Monorails: A cheaper option for city transit

I enjoyed your article about the possible expansion of Seattle's monorail,"Seattle populists put monorail on fast track," but the article missed one crucial point: While automated guideway transit systems may or may not be marginally cheaper per mile to build than light rail systems, their significantly cheaper operating costs are what can make them so attractive.

In fact, almost without exception, the only transit systems in the world that violate the tenet that transit systems require operating subsidies are automated guideway transit systems – and one is just across the border from Seattle, in Vancouver, B.C., where the 17-mile SkyTrain carries 146,000 passengers each day and operates in the black, recovering 100 percent of its operating costs at the fare box.

Other arguments in favor of and against the monorail are valid, but regarding cost – especially in the US, where the federal government generally subsidizes mass transit capital projects but not operating costs – no other mode would come close to the monorail in terms of efficiency.
Seth Kaplan
Miami, Fla.

Regarding your Aug. 21 article "Seattle populists put monorail on fast track": City councilman Nick Licata's statement about monorail revolutionizing mass-transit in the United States is an understatement.

But the opportunities for light rail are reaching a limit as the number of available rights of way suitable for surface rail are being used up, and the thought of placing these systems on wide, elevated structures is not possible in most communities. The monorail advocates of Seattle are true visionaries, an attribute that has made this country great.
Marvin Daniel Monaghan
Garland, Texas

Testing the marriage waters

Regarding Marilyn Gardner's Aug. 21 Connections column "Speaking out about living together before marriage": I appreciate the column's moral concerns about cohabitation. But my 30-plus years' experience in counseling couples, married and not, leads me to the conclusion that the strength of a couple's relationship depends less on the legalities than on the attitudes: Are they sensitive and open to each other?
Rev. Dr. John R. Van Eenwyk
Olympia, Wash.

Marilyn Gardner's Aug. 21 column is written from the standpoint that premarital cohabitation is a social ill that leads to divorce and must be remedied. Cohabitation seeks to prevent future misery, either within a marriage or during a divorce.

Marriage can be a frightening institution for today's children. Nearly every child today either comes from a broken home or has a friend who does. Too many children have been forced to endure the pain of failed marriages.

As long as our children see marriage as an intimidating commitment, many will continue to choose to live with a potential spouse before taking such a big step.
Chris Colvin
San Pablo, Calif.

When water isn't pollution

Your Aug. 23 article on "Earth Summit 2: Will US play?" included a dramatic photo with the caption: "Smoke billows out of a major power plant in Megalopoli, which is one of the more polluted parts of Greece."

In fact, most of the visible plumes coming from the power plant in the photo are not smoke, but water vapor! The base of one of the plumes is clearly a cooling tower, a part of the power plant that does not involve smoke or combustion.
Elizabeth M. Fisher
Ithaca, N.Y.

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