For all those of you still harbouring the dream of quitting your day job and retraining to become a Monorail Driver, we’re sorry to say, the future of the Monorail looks grim. See this story about the Monorail by Jacob Saulwick in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Also, here’s a history of the Monorail also published today in the paper, by Linton Besser.
For Ultimo, this is oddly troubling news. It’s not outrageous of us to say that pretty much everyone in Sydney thinks the Monorail is a joke. It is useless, very expensive, and it’s for tourists.
But if you live in certain parts of Ultimo, the Monorail is actually the closest and easiest way to get into the city. Sure, it costs a bomb, but if you really need to get into the CBD, fast, it is far and away the best way. Or if you’re carrying a lot of stuff… and it’s too heavy to carry home —- again, the Monorail is very, very handy. The 501 bus is often elusive, and it’s a bloody long walk to Central Station. So the Monorail is an attractive option for an Ultimite.
At peakhour the Monorail is absolutely packed, both with tourists and locals — with up to 20 people squeezed into a little Monorail capsule carriage (designed to carry 8-10 seated). It’s not pleasant. But even with high usage at peak times, the Monorail is still suffering from the slide in the tourist trade in recent years, partly because its design limits higher capacity, partly because it has the reputation as tourist transit, and partly because it’s just not that useful. Unless you live in Ultimo, that is.
All this is not to say that the Monorail ought to be saved, since there are obviously far bigger issues at stake than the everyday mobility challenges of people living in one of Sydney’s innermost suburbs.
For Penultimo’s part, we’ll keep on wearing out our shoes, and hot footing it from Ultimo to the city (or to Surry Hills, or Redfern, or Balmain, or wherever else it is we need to go, when public transport fails us). But for those with mobility problems, Ultimo is surprisingly inaccessible, in terms of access to major transport routes and services and things like grocery stores. That’s why we have community transport services like the PUG bus.