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Proposal: A Solution to Walt Disney World’s Transportation Problems

In the past we’ve done our share of speculation for how Disney World could fix its transportation woes. What if I told you there was a solution that would cost the resort less than $50 million to build. That’s about half the cost of the average E-ticket these days. Get ready, because the solution is going to seem so obvious giving Disney’s theme park history.

A design group out of Austin, TX took on the challenge of revolutionizing mass transit for the city. Light rail, the cheapest of fixed railway options, costs round $35 million a mile to build, monorails can cost 2-4 times that, and don’t even bother suggesting a subway at over $400 million a mile, plus it would never work in Central Florida. But while vacationing in the mountains, they hit upon an idea that would cost between $3 and $12 million a mile. Even building a regular road can cost more than $3 million a mile. So that’s really affordable.

The solution is a network of gondolas. To long time Disney parks fans this will sound familiar. After all the Skyway attraction was a favorite way of crossing both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom for years. They have the advantage of a high capacity moving over 10,000 people an hour, you can string them just about anywhere, they operate above the street grade meaning there are no issues with blocked traffic, and they provide guests with a scenic view while still getting them to their destination via the most direct route. Like high-end ski resorts, the gondola would be enclosed and, due to the magic of solar power, could have music and air conditioning too.

Here’s the designer’s presentation. Gondola’s are already a part of transportation systems in a few cities. It’s very easy to see how this would work for Disney World with it’s own hub and spoke model.

Update: the original presentation is gone, but here’s a similar video:

Based on the ideas in that video here is what a hub and spoke model might look like at Walt Disney World. Of course a real study would consider sight lines and land management issues, but you get the idea.

Each line is independent and bi-directional and transfer stations would be where ever the lines intersect. I would suggest building them in this order: Blue, Gold, Red, Maroon. There’s no need for a link between EPCOT and the TTC since the monorail already serves this purpose. At some point in the future, I could see a line between DAK and the MK, especially if the 5th gate gets build in the middle there.

So what do you think? Would you ride a gondola instead of the bus? Btw, this would also seem to be an excellent solution for Disneyland, remote parking, and the Anaheim Resort. Especially when that third gate is announced.

(via PSFK)

Latest: Disney actually built a gondola network, they call it the Disney Skyliner. It opened in 2019 and has changed the way we get from Hollywood Studios to EPCOT for good.

18 thoughts on “Proposal: A Solution to Walt Disney World’s Transportation Problems”

  1. As an avid skier, I’ve ridden the ones at Vail, Heavenly & Breckenridge. Both to get up the mountain and to get from the parking lot to the mountain. Would love to see them in WDW. Only issue I could foresee is what about lighting? I’ve been out west in the summer and they close them pretty quickly anytime lighting is near by. Seems in WDW that could be a daily problem.

  2. Could be pretty neat. The one potential problem I see is the impact of weather, both day to day and tropical.

    I could imagine that even if it could be shown to be completely safe, the typical guest would be reticent (I know I would) about riding something like this during the average afternoon thunderstorm.

    I also wonder how they would fare during tropical weather. Even if you could take all the gondolas off the line (which might be easier said than done – I’m sure there would have to be ways to get individual gondolas on and, for maintenance, or load balancing or what have you, but to get every single gondola not only out of circulation but secured?), I’d be interested in knowing what kinds of winds the fixed infrastructure (specifically the cables) could withstand, and how difficult and expensive it would be to repair any that came down.

  3. But… this doesn’t address the problem that pulled it out of Disneyland: ADA Compliance. How do you quickly roll a wheelchair on and off the system? What about other ADA issues like blindness? It sounds whizzy cool, but I’d love to see his analysis go a step further.

    1. As for ADA and cable gondolas, you can remove a car from the cable, load in a wheelchair, and the put it back on the cable system without slowing down the pace of other cars too much.

    2. The Skyways were decades-old and impractical to reconfigure for ADA compliance. This system would be built from scratch, and on a much larger scale in both the size of the cars and the stations, so making it accessible doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult (wide doors, floors flush with the loading platform, etc.).

