4.4 miles), and Las Vegas (3.9 miles, which coincidentally declared bankruptcy in January 2010, see "Las Vegas Monorail files for bankruptcy protection" from the Las Vegas Sun, has had as high as 30,000+ passengers in one day). The Seattle Monorail (just over 1 mile in length) is really more of a kind of amusement attraction, it's not a transit system.

So Layman's Law for Discussions about Transit is:

"As an online discussion about transit grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving monorails or personal rapid transit systems approaches 1." In other words, given enough time, in any online discussion about fixed rail transit, someone inevitably criticizes some point made in the discussion by declaring the technology obsolete, offering the example of monorail and/or personal rapid transit systems as more advanced and superior technologies.

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