Atlantic Cities

Sydney's Sad Monorail Only Became Popular As It Was Shutting Down For Good

Sydney's Sad Monorail Only Became Popular As It Was Shutting Down For Good
Reuters

Sydney's deeply unpopular monorail made its final trip on June 30. And in a classic twist, its last weekend turned out to be unexpectedly profitable.

The 25-year-old monorail system has long been known for having low ridership and offering little convenience in its path through the city center. But nearly 16,000 people lined up to ride in its final weekend, according to The Daily Telegraph. Another 1,500 entered a contest to be one of 48 riders on the train's last ride. All told, that constitutes a 210 percent increase in ridership over the same period last year. The government of New South Wales plans to donate the final weekend's proceeds, about $70,000, to five children’s charities, including Make-A-Wish Australia and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. 

The Sydney monorail, which opened in 1988, crossed Darling Harbour and connected several tourist sites as it looped through the city’s central business district. But with a small circular route and a hefty $5 fare, even tourists, who made up 54 percent of the system’s users, generally preferred to walk. At its most extreme, riders could indulge in a less-than-a-block trip along Pitt Street between Galleries Victoria and City Centre—about 3 cents per meter.

The dismantling of the monorail will make way for a new convention center and entertainment district in Darling Harbour, an area in which planners had hoped to spur development with the monorail's original construction three decades ago. The removal of the monorail will also allow an expansion of the city's light rail network.

Decommissioning the system began Monday, and deconstruction will continue through March 2014. Planners intend to recycle more than 90 percent of the materials, including a total of 14,000 cubic feet of concrete and 1,600 tons of steel.

Top image: The Sydney monorail, shown above during the 2000 Olympics, closed forever in June (Will Burgess/Reuters).

Stephanie Garlock is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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