Friday, May 18, 2012

Elevated rails and visual intrusion

In Las Vegas for two days I have been studying the effects of elevated rails carefully. The LV Monorail is a good study object as it has many different heights, presence in different types of areas and surroundings, split and joined tracks and much more. A few early observations: The stations seems to be over sized. The can easily hold many more times the people actually using the system (about 10-15,000 a day). The system is heavy but surprisingly slim looking from an angle below. No effort seems to been done into making the pillars and infrastructure blend into the surroundings - it's all light grey concrete. Neither did I see any effort to design the track into an object by itself, i.e. enhancing the system by making a visual statement (for example, painting it all green or putting in lights along the track). The ride is not uncomfortable, but still a bit rough. The trains looks nice, and are almost completely silent. Standing down below in traffic you hear nothing. With no traffic, the noise is almost undetectable. The cost for the system is high, according to Wikipedia about 400 million USD in construction (2004 cost). With a length of 3,8 miles / 6,3 km this translates into more than 100 MUSD per mile, probably more expensive than a light rail would cost. I find it strange that the connection to the airport is not done, that would probably make the whole system way more feasible - but I assume that would also make all taxi companies upset, a lot of them make good $$ going from the airport to downtown and hotels.

Image courtesy of :Tripadvisor

In whole an interesting experience. I would like to see what an ATN system could do instead, with a larger network and connection to the airport and a loop around the area with possibly a 20-30 mile length and small stations directly inside the hotels. My guess is that with a more developed ATN system using solar (perfect in LV) the city could be way more sustainable and probably be able to convert a lot of parking into more hotels and exciting entertainment facilities.

Official Homepage: LV Monorail
A critical article about the project: Lightrail now

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