For a city like Sydney, which is quite spread out by international standards, a monorail is an incredible idea, in theory. But in practice, it’s a more like an ironed-flat roller coaster – no dips and peaks to make it exciting and frequented by tourists rather than locals.
With fused oblongs and cylinders and a single track as its spine, the monorail’s stations resemble a kind of dated modernity, designed in anticipation of a far-flung future that never quite happened. Their general emptiness and eeriness add to the strangeness. However, since the announcement of the monorail’s closure, twice the usual number of fares are being sold. It seems funny that we’re so willing to rally behind something that has been reviled since its opening in 1988 – but rally we have.[fold]
This weekend marks the last few loops for the monorail, with dismantling beginning in July. While the very last round has already been balloted off, this weekend is still your last chance to farewell the one-track wonder. If you need a little more convincing that the $5 fare for a mere 3.6 kilometres isn’t worth it, take solace in the fact that all fares sold this weekend are going towards a group of children’s charities including Camp Quality and CanTeen.
Riding the monorail is an odd experience; it shows you snapshots of Sydney that a daily commute rarely affords. Sliding above the streets, buildings that are deeply familiar are suddenly so close and so detailed that they begin to feel foreign. Mixed brickwork and architraves slip past – neon signs for businesses that live exclusively on the second strata of the city emerge, as do awnings spread with debris that is invisible to the pedestrians below. At one point, you glimpse an entire mural of black and white hands, set into the side of a building and impossible to see from the street.
More fascinating are the windows, which allow glimpses into the breadth of city life. Office spaces rush past, as do white table-clothed restaurants, bars and boarded-up windows. A gym with rows and rows of treadmills emerges – people running on an endless track, moving but going nowhere.
Riding the monorail in the twilight, the CBD becomes all shadows and headlights below, perpendicular slices of dusk above. Again, you might be struck by the unfamiliarity of these little geographies that you know so well. It’s a brief tour of the CBD, and while it may not take you anywhere new, it certainly gives you a new perspective.
Mon to Fri 7am–10pm
Sat & Sun 8am–10pm