Construction on a new medical office building, and the additional parking spaces that will be necessary, has prompted the leadership team at Piedmont Fayette Hospital to think outside the box when considering solutions to getting patients around their growing campus. While most residents of Fayette County think a parking deck at the hospital is an inevitable solution, Piedmont Fayette CEO Michael Burnett wanted to go in a different direction. Instead of going up or down with a parking deck, Piedmont Fayette is going to go around and around with a monorail.
“With over 2,000 staff members, nearly 250 volunteers, and over 750 physicians taking care of more than 215,000 people each year, Piedmont Fayette Hospital is a very busy place,” said Burnett. “To give everyone a place to park requires us to use all of the space on campus. To make that experience comfortable for patients, visitors, and staff alike, regardless of the weather, a monorail makes perfect sense.”
Lyle Lanley, a smooth-talking salesman, presented the idea first to the hospital and then to Fayetteville city officials. His presentation, which involved a touch of folksy humor and even a catchy tune, won over even the most die-hard skeptics in attendance.
“I’ve sold monorails to Brockway Medical, Ogdenville Memorial, and North Haverbrook Hospital, and by gum, it put them on the map,” Lanley said. “So while Piedmont Fayette won’t be the first hospital with a monorail, it will be the best.”
Lanley handed out an informational packet about the monorail to everyone at the city council meeting. He explained that mono means one and rail means rail, so a monorail is a vehicle traveling on one rail. When one resident worried that the monorail would be too loud, Lanley assured everyone that the monorail glides as softly as a cloud.
Piedmont Fayette’s four-car monorail system will mimic systems used at Disney World or at Las Vegas hotels. Visitors will park near one of five stations, each named for a famous fictional doctor, and wait in a climate-controlled station for the monorail to arrive and take them to one of the hospital entrances. The vehicle goes around the entire campus every five minutes, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
Burnett suggests that if the monorail program is successful at the hospital, he can see this and other outside the box forms of transportation being incorporated across the county. In order to discuss and plan for these opportunities many city and county officials have joined Burnett in creating the Fayette Area Rapid Transit Authority (FARTA).
Although the system, which is solar powered, is entirely automated, Piedmont Fayette will hire four full-time monorail conductors.
“I know we’ll find some incredible people,” Burnett said. “People whose lifelong dream is to be a monorail conductor.”
Burnett’s use of the word ‘dream’ is appropriate, as the inaugural Piedmont Fayette monorail will be called ‘The Dream.’ Some of the staunchest critics in Fayette County have stated that the monorail is a terrible idea and it will be the folly of a starry-eyed dreamer. Burnett does not take these criticisms to heart.
“Where would the world be without dreams?” Burnett asked. “It’s not like we’re building a popsicle stick skyscraper or an escalator to nowhere.”