The system, which is up for a vote in the November election, also could force Magnolia residents and some Queen Anne residents to pay twice for the same trip, he said, because some would have to pay a fare on a feeder bus to get to a monorail station and then pay a second fare to get to their destinations on the monorail.
Ochsner, an architecture professor at the University of Washington, isn't alone in those beliefs. He's part of a small group calling themselves Citizens Against the Monorail, which ran a series of 30-second spots on television this month attacking the populist transit project.
A question of esthetics
As an architect, Ochsner said he is especially concerned with the monorail's impact on the urban landscape, especially on lower Queen Anne and on Second Avenue in the downtown core.
"The problem is the scale of the columns and beams," he said. Beams would be 110 to 120 feet long, and the support columns that rise 30 to 40 feet above the ground would have to be sturdy enough to withstand an earthquake. "So these are not small structures."
If the line goes across Seattle Center grounds, as proposed under one scenario, the monorail would look like a big highway bridge, he added. The preferred Green Line route would go around the Seattle Center on Mercer Street, but that wouldn't be any better because - among other reasons - street trees would have to come down on the arterial, according to Ochsner.
He also points to the street-level effects of the existing monorail on Fifth Avenue as a reason a new monorail system would be a bad idea. "They don't even attempt to have sidewalk cafes," Ochsner said.
By the numbers
The Elevated Transit Company (ETC) estimates that 69,000 riders will take the monorail each day by 2010. However, according to Ochsner's calculations, "that number is really high."
To reach the 69,000 figure, he said, each monorail car in off-peak hours would have to have as many passengers as each monorail car during peak hours, when many of the passengers would have to stand.
"There's no transit system in the United States that does that," said Ochsner, who used to work in the early 1980s with Metro Transit in the Houston, Texas, area.
Peter Sherwin, from the pro-monorail Rise Above It All group, disagrees with Ochsner's conclusion.
"That's just completely wrong," Sherwin said.
The estimates on ridership numbers were prepared by transportation professionals and are accurate, he said.
If anything, the ETC ridership numbers are low, according to monorail campaign founder Dick Falkenbury, who has been quoted in the press as saying the number will be around 100,000 per day by 2010.
The bus connection
According to a study completed for ETC, more than 80 percent of potential monorail riders are currently using Metro buses to get around in Seattle.
The assumption is all those riders would switch to the monorail system, but those passengers would have to use Metro feeder lines to get to the stations in many cases, Ochsner said.
Some existing bus routes between neighborhoods and downtown would be eliminated and replaced by feeder lines, which would end at the monorail stations, according to a Metro analysis of the monorail plan.
That would mean many Magnolians and numerous residents on the west side of Queen Anne Hill would have to transfer from bus to monorail and back again instead of simply staying on the bus, Ochsner said.
"We're going to spend $2 billion doing what Metro already does," he said. Transferring between the monorail and buses would be inconvenient, and it also could end up costing more because people might end up paying both monorail and bus fares, Ochsner added.
"The question is, how many people will put up with this and not go back to [using] their cars?" he wondered.
By contrast, Ochsner said, someone living in Greenlake would be able to avoid the inconvenience of transferring and also save money when they head downtown.
According to the Metro analysis of the monorail plan, there are three bus-monorail transfer scenarios. One involves no discount for transferring passengers, and a second would provide a 50-percent discount, both of which are included in the ETC analysis.
Not included in the ETC analysis is a new version of the existing Puget Pass, which currently allows passengers to transfer from Sound Transit to Metro buses, for example, without paying an extra fee.
But the revenue from Puget Pass fares is divided among the different systems, which means ETC projected annual fare revenue would be reduced by 46 percent in 2020, from $20.15 million to $10.93 million, according to the Metro analysis.
The analysis also notes that ETC's assumptions about ridership levels are based on many factors "including a level of feeder bus service far in excess of Metro's current service in affected areas."
Setting up an intermodal fare structure will require future negotiations between Metro and the monorail authority, according to Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke.
"At this point, there's not a real direct connection," she said.
"I'm confident we're going to be able to work out a unified pricing structure," Sherwin said, although he conceded that structure won't be determined until after the vote.
Ochsner likens the battle of Citizens Against the Monorail versus Rise Above It All to the David and Goliath struggle.
"The monorail has had five years to build up a constituency," he said. "The opposition group is less than a month old."
Sherwin said he believes the anti-monorail campaign will be a factor in the November vote.
"They are definitely against the monorail, and they're going to say anything thing they can ... to once again stop transit in Seattle," he said.
However, according to the opposition's Web site at www.citizensagainstthemonorail.org, the plan "provides for the most massive, costly, environmentally destructive, and ungoverned project in the history of Seattle."