Monday, February 23, 2009

"State of the City" or "About that Monorail..."

On Monday, Mayor Michael Brown will deliver his most recent installment of the annual "State of the City" address.  Read Tu-Uyen Tran's Herald article here.

Brown usually uses the speech to brag about several accomplishments of the past year and to introduce a couple of new proposals.  I'm very interested to hear more about two of the proposals that Tran hints at in his article.

Both projects seem to involve the Alerus Center and its surroundings.  One proposal is to develop 42nd Street into a "Destination Corridor."  Nothing too new here, but I will be interested to see if Brown has any specific ideas that haven't been brought up before.  This is something that the Alerus Center's new director Steven Hyman is pushing for.  I'll be excited to see what Brown and Hyman can dream up over time.

The other proposal is a "transportation-related project" that would apparently link the Alerus Center to the Ralph Engelstad Arena.  WHAT?  ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THAT MONORAIL?  That would be uber-cool!

Maybe that whole "New Horizons" plan didn't vanish into thin air like I thought it had...

UPDATE - 2/23/2009 - 5:00 PM
In the words of Tu-Uyen, it IS a monorail.  Read the actual 2009 State of the City address here.


Matthew said...

I'm mildly excited, although I still want to hope that the monorail will serve more than just the Canadians and the hockey fans (downtown, anyone? UND itself?). If Kelley is serious about his UND Downtown plan, and Brown is serious about what could be the monorail (still hoping), there would be nothing more useful to both the city and UND than a monorail linking the two campuses, which would solve one of the problems I alluded to earlier.

The Imaginary Blog said...

"Transportation-related project" is this:
A dip in the road (modelled after the highly successful one on 32nd Ave. near Slumberland), with the directions: "Gun it, and when you're airborne, steer slightly to the east."

That'll get you from the Alerus to Englestad.

MattFacingSouth said...

"Transportation-related project" is this:
A dip in the road (modelled after the highly successful one on 32nd Ave. near Slumberland), with the directions: "Gun it, and when you're airborne, steer slightly to the east."

That'll get you from the Alerus to Englestad.


You, sir, owe me a new keyboard.

Anonymous said...

Why does this keep popping into my head?

"I've sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and by gum, it put them on the map!"

Goon said...

How are we going to pay for this project and I don't want my property taxes going to this thing. My taxes are high enough already.

jesslvan said...

I just think this is a risky venture. It's a gamble, will enough people use it? How many towns the size of Grand Forks have a monorail? I do like that the mayor has bigger ideas, but this one I'd be surprised if we ever see. If a mono rail was ever built, there should be a study of what areas it would get the most use. Also how would this affect other public transportation?

Goon said...

Jesslvan, you are right this is a risky venture that should not happen. I don't see any reason why we need this thing No one is going to use it except for maybe during hockey games.

Matthew said...

If they allow bikes on the monorail, I'd probably use it quite a bit to get to the southend.

Andrew said...

Monorail, monorail, monorail, MONORAIL!

Oh bother.'s a sexy idea for a project. Trendy urbanites take the monorail, while the great unwashed would use the bus...ekh. Until the monorail, trendy urbanites would take one of the more upscale car services.

Mayor Dr. Brown got this idea as he sat at his computer in the office playing SimCity 3000, no doubt. It's about as bloody ridiculous as the Hiawatha light-rail line in Twin Cities, MN.

The project would not serve the public much, however. It is perfect for the tourists from Canada, staying at the CanadInn complex. It's sex appeal would possibly drive more higher-level sporting events to the Engelstad, like we had with World Curling.

It'd be rather useful for UND as well, as a very convenient means of zipping UND students and staff over to Alerus for football and so on.

But these benefits would largely accrue to a small minority of city dwellers and visitors (almost none paying any taxes), but its cost would be borne on the backs of the whole city population.

We ought to be honest about costs. It'd cost a small fortune to design and plan, another small fortune to build, and an ongoing rather large fortune to operate (assuming it's not canned after a few years as reality sets in about its expense).

Public transit in any form nearly universally loses money. Our busing program does. We city dwellers subsidize it's lack of a large enough market. The Hiawatha light rail line is beating ridership goals handily (present average about 37,000 riders/day), however it's still not meeting its costs. Maximum fares are $2 (goes as low as $0.50), but operating cost/rider is about $18/day. The balance is picked up by the taxpayers. That's in operation. It cost taxpayers 0.75 billion just to build (and re-engineer traffic signals and other found bugs).

The city should take no action except for possibly offering to smooth the process of securing right-of-way access to any private interest in building and operating a monorail.

UND would be barred from becoming a significant part of any such private venture. 1) They're publicly subsidized. 2) They could never recoup the cost of such a contribution compared to the vastly smaller sum they might spend operating their own busing fleet for the same purpose.

If Grand Forks business thinks it'd be great for generating more business revenue, great! Let them form such a private coalition to chip in funding for a private venture. As investors, it could (unlikely, but maybe) generate an additional return once in operation.

The far likelier outcome would be that the cost to generate the monorail-fed business would more than outweigh the outlay such a private venture would need to build the system. a government-project sense, why would the permanent residents of the City want to pay a higher tax bill to fund a project whose returns in the form of higher patronage in City businesses don't generate an equal or better offsetting level of profits? Permanent residents of the City would literally have some of their monies confiscated so that the tiny segment of actual users of the facility could say, "Ooh...this is so cool! Monorail, baby!"

I'm not against the idea of such a project. I'm AM against the idea the it be a government led or funded project supported by tax revenue, regardless of ultimate source of that tax revenue.