  4. Yes, I would definitely ride in them. But not if I were among the first, say, million riders. (Given your expertise, that would take, what, 2-3 weeks?) I prefer transportation that’s tried-and-true. ;)

  5. I would definitely do that it, and most likely prefer it to the bus if the lines for it were relatively quick moving, but hope they do not completely eliminate buses for foul weather days where it could not be operated.

  6. This is one of the most unique reads I’ve read on here in a while. Love the imagination! I think I’d rather have one of these go from Fantasyland to my car in the parking lot. It’s such a hassle to travel that far at the end of a long day!

  7. The maintenance of those systems is very expensive and time consuming. They have that type of transportation near us at “Ober Gatlinburg” here in the Smokies and the operation costs are passed on to the riders who pay from $8.50(Child) to $11.00 per person for a round trip ticket. I’m sure that would be tacked on to the park tickets too.
    If you’ve ever been stuck on an Aerial Tram with a person or a child who is panicking, you may have a different perspective. I’ve been in chairlift for half an hour an witnessed a person two lifts ahead having to constantly attempt to calm their child. The other big concept to consider is the costs upon the support services and training required by rescue personnel who would need to extract large numbers of people safely from those precariously high tram cars. Liability is a huge factor in the move away from aerial transport systems. It’s very dangerous removing guest from a monorail car that has broken down, imagine how incredibly dangerous it would be to attempt the rescue of 120 persons from a tram car that is stranded 100 feet above the park or resort. Even worse, imagine if a tram car breaks down above water making it impossible for a Reedy Creek Fire Department ladder truck to reach. There are so many issues regarding aerial rescue making it so cost prohibitive and dangerous, that I doubt you will see Aerial Trams reappear in the future.

  8. Using gondolas as an alternative transportation solution at Disney is not a new idea. We wrote about the possibility of using sky buckets at Disney World back in 2010.

    No, the biggest issue regarding Disney Transportation is the Disney Bus System, which we wrote some suggestions for how to improve Guest Satisfaction back in 2009 that are still valid today.

    The buses aren’t going away, as the upcoming expansion of the Magic Kingdom bus zone proves. But the existing system can be reworked with proper management with an eye towards improving the guest experience.

    Look, we all want more monorails, because monorails are cool. But it’s highly unlikely to happen anytime soon, and monorails won’t be extendable to every new hotel or park that Disney decides to build in Orlando.

    So it’s going to be buses for the foreseeable future.

    Now a resort-wide Omnimover? THAT would be awesome.

  9. The only thing I would change to your suggestion is to have a direct line from the TTC to Animal Kingdom. That way every park is easily accessible from the TTC by the way of a “story book” style entrance.

    You can take the ferry over to the Magic Kingdom to see the castle slowly get bigger as you arrive. The Monorail to Epcot to see the “Future World” and visit other countries. Step off the bus and straight into Hollywood at DHS. Ride the gondola and you’ll find yourself surrounded by Animals from Africa and in a strange new world inhabited by a tribe called the Na’vi.

  10. My first thought when I saw the title was that it was a joke. Then when I read and watched the video, I realized it was in fact a legitimate proposal. I’m still not sure how or if it would work though. Gondolas just seem slow to me, but because of their constant motion it eliminate the 15-20 minute (avg) wait time for a bus to arrive, so while slower moving speed, the time to destination might be about the same. Others have mentioned weather issues, which I have to add heat/temperature to that and insist that these would need air conditioning in each cab. Overall, it’s not a bad idea for short distances like maybe Animal Kingdom Lodge to Animal Kingdom, or maybe in the Boardwalk area and between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, but I’m not sure how well it would work for longer transits like Animal Kingdom Lodge to almost anywhere else.
    Disney already invented a somewhat low cost solution in the People Mover technology. It was only commercially installed once, in the Houston Airport, and of course in the parks, but it was light-weight, low impact transportation system that seems to me could be scaled up for just such a purpose.

  11. I’m not sure how practical and safe this solution would be in a state that is considered one of the lightning capitals of the world. Couple that with the Highwinds during hurricane season and I’m sure there would be numerous disruptions for months at a time.

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