Light Rail Now/Light Rail Progress can be contacted at:
Light Rail Now!
Monorail systems are occasionally proposed as an alternative to light rail transit (LRT). However, unlike urban LRT systems, most monorail applications appear to be relatively short, shuttle-type or simple point-to-point services with few or no branches. in Japan, the country with the highest concentration of monorails in actual urban revenue service, and the most extensive monorail fleets, most monorails appear to serve as feeders to conventional, heavy-duty rail systems or for special applications in extremely dense and highly congested urban conditions. (See monorail trainset on beamway in Kitakyushu, right.)
The relatively small size typical of Japanese monorail systems is indicated by their fleet sizes. Leroy Demery, Jr., lead co-author of the prospective Electric Railways of Japan, Volume 1, Second Edition, has prepared fleet list information based on the 2001 issue of Shitetsu sharyo hensei-hyo (Compiled List of Private-sector Railway Rolling Stock), published in Tokyo. The following listing uses the rollingstock code from the Japan book series (patterned after the "Taplin code," devised by Light Rail Transport Association's Mike Taplin): "M" = motor car; "T" = trailer car.
Japanese Monorail Systems: Rollingstock and Trainsets
In assessing the size of these Japanese monorail applications based on their comparative fleet sizes, it is useful to keep in mind that each Japanese monorail car is roughly half as long as a "typical" American LRV (light rail vehicle). Using this as a basis for conversion, one can make the rough calculations of equivalent LRV fleet sizes for the major operating urban Japanese systems. (Smaller lines, performing simple shuttle-type or circulator services, have been excluded.)
Japanese Monorail Fleets: Equivalent LRVs
Most of these fleet sizes seem quite small compared with LRV fleets even for modest-sized North American cities operating LRT. (See photo of LRV storage yard in Denver, left.) For example, using data from a presentation by John Schumann to the 2000 National LRT Conference, the following table lists LRT fleet sizes for a number of major LRT installations:
US LRT Systems: Fleet Sizes
This analysis would appear to suggest that, on the whole, Japanese urban revenue monorail systems – even those functioning as the main rail transit system of a city – are much smaller-scale operations than comparative North American LRT systems.
Data and portions of this report have been adapted from material provided by Leroy W. Demery, Jr.