24 February 2009


Some people are so set on living a life in which they can drive door to door, so against ever getting out and actually walking places or riding in public transit that they go through all kinds of contortions to make their drive-thru lifestyle sustainable. They are like Sisyphus pushing that rock up a hill.

Andy Webster commented on a blog post here last week. He and his partner, Jay Andress are two Cincinnatians, trying to develop an electric monorail car, called the Monomobile:

Somehow they have gotten the Clinton County Commissioners to endorse their idea:
WILMINGTON - Clinton County...is throwing its support behind the MonoMobile.

...The startup MonoMobile Corp., created by real estate investor Jay Andress of Hyde Park and Andy Webster of Indian Hill, hopes to hear this spring whether it will receive a $2.8 million matching grant from Ohio's Third Frontier program to build a mile-long test track to refine the project.

... have been working on the concept for about 12 years

... an electric-powered personal vehicle that could travel about 50 miles between charges for local travel, but would hook up to an electric-charging monorail built along interstate rights-of-way for high-speed, long-distance travel.

The project has gotten support from the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Wright State University and the National Composite Center...

... it allows the driver to travel short distances and if the person wants to go to the outskirts of the city or to another city then using the wheels attached to the roof it connects to the monorail.

...The developers spent a sum of $2500 preparing the CityEl, now dubbed as the Liberator Car. They are also planning an additional $10 million for a 1 mile test section of monorail.

The new Liberator Car assures that the driver will never have to worry about running out of power the moment he reaches the destination..
I can save these guys lots of headaches and hard work. This proposal is totally unworkable. On the surface there are multiple problems:

- the car is too small for families, too fragile for road travel.
- three wheeled vehicles are inherently unstable.
- no one wants to go 200mph in what is basically a bicycle with a fiberglass shell.
- the design is proprietary and thus limited in scope.
- lifting a transport system off the ground makes it prohibitively expensive.
- they've spent only $2,500 on it themselves, but want $2.8 million from the State?

Look, long distance, fast, electric transport is done all the time in other countries. It is called electric rail, and it is tested, safe and we already have the right of ways. The only problem is that you must detach yourself from a car to use it. For some people this is a step too far.


Quimbob said...

"no one wants to go 200mph in what is basically a bicycle with a fiberglass shell."
speak for yourself

Randy Simes said...

This seems like a different idea for the sake of being different. You're right, we already have proven electric trains running out there that can run fast, safe, efficient, and carry lots of people. We just need to invest in them.

VisuaLingual said...

Wow, this is like something from The Onion!

Anonymous said...

I think the plan will be to make larger mini-van sized vehicles.

I believe it is more plausible than me driving to a light rail station, waiting for a train, riding it downtown, then walking 5 blocks to work.

DP said...

The only scenario for which I see this making the least bit of sense is for a downtown resident who has a reverse commute. They could own this as their only car, hook on to the "rail", be transported to their 'burb of choice, unhook and scoot over to their suburban office. For the suburban resident commuting to a downtown, rail transit has a solution already: park-and-ride lots. P&R may not be perfect, but it's better than the State buying a long, linear right-of-way so that suburbanites who can afford to spend $10K on one of these fiberglass coffins can get to downtown faster.

Also, just think, now all those McMansions will need yet another garage bay. And maybe we can widen all the roads out there to add mono-mobile lanes too.

CityKin said...

"I believe it is more plausible than me driving to a light rail station, waiting for a train, riding it downtown, then walking 5 blocks to work."

No it is not more plausible at all.

And if we had transit oriented development, for many people the car part of your scenario would be eliminated.

kid-cincy said...

"we already have the right of ways."

Who has them? Are you referring to public roadway rights-of-way, or the rail lines that are owned by private companies? I doubt these companies will just give up control/ownership of their lines for some public good. Somebody will have to pay, and if/when the government starts writing checks, you can bet the price will go up.

I suppose public roadways could be utilized, but construction costs would be astronomical.

Anonymous said...

This idea isn't a bad one, I think if you can combine the best of auto and rail into one system the results could be fantastic. I have stated many times, the problems with rail is that once you get close to your destination you still have to go the last "mile" which in some instances could be many miles.

