Writing for Slate, Vanderbilt tracks the rise of streetcars as urban transportation solution -- and draws a comparison to the transportation obsession of Walt Disney that can be seen in his theme parks today.
"The monorail-which must have looked to Disney and the world like the transportation of the future in the 1950s-is now, to many, considered a historical footnote, a relic of World Expos or, at best, an automated ride between airport terminals. America's highest-profile monorail project, the expansion of Seattle's line, was plagued by cost overruns and funding gaps, and was finally dissolved in 2005 (costing taxpayers $125 million). The Las Vegas monorail has filed for bankruptcy. At the same time, those retro streetcars, which Disney himself rode in Kansas City in the early 20th century and which must have seemed to him part of a vanishing past, are returning (or may soon return) to any number of American cities, including Washington, D.C.; Cincinnati' Tucson; Atlanta; Dallas; St. Louis; and Salt Lake City."