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WDW Gondola project now official – meet the Disney Skyliner

Work has started preparing the construction sites for the new Disney Skyliner – a gondola transportation system that will connect EPCOT’s International Gateway to Disney’s Hollywood Studios along with Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and the still to come Riviera DVC resort. I guess you could throw in the EPCOT area resorts for good measure, although the advantage to those is already the walk-ability to the two theme parks. Things should start happening fast now that the project was officially unveiled at the Disney fan expo in Anaheim, CA.

“I’m proud to announce that we’re building a whole new transportation system,” Bob Chapek, Disney parks chair, said at D23 Expo. “The Disney Skyliner will soon give our guests a bird’s eye view of Walt Disney World. Many of these gondolas will feature your favorite Disney characters and what a better way to get around the resort than with your pals in the sky.”

The system consists of 3 separate lines that all converge at the Caribbean Beach Resort ‘hub’. Guests will be able to change cabins there and continue onto their destination.

Each cabin is capable of holding 8 adults, which means the potential capacity per hour is around 5,000 people, which should be more than sufficient for all but the extreme peak times. The cabins are not expected to have air conditioning (it will have air vents that provide passive cooling), but will have wifi (so you can make that dinner reservation, naturally).

I have to say I’m disappointed that Disney has gone with a smaller system that won’t allow for larger gondola cars and a third rope that allows for propulsion to the nearest station even in a power outage. But the system they have chosen is used in multiple locations already and is very safe, even in relatively high winds (but not severe weather).

The good news is that this model of gondola is large enough to handle wheelchairs, strollers, and even a small ECV. The system is designed to move slow enough to allow access even without stopping the system. Loading is typically at ground level with the cars rapidly lifting into the air after departing the station.

I’m excited to have Disney showcasing this mode of transportation at its resort once again. I think it will serve as a proof-of-concept model for millions of visiting guests who will wonder why this very affordable and safe mode of transportation is not being used in their community.

Our understanding is that while there are no plans to expand the currently planned network, if it is a success, there’s a good chance they’ll continue to add new destinations such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Coronado Springs resort.

As for when the Skyliner opens? No official date has been given yet, but expect it to be either late 2018 or early 2019. Gondola systems are relatively quick to built (6 to 10 months), but Disney goes the extra distance with theming at the stations, which will take a little longer. Definitely in time to welcome new crowds to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Previously: Disney adds private car “Minnie-Vans” to its transportation fleet