Today marks yet another accident on the Walt Disney World transportation system — this time, a 10-year-old boy was struck and killed by Disney bus while he was riding his bike near Fort Wilderness with an 11-year-old friend (who was unhurt). Initial reports say that both children were wearing proper safety gear, but bike helmets are no match versus a bus.
This past year has seen an unfortunