Saturday, May 05, 2007

Understanding the Complexities of Innovative Technology Project Failure

Nina Yuttapongsontorn (a graduate student at the Information School, UW) and I have completed a case study paper - Understanding the Complexities of Innovative Technology Project Failure: The Case of the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority.


The proposed Seattle Popular Monorail was one of the largest public works projects ever proposed in the city of Seattle. Three years after this proposal, the Seattle Monorail Project was shut down by voters. This paper studies the history of the plan, the challenges the plan’s proponents were confronted with, criticisms and reactions, and reasons for the plan’s failure. It is interesting to note that the City of Seattle has had experience in monorail projects. Seattle’s original monorail was one of the world’s first modern monorails, and it was the first full-scale monorail system in the US. It was built in 1962 for the Seattle Century 21 World’s Fair and cost $3.5 million. The 1.2-mile-long monorail was built in only 10 months. During the six months of the fair, the trains carried more than eight million guests and easily earned back its initial capital construction costs in just five months. Today, the trains carry more than 2.5 million riders each year, and it still operates at a profit after forty years of operation. Yet the City of Seattle could not repeat this success with the Seattle Popular Monorail.

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