PROGRESS CITY USA has posted #3 on their list of TEN WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR: OVERHAUL DISNEY TRANSPORTATION, and I couldn’t agree more.
Basically, unless you’re just going from your hotel to a theme park and back, internal transportation is a headache. Fixing the system would require a massive investment, tackling many separate goals simultaneously. It would require an entirely different plan for the resort’s infrastructure, and it’s needed immediately. They won’t do it, but they should.
I have one suggestion that would address this current transportation problem at Walt Disney World with an idea that would dramatically increase guest satisfaction. It won’t solve the immediate issue at hand, but keeping guests happy in the short run can buy some time until a better transporation plan is developed.
From the visual styling of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland in the 60’s and 70’s (the Monorail and Skyway taking passengers through the air; the Autopia and Matterhorn ferrying guests across the ground; and the Submarines plunging through watery depths) to Walt Disney World realizing Walt’s dream of the Monorail transforming from mere attraction to a functional part of the whole park experience – I’m not going to rehash what other people have said better, about how Disneyland and Walt Disney World were built around utilizing unique forms of transportation.
As such, there are many people who would love to see the buses eliminated from Walt Disney World. That said, the WDW bus system is not going to go away.
For many reasons, it is more practical and economical for Disney to use buses than it is for them to sink (almost literally) millions upon millions of dollars into extending the Monorail system or build a WEDWay system to all the various areas of the Walt Disney World resort. Could the buses themselves be more environmentally friendly? Sure. But that’s not why we’re here today.
Is the WDW bus system efficient? Not hardly. As Progress City USA stated,
Let me make up a scenario off the top of my head. Let’s say that a guest is staying at Coronado Springs, and they want to go to EPCOT in the morning, do some shopping at the Village for lunch, go back to their hotel to change and wind up at the California Grill for dinner.
The biggest flaw in any of the bus-related touring plans all surround getting back and forth from Downtown Disney to the parks, or from one specific hotel to another (for a dinner reservation at Animal Kingdom Lodge, if one was staying at Port Orleans, for example). If WDW enforced their stated benefit of staying on the Walt Disney World property (emphasis mine):
Complimentary transportation throughout Walt Disney World Resort is available via bus, boat or monorail for Guests staying at a select Walt Disney World Resort hotel.
then there would be no problem at all in having bus transportation directly from the parks to Downtown Disney, or from one hotel directly to another. When boarding the bus, you just have to scan your room key. Card not active? You can’t get on the bus. Same thing would hold true for the “local” Monorail that stops at the Contemporary and Grand Floridian: you can’t get in line without an active keycard.
But let’s say that Disney began to enforce this rule, that park transportation is only for guests staying on-property. Disney never enforced this before, and guests who stayed off-property who are used to taking Disney transportation everywhere – for free – would throw a major tantrum. How would you feel if you suddently were cut off from using something that you had used for free before? Guest Services would be inundated with complaint calls if Disney went this route.
Disney could offset some of the transportation costs by lowering overall ticket prices for guests who stay on property, and charging more for guests who just buy tickets with no intention of staying on-site. Again, a solution with many problems if implemented
No, neither of those two ideas would lead to increased guest satisfaction.
But here’s something that would:
Disney already has GPS systems installed on the buses so Disney can track where the buses are at any given moment. Disney also knows approximately how long it takes for a bus to get from one pickup point to the next one.
All Disney needs to do is to install automatic displays at each bus stop indicating when the next bus is scheduled to arrive for each destination.
When a bus arrives at a destination, the driver presses a GPS button, stopping the clock to calculate current travel time between stops. When a bus leaves a destination, the driver presses the button on the GPS again, sending a signal to the master schedule that the bus is enroute. Master Control then updates the signs at the following stops with expected arrival times. Dispatch would also know approximately how long it takes to load the bus at each stop and can adjust the display times to take that into account as well.
- Instead of having disgruntled guests sitting at the Magic Kingdom bus stop wondering where the bus for Pop Century is, they can see the sign that lists expected bus arrival times (“9 minutes; next bus: 15 minutes”) – allowing the guests to know if they have time to go grab a drink from the gift shop, run back to the room for some sunscreen, or if their friends will be able to catch up with them on this bus or will have to wait for the next one.
- If an expected wait time exceeds 20 minutes, dispatch can send an additional bus to cover that particular route until the wait times become more reasonable. Similarly if a wait time between two buses for the same destination is less than 2 minutes, the trailing bus can be rerouted to skip ahead a stop or two.
- If a bus hasn’t shown up within 5 minutes of the expected arrival time, dispatch can be notified and have another bus rerouted, or can at least contact the lost driver to find out what’s wrong. (One time it took me 45+ minutes to get from Epcot to the Wilderness Lodge by bus. The explanation I received? “It was a new driver, unfamiliar with the roads.”)
The same applies for boat launches or other transportation. A few years ago we saw the late FANTASMIC show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We had a choice as we exited the park: do we walk back to the hotel, or take the boat? If a “next boat” sign was available, we would have known that the next boat would arrive in 30 minutes and it would have been faster to walk. As the minutes passed as we waited an unspecified amount of time for the next boat, our satisfaction level kept dropping until we were no longer happy to be at the Happiest Place on Earth.
I would much rather know that I have 20 minutes until the next Typhoon Lagoon bus shows up instead of sitting, guessing, and complaining as each bus that pulls up isn’t the one I was waiting for. Even worse is when two buses for the same destination pull up one within a minute of each other. There’s no reason for that if the GPS/timing system was actively monitored.
Disney does an incredible job with monitoring attraction wait times inside the parks and communicating those to guests. Why can’t Disney calculate wait times with their transportation offerings for guests who are outside the park turnstiles?