The Seattle Monorail turns 55 today, to much hoopla and reminiscing. It’s an iconic part of our city, even if mostly used by tourists, and it’s a testament to the staying power of public transportation. The monorail is more or less an antique, but it’s still functional—with many more years left in it, too. We here in Seattle might take it for granted, but this piece of 1960s technology still runs today as one of the few fully self-sufficient public rail transit system in the country.
The Monorail started in 1962 for the World’s Fait, with a $3.5 million price tag. Even in 1962, that price was a steal—eight million people rode the monorail during the six-month-long fair, which more than paid for all the construction costs. Today, about two million people still ride those original trains every year (about 6,000 people every day). Today, the monorail ends at Westlake Center, but back in the day, the line’s southern terminus was a lid-like station on top of Pine Street and Westlake Avenue (see below).
If you want to celebrate the antique—it really is an antique! The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board gave it historical landmark status on April 16, 2003—you can join the party today from noon to 2 p.m. You’ll get free tours and a “behind-the-scenes look at the Monorail maintenance facility.”
Happy birthday, Seattle Monorail!