Today is the day the Seattle Monorail’s Green Line was supposed to open. I still have a free ride ticket/magnet on my fridge:
Before I moved to Seattle, I’d always lived in a city with some form of traffic-beating public transportation. Growing up in DC it was the Metro and later when I went to college in New York it was the subway. For the three post-college years I lived in New York I commuted to work every day on the subway. Upon moving to Seattle, it was a harsh adjustment for me to get used to the painful cross-520 car or bus commute. So I was a big advocate of the Seattle Monorail and I spent time volunteering for the project, handing out pamphlets and buttons to passersby at such esteemed local events as the Fremont Solstice Parade and the Wallingford Wurst Festival.
The appeal of the monorail was not just that it would be a first step in the direction of a non-road based public transportation, but that it would be such an incredibly cool thing for a city to have. It would be a slice of sci-fi fantasy come to life, but instead of a novelty like the 1962 World’s Fair monorail it would actually be a functional, practical service. After the popularity of the Monorail was reaffirmed in a November 2004 vote, with 64% voting against a recall of the long-planned project, it looked like the monorail was really going to happen. I started a photography project using my 4×5 camera to document the street corners and lots where the stations were to be built. At the time my plan was to photograph each of the 19 locations before, during, and after construction.
Then in June of 2005 the Seattle Monorail Project published its plan for financing construction: $2 billion to build and an additional $9 billion in interest. Public reaction was swift and negative, and in November of 2005, voters killed the project they had brought to life a few years earlier.
After the monorail was officially dead, I continued to take photos of the station locations. In some of the final photos I shot you can see the for sale signs on the properties. What began as a rephotography project turned into an alternate history project. What would this city look like if instead of a Denny’s on the corner of 65th and Market there was a monorail station? Would the stations in empty lots have sparked flourishing micro communities? Or would the monorail have ended up as an impractical behemoth, good only for tourists? I’m sad we’ll never know.
Here are the places the 19 stations would have been, going from north to south:
Northwest 85th Street and 15th Avenue NW.
15th Avenue NW at NW 65th Street.
15th Avenue NW at NW Market Street.
South of West Dravus Street.
5th and Broad.
5th Avenue and Bell Street.
5th Avenue and Stewart Street.
2nd Avenue and Pike Street.
2nd Avenue and Madison.
2nd Avenue and Yessler Way.
1st Avenue at Lander.
35th Avenue SW.
California Avenue SW and SW Alaska Street.
California Avenue SW and SW Morgan Street.