Archive for the ‘Disney’ Category

Mouse Transit

November 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Just got back from a trip to Disney World.  Took my mother and her friend – and my wife! – for a five-day, non-thrill-ride tour of the parks.  A good time was had by most.

I often talk and write about Disney World.  I am a fan.  And I also mourn for the Disney of old, who seemed to give a better deal to their guests and had a better vision of what they wanted to accomplish.

If there is one place where Disney is really falling down, it is in their internal transit system.  The monorail is okay and their many ferries do pretty well.  But the bus system is terribly strained, to the breaking point.

It is either feast or famine.  The buses are either very empty or very full – and by “very full,” I mean every seat and every square foot of floor space is taken.  People are encouraged to push in as tight as they can get, some standing where they cannot even grab a handrail.

Now these buses often run at highway speeds on Disney World’s many roads.  It does not take too much imagination to envision one of these fully-packed buses striking a car, bus, stanchion, or rolling over in the ditch.  This kind of accident would have a body count, without a doubt.  Please understand, during the morning rush to the parks and the evening rush back to the hotels, the buses are generally just this crowded.

Adding to the problem, many guests are on scooters or wheelchairs and these take time to load and unload and take a lot of space inside.

I do not have an obvious solution.  The Disney folks must sit around thinking about this very problem.  I don’t think that adding another monorail track would solve the problem – neither does Disney or they would have done so already.

But I don’t think the monorail is the right template in any case.  Instead, they should consider something more along the lines of Tomorrowland’s People Mover.  Running on elevated tracks, cars holding no more than four people, propelled by linear induction, loading and unloading passengers on moving platforms, these cars would run slowly and closely together in the stations but would separate and speed up between stations.  The tracks and stations would all be covered, helping keep the cars lightweight.

Naturally, the system in Tomorrowland only has one station and is, therefore, easy to control.  The new system I have in mind would take that basic system and add more complexity to make it work well for people.  The track would not have to be one big loop; there could be a high-speed switching mechanism allowing branching and there would also be a branch leading into each station.

The first thing a guest would do upon entering a station and again when getting in a car is to select his destination and, if there is more than one person in the car, different destinations can be selected if wished.  Cars would only enter a station if one of the passengers had selected it or if it was empty and there were passengers waiting.

There would be a few depots along the way where excess cars can go and wait for demand to pick up, thereby simplifying routing and saving power.  There would have to be a few quick response teams – mechanic and EMT – driving around on Disney World’s streets, ready to respond to problems as they arise.

Each hotel, theme park, and other destination would be its own station and there would need to be at least one cast member at each station when open.  But compared to – what? – a hundred bus drivers on a shift, that probably constitutes a savings.  Maybe, depending on the level of automation, some stations might be unmanned during quieter periods, with random inspections by security and local cast members.

The theme parks would, in some way, have higher capacity stations, maybe multiple stations.  It would behoove Disney to stagger the closing times of their parks, which they probably already do for the sake of their bus and road systems.

For all the scooter drivers and the handicapped?  Maybe this system could be designed to accommodate them in a manner that does not act as a weight on the rest of the guests.  Maybe special cars that would synch up with a particular spot on the rotating platform where the needful guest is already waiting for it.  If not, perhaps a separate van service, like many cities run for those with mobility issues.

Thinking more about it as I type, this would need to be a very flexible system, with many branches, parallel tracks, and very scale-able.  This would allow Disney to introduce it in phases and work out the bugs as it grows.  It would be everything that the monorail system and the bus system are not.  It would be a twenty-first century answer to today’s problem, not a twentieth century answer with bright paint.

What I am describing could well be a billion dollar system.  Still, Disney has been known to spend that sort of money from time to time.  Maybe it would be worth it to them not to have their guests wasting so much time getting around their campus, not spending money.  To get from a park exit to a hotel can easily take over an hour sometimes.  And the increase in safety has to be worth something as well.

I do not expect that they will build something like this, however.  But they have to do something – the bus system is well past the breaking point already and only getting worse.  As for myself, next time I go, I may well use Uber to get around Walt Disney World.  When you are spending hundreds of dollars a day already, spending another twenty or thirty dollars for transportation can be a wise investment, if it gives you more time to enjoy.

Maybe that is the twenty-first century solution.

Categories: Disney, Pet Peeves, Travel