December 4, 2012

Disney World and Legoland – What I learned about Transportation

Filed under: ITS — Joe Gillis @ 7:15 am

I know, only a road geek would go with his wife and son to Florida to a 4 Disney parks and Legoland and write a blog post

about transportation. My observations include five main points:

1. The Disney Fastpass draws upon the same economic theory that makes Hot lanes, or toll HOV lanes, work.

I had not been to Disney since 2003, and even though the Fastpass was around by then, I had never used it until last week.

if you are not familiar (and until you do it it is really hard to explain, but I’ll try) the Fastpass gives you the right
to essentially cut line, or really enter a much shorter line with other Fastpass users, on high demand rides and
attractions. there are only so many passes issued throughout the day and these passes tell you to come back and get in
line in a one hour time window in the future. One key rule makes it effective. You can only possess one Fastpass at a
time (that is you cannot get another one until the first time (in the hour time window) has elapsed of the pass you
possess. This forces the user to make an economic choice, be limited to this pass for 1, 2 or maybe 8 hours of try to do
something else while waiting and either skip the ride or wait in line like the masses. Now with HOT lanes you are trading
in money to get a faster throughput on the freeway. At Disney World, one is paying for a faster line by limiting future
attraction choices. in the end, in both cases the one who chooses a Fastpass or a HOT lane has decided that the cost is
low enough to proceed.

2. Legoland assumes that driving in a roundabout (traffic circle) is intuitive.

My 8 year old drove a miniature car on a miniature streetscape with about 15 other children at Legoland. In prep for this
5 minute “driving school” the teacher taught the kids about stopping at Stop Signs, using hand signals for turns and going on
green at traffic lights. (The course had all of these.) What shocked me was when I got to see the course, after hearing
the training and realizing there was a roundabout in the middle – complete with proper signage. The roundabout was not
even mentioned in the training session. of course, the kids did it wrong most of the time. Several kids turned left into
the circle and others entered without yielding. Interestingly, some cities host training sessions for real residents and
real drivers in the United States when a roundabout it about to be installed. Of course this is laughable to our European

3. Disney World implements technology behind the scenes but not so much to the view of the public.

First of all, with the exception of the two dynamic message signs in Epcot that gives current waits and Fastpass
availability for all rides, all other signage on the property is either static or only has a numeric display for minutes
(wait times) or to display the hour time window for the Fastpass. My real surprise was how they use (and don’t use)
technology for their extensive bus/transit system. Behind the scenes, there is obviously a lot of scheduling and on-the-fly
operation going on to make sure buses are where they are needed. Buses are moved around to cover routes with more demand
from those with less. I stayed at the Port Orleans Resort which had two areas – French Quarter and Riverside. Sometimes
we shared a bus other times we each had our own bus. Demand was tracked and Disney added or subtracted (reallocated) a bus
when needed. Once, we were in line for the bus at the time they changed to a merged bus. They had a technician on a
walkie-talkie manually changing a sign outside the bus loading area to indicate which bay was for the combined bus. All of
this could have been automated with digital signs but, no it was a wooden sign and a real person. Maybe the cost for
Disney was still less to do it this way. Or, maybe Disney does not want to overwhelm its guests with technology that can
be confusing, I suppose.

4. Disney World understand that density is needed for rail transit.

Politicians and local leaders are seemingly always clamoring for high speed rail between points A and B – with few
exceptions, maybe no exceptions, there is nowhere in the US this can be profitable. One of these places is through
Orlando (Disney World) to connect Tampa and I assume Daytona beach. At Disney World property is where I want to focus.
Disney runs a monorail between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot and one between the Magic Kingdom and its nearby resorts.
Although the monorail is free to the user, it is not to Disney. Transportation within the park is a big deal and a perk to
their customers. Disney knows where to run buses and where to run a monorail. If it were cost effective to build a
monorail everywhere versus running buses they would do it. They keep the bus frequency pretty good – 20 minutes or less.
That’s more frequent that MARTA most of the time. Now Disney could justify a monorail if its population of visitors and
the dollars they spent made it worthwhile. Given that Disney as a corporation is so-called “politically conscious” you
would think they would jump on the transit bandwagon and build out a monorail. But even Disney knows it is not cost-
effective. The monorail they have may not be cost effective either but if one considers the Magic Kingdom is the
centerpiece of their property and that the Magic Kingdom and Epcot are way older than much of the development, it makes
sense. In effect, the monorail is a novelty and part of the experience.

5. Florida is the future for elsewhere. Toll Roads abound.

I have written about this before but it is obvious that in this new economy and the era of low gas taxes and higher gas
mileage, there will have to be new sources of road revenue to operate and build them. Florida learned this long ago as did
Texas. One must keep a stash of bills to get to and from Disney World.

One last thing..heard this on the radio. Although this article does not mention there will be an extra cost for this
service, the radio said there would be. In a move even closer to congestion pricing, Disney may allow premium (for pay)
access to rides to avoid long lines:

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