Archive for the ‘Travel’ 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

Tap, tap, tap

Hello?  Is this thing still on?

No excuses, just got distracted by many things:

It is winter in the home heating business.  Add to this, we got a new dispatcher the first week of December – and guess who had to train her.

We are trying to renovate the house.  The world seems very slow to let us impoverish ourselves.

Raccoons in the attic.  Oh, wait!  One learned to tour the house through the walls and ceilings.

Add a Boston Terrier, following said raccoon.

A trip to the vet with an aging Boxer.

A trip to Mackinaw Island.  Murder mystery in an old hotel.

A trip to Europe – Germany and France, primarily.  Basically, two weeks of heavy drinking and eating.

Minor health emergencies.


Various work projects.  Hope to have an online customer application done soon.  Next up?  Invoicing.

Nope.  No writing.  Maybe soon.  If I remember how.

Hi-ho! Hi-ho. It’s Off to Smirk I Go!

Off to Disney World in the morning.  Official excuse: work-related conference.  Well, I am going to the conference, for slightly more than two days.  Still, I won’t be back for a week.

Elder stepson staying behind – has things to do.  Taking friend of younger stepson in his place.  As it happens, younger stepson has twisted an ankle, so friend can now push the wheelchair.

Maybe when I get back, I can get back to writing, both on this thing and on books.  Will see.


Categories: Travel

Pompano or Bust

Leaving for Florida early in the morning.  Will be hanging with my father-in-law.  My stepson is on his way back as I write and I am pretty sure I will be on the same plane tomorrow.

Brenda will watch the home fires.  I will attempt to write some while away.  Would be nice to get another book done.  Already on Chapter Four.

This book I would not publish right away.  It would be either the second or third in a series (Life on the School Bus).  Would like to write three, then publish together.

I remember back when Peter Davison took on Doctor Who, they started filming with a simple action-adventure story, then did another story, before they went and filmed his first episode to be aired.  This gave him the advantage of working out exactly how his version of the character was going to be before he had to work out the mechanics of getting there.  That is why I am starting with the third book in the series, so that when I get around to writing the first (at current velocity, sometime in 2027), I will have a very good idea what the characters are like and they will write much more smoothly.  If the third book in the series is a little weaker, readers will be far more likely to forgive me than if it had been the first.

Or so it seems to me.


Categories: Travel, Writing

A Little Lag

November 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Got back a week ago.  Mostly been catching up from the vacation, what with housework, unpacking, and work.  Been very tired since our return – jet lag.  Should be caught up with the time zone by now, but still catch myself falling asleep in front of the TV – more so than usual – then waking up earlier than I should.

So, I remember when presidents would come back from their round-the-world trips and how they were always sure to mention how tired they were, just from the traveling.  Sure.  They got to travel very-first class.  They and their party could get up, walk from cabin to cabin, sit back and relax, make use of the sleep sofa, and all that.  They did not, like most travelers today, sit perforce in the exact same position for eight hours, in seats with little cushion, designed apparently for large children or small adults.

It was Hell.  No, not Conestoga-across-the-Mojave Hell, but Hell nonetheless.  First off, if you have ever wanted to sit in the exit row because of the extra leg room, please be aware that what you gain in length, you lose in width – the tray-tables are in the solid arm rests.  Second, as stated earlier, some pilots are loathe to turn off the seat belt sign, to the point that passengers just begin to ignore it entirely.

I read an article somewhere in the last month about how people, given the choice, always choose cheaper over comfort, that the cattle-car conditions of modern airlines are exactly thus because that is what consumers are voting for.  I truly wonder if this is true.  Yes, I did make my final choice based on price.  Price was right there, prominently listed.  Comfort, however, was not.  Not being a regular flyer, I have no idea of the comfort-level of various airlines or various aircraft.  So, my choice was made on the assumption that “all things were equal” and that the price difference was from natural competition.

I did look at First Class prices, just out of curiosity.  I had thought they used to cost twice as much.  Turns out I was wrong.  First Class is closer to ten times as much.  Must be nice to have that kind of money to throw away.  For me, it was a non-starter.

But I would certainly be willing to pay an extra hundred or more for more comfort on a long flight.  So far as I know, that option was not offered to me.  There was no time that I saw an advertisement telling us that we could arrive in Dublin without swollen ankles, blood clots, numb bum, and serious neck trauma for a mere twenty percent more in fare.  I would have jumped at it.  So would many others on the north side of two hundred pounds.

Drop two rows – twelve passengers – distribute those inches evenly over the rest of the cabin, raising the fare accordingly.  Probably would add two and a half inches for about $40 per remaining passenger.  Sounds good to me.

Drop a column, seating two and three instead of three and three, giving remaining passengers about an extra four inches in width, for a cost of $120 per remaining passenger.  All this is based on thirty rows of six in the main cabin and a six hundred dollar round trip fare.

Do both for $160 or so, giving each passenger an extra ten square inches.  I would pay $200 for that, I’m sure.  It might be enough to allow the airline to save money by dropping one whole waitress – um, flight attendant.

I am quite sure there would be a market for this.  That it doesn’t happen is probably a lack of imagination on the part of airline executives, who are probably convinced that there is no way to sell it, who always fly first class themselves as a corporate perquisite, and who seemingly spend most of their time trying to figure out how to squeeze yet more people into their airplanes, in an ever-failing attempt to staunch the red ink.

But there has to be a way to sell this – a marketing plan that can educate the public and take advantage of the internet to make such trade-offs clear.  With all of the old airlines trying to survive, engaging each other in a seeming race to the quality basement, there could well be a reward to the company that decides to zig instead of zag.  There has to be somewhere they can go between business class and tourist class, some market just waiting for someone to cater to their needs.

Meanwhile, my wife and I could do a round trip on the QM2 for a little more than one round trip flying first class.  Maybe we will, next time we go to Europe.


Categories: Travel