If you’re read much of my work here or at my own website, chrisqueen.net, or if you’ve spent more than five minutes around me, you know how much Disney means to me. I admire Walt Disney, his brother Roy, and the men and women who built the company. I’ve enjoyed most of the films and several of the TV projects over the years. Most of all, I love Walt Disney World and the history, culture, and secrets that surround Disney’s theme parks.
Even though I’m a Disney fanboy through and through, I’m willing to admit that the company doesn’t always get things right. One of the ways Disney falls short of excellence is in the transportation at Walt Disney World. From the earliest days of his parks, Walt Disney placed a premium on transportation not just as a way to get around, but as an experience too. From pleasant trains and boat rides to the sleek monorails, Walt intended for transportation to be part of the fun. Unfortunately, when it comes to getting around property, guests are more likely to encounter long waits for buses.
I’ve come up with three ideas for ways Disney can improve transportation around Walt Disney World. I admit that two of these ideas are pipe dreams, but Disney could implement one of them today if they wanted to. Let’s start with an idea that would honor Walt’s legacy in a really unique way.
3. Utilize People Movers Between The Parks And The Resorts
When Walt Disney first made his ideas and dreams for the Florida Project public in the famous EPCOT Film in October 1966, the innovative ideas he proposed included cutting edge transportation:
But automobiles and freeways will not be EPCOT’s major way of entering and leaving the city. The transportation heartbeat of EPCOT will be the two electric powered systems—monorail and WEDWAY—that radiate to and from the transportation lobby, and the key system in this coordinated network will be the WEDWAY People Mover.
While guests can ride both the monorail to and from certain resorts and parks, the People Mover serves merely as an attraction in Tomorrowland – the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (though we old school guests still call it the WEDWAY or the People Mover). But can you imagine how cool it would be to ride a People Mover from your resort to a park, another resort, or – better yet – to a central hub at the Transportation & Ticket Center?
The first People Mover installation is already in daily operation at Disneyland. On peak days, it carries nearly 40,000 passengers. The cars you see here are approximately 5/8ths scale, considerably smaller than full-sized passenger cars would be for city use.
EPCOT’s People Mover is a silent, all-electric system that never stops running. These cars continue to move even while passengers are disembarking or stepping aboard. Power is supplied through a series of motors embedded in the track, completely independent of the cars. No single car can ever break down and cause a rush hour traffic jam in EPCOT. Because the cars run continuously, there will be no waiting in stations for the WEDWAY People Mover; the next car is always ready.
Just picture hopping on a PeopleMover like the one pictured above – only larger and covered – to get back and forth through the park. You and other guests could then disembark at the Transportation & Ticket Center and hop on a monorail to Epcot or the Magic Kingdom or jump on another People Mover to other resorts and parks.
An all-electric vehicle would mean fewer cars in the parking lot, and perhaps fewer buses to and from areas of the parks. Using PeopleMovers would also honor Walt’s legacy in a really unique way. Alas, we’re likely not to ever see Walt’s innovative transportation system – other than at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
2. Extend The Monorail Lines
There’s something special, quintessentially Disney about riding a monorail at Disney parks. The Monorail System, like the PeopleMover, factored into Walt’s dream of modern urban living and theme park entertainment. At Walt Disney World, guests can board monorails at the Transportation & Ticket Center and ride straight to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot or ride a loop that includes the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary Resorts in addition to a stop at the Magic Kingdom.
Now picture being able to hop on a different monorail that took you to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Or Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Or Downtown Disney. It’s a really cool dream, and the idea keeps popping up from time to time on Walt Disney World fansites’ forums and “news and rumors” pages. Take a look at this one, for example:
According to one source, Disney is ruminating on expanding it’s monorail system.
Imagine all of the parks and resorts connected by monorail. Is this possible? I don’t see why not. Yes, it will cost lots of money to implement, but you can scrap the bus system once it’s completed and transfer those funds to the monorail system.
Or this one:
I’ve heard this rumor countless times before… but a good source claims that Walt Disney World may be taking another long hard look at expanding the resorts [sic] iconic Monorail system once again in order to cut back on their reliance on bus transportation and move towards a functional mass transit network that would service all of the theme parks and bigger attractions eventually. Stay tuned.
Clearly, Disney fanboys (like me) would love to see monorails all over the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The monorails honor Walt’s dreams in another tangible way. However, we have not seen an expansion of the Monorail System since 1982, when Epcot opened. And there’s one major reason why: cost. As one forum poster put it:
Ideally, monorails would be essential for travel betwixt the various parks; especially in light of Walt’s original concept of monorail as long-distance and high-speed mass transportation. But “ideally” doesn’t figure into the equation anymore. It’s cheaper to run buses, so buses will run.
One fansite estimates the cost per mile at somewhere between $50 million and $150 million per mile, based on other case studies, but we really have no real idea how much monorail expansion would cost. As cool as it sounds, expanding the monorail system is probably too great a capital expense for Disney to see it through.
1. More Buses…Especially At Park Closing!
While the idea of extending the Monorail System or implementing PeopleMovers all over the property may be crazy pipe dreams, Walt Disney World can use some of its existing infrastructure to make transportation easier, especially at park closing.
Picture this: it’s late, and you’re in the bus line after spending all day at Magic Kingdom. Your feet ache, and you feel sweaty from a day in the Florida sun. You’re holding a sleeping three year old who is dead weight on your shoulder, while your spouse contends with a whiny seven year old. You’ve already folded up the stroller because you know you can’t get on the bus with it unfolded. And you have to wait an hour as bus after bus heading to your resort fills to capacity before you have a chance to board. We’ve all been there in some way or another.
The solution isn’t difficult – Disney can alleviate the problem by adding more buses at times like park closing. Or, if financial concerns prevent adding more buses, the company can change the bus schedules around so that more drivers are available at the end of the park day. I, for one, wouldn’t mind a longer wait in the middle of the day if it meant a shorter wait when my family is at their most tired.
The solution seems like a no-brainer. I’m sure there are circumstances that complicate it and other factors that come in to play, but adding more buses or merely changing the schedule could make a huge difference for tired families.
I don’t claim to be an engineer or an expert on transportation, but I’ve been to Walt Disney World nearly every year since I was a baby. I can see where transportation is a major issue all over property. While the situations I’ve proposed here may not be any of the magic answers, the solutions are out there. Here’s hoping Disney can figure out how to make transportation around property easier and better for all its guests.