The Full Thom Ditty Interview

 Thom Ditty, general manager of Seattle Monorail Services, at the Seattle Center Monorail maintenance facility. Photo by Wade Roush.

Thom Ditty, general manager of Seattle Monorail Services, at the Seattle Center Monorail maintenance facility. Photo by Wade Roush.

Here's the full recording from my visit with Thom Ditty, general manager of Seattle Monorail Services. Thom took a big chunk of time on October 12, 2016, to show me around the system and then to sit for an extended interview.

The first third of the recording covers our backstage tour of the Seattle Monorail Services maintenance facility, in the shadow of the Space Needle at Seattle Center. The middle third covers our trip on the monorail from Seattle Center to Westlake Center, a downtown shopping mall, and back. For the final third we sat down in Thom's office to cover some general questions about monorail technology and the Seattle Center Monorail's place in the city's culture and its future. 

The monorail, built in 1962 to carry passengers to the Seattle World's Fair, is one of the city's most iconic attractions and has been featured in numerous films and TV shows, including, most recently, Amazon's The Man in the High Castle. Two million people ride the system every year. Alongside the Las Vegas Monorail, which connects a number of hotels and convention facilities along the Las Vegas Strip, it's one of the only true urban mass-transit monorails in North America. Hundreds of commuters ride the system every day, right alongside the tourists. 

(All of the continent's other monorail systems are located at theme parks, zoos, and airports. To be fair, though, the Walt Disney World Monorail System is also a serious mass transit operation, carrying hundreds of thousands of people every day between the Disney parking lots, the Magic Kingdom, and EPCOT Center.)

Ditty's affection for the system he oversees was clear. Like many other Seattleites, he says he was sad about the collapse of the 1997-2005 Seattle Monorail project. But in a way, the failure of that effort simply helped to increase the luster of the Seattle Center Monorail and its two vintage, lovingly maintained Alweg trains. The trains were 54 years old as of 2016; when I asked Ditty if the system would still be operating 54 years from now, he said "There is absolutely no reason that these trains can't continue running for another 100 years."

More Resources

Seattle Center Monorail

The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World's Fair and Its Legacy at Amazon

"Seattle's Monorail: A history beyond the World's Fair," Seattle PI, August 11, 2016