I see this as a rail - auto hybrid, and think it could work.

CityKin said...

The last mile problem is a result of poor planning and sprawl. This whole effort is trying to find a way to make distant living oil-free. Sprawl is an inherent energy waster, and you can't get your mind around that.

Answer this. Why is the whole thing suspended from the ground? Bridges are the most expensive part of roads and rails. Why make the whole system one, long bridge?

Anonymous said...

"And if we had transit oriented development, for many people the car part of your scenario would be eliminated."

But we don't have transit-oriented development. We have what we have, and we're not going to tear down all of suburbia to rebuild it transit-friendly.

I, and most of suburbia will never ride a train unless the total commute it is quicker than driving. A train is not faster. This monorail will be.

CityKin said...

^It is estimated that half of all buildings that will be standing in 2025 are yet to be built. The real question is whether we want to continue on this wasteful development pattern that requires wasteful cars.

The more realistic option is creating compact walkable cities with pedestrian assistance in the form of public transit. This solution is proven, healthy and cheaper. And yes, it is even faster.

Anonymous said...


It's not just about convenience and speed. It is also about the environment, saving money by not buying gas and various other reasons. It wouldn't hurt to get more informed.

Anonymous said...

Just a few thoughts...
1. If we could get this system installed we would see an end to waste in the common traffic jams we have now. The savings from this are quite large.
2. Also, this would put an end to many of the highway deaths we see each year because the onboard computer would be controlling the cars (i.e. no human error)
3. This system also spurs us to get loose from the ever increasing power of OPEC. This just makes socio economic sense. (i.e. if the ability to tax is the ability to destroy, then OPEC has the power to destroy us currently)
4. A four lane rail system will be alot cheaper to build and maintain than an eight lane highway system. or more importantly a multi-billion dollar bridge.
5. This is just faster, cheaper, cleaner, safer, more efficient.... This just makes sense if some small logistical problems are fixed

Anonymous said...

Wow, I hope people go to the actual website for the invention, because this article sounds ridiculously misinformed. Sure, 13 years of work and they've managed to spend only $2,500 on it. Right. This invention is not only cheaper than any rail system but it is minimally invasive to its surrounding environment. Wildlife could not be hit by the high speed cars, no digging through hillsides or filling in ponds - all means more direct service and shorter commutes. The idea in Popular Science Magazine are not inherently political but if you want to turn it into that type of issue, this is America. Since this is an invention the model you see is a "prototype" which means it might take on other more "doable" forms in the future. Think of it like the Model-T. I'm sure real car designers will work out issues of stability, design, or seating. But customizing a single car costs more than $2,500 so.... It is still an undeniably important step in the future of mass transportation. The future has arrived and it is nothing that you expected.

Unknown said...

While sitting in traffic in San Diego day after day, I also came up with this same exact idea. My thought process was this; what is the currently used solution to when a freeway becomes to crowded? Answer: build another lane...well obviously that is not sustainable because eventually cities would be just 1 big freeway :P
So, the only way to go is UP. This answers the question of 'why make the entire thing 1 long bridge'. Well because in the vertical direction there is much more room for expansion. You could add an even higher lane and higher..the sky is the limit. And, the reason why bridges are so expensive to build is that there is so much concrete to be suspended up in the air to support such massive trucks and traffic. But, this system is different. Just because it is suspended doesn't mean it suffers from the same downsides as current road-bridges. It doesn't have to support the weight of such bulky cars and so will require much less concrete. I would imagine rebar-reinforced concrete pillars going down the median of freeways with a T like structure. On the top there are 2 (or more) lanes running in opposite directions comprised of I-beam steel beams.

The car design will likely change to meet the expectations of the market. Probably different models will be produced by different companies that are smart enough to sign a contract with monomobile. People will rush to buy these cars once they are sitting in stand-still traffic and see people flying 100+ MPG overhead.

Some people are so cynical and unable to think outside the box. They reject anything different or any type of change. This is the thinking that holds back societies :( Don't be that type of person :P