The Monorail Safari will remain closed while the Dallas Zoo brings in outside experts to collaborate on a top-to-bottom evaluation of the popular people-mover, which serves more than 200,000 visitors each year.
The monorail halted Wednesday after an off-site voltage surge from an Oncor feeder line. The heat was not a factor, nor did the train malfunction; it’s designed to stop after a significant power event. The 48 passengers and the driver climbed down 12-foot ladders. The evaluation will explore why the train remained stopped after the power supply was restored and examine the overall electrical systems and components of the entire monorail.
“Our emergency plan worked exactly as it should have Wednesday during this unfortunate incident,” said Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoo. “However, as one of the nation’s leading zoos, we won’t rest until we get answers about anything that affects our visitors’ experience. This comprehensive evaluation will give us the information we need to decide about the monorail moving forward.”
The zoo has reached out to several firms specializing in public conveyances and anticipates having a contract signed next week. The evaluation is expected to take several weeks.
Zoo members may exchange their monorail coupons for free rides on the Safari Express mini-train on Picnic Ridge.
The Monorail Safari includes three low-speed electric trains, each with 13 cars that move at 3 mph. It runs on a one-mile loop around the back side of the 106-acre zoo, allowing visitors to see six habitats not accessible by foot: mountain, woodlands, river, arid, semi-arid and bush. It also circles above the Chimpanzee Forest, Nile crocodile pond and Penguin Cove. It’s one of just a few in the nation that goes uphill and downhill; the inclines are necessary because the Dallas Zoo sits on a hilly, heartland prairie forest.
The 24-year-old monorail has been upgraded through the years with updated components, including the electrical system and the 12 motors that propel each train. These efforts have extended the monorail’s lifespan significantly. Repairs and updates are performed by the zoo’s experienced eight-member team of mechanical and electrical experts, which also works with outside consultants as needed.
“Our monorail team is experienced and creative,” Hudson said. “Most have been working with this train for more than a decade, so they’ve very familiar with it. Their hard work is the reason why millions of visitors have been able to experience the Monorail Safari over the past 24 years. We are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that our guests are not inconvenienced by another unexpected stoppage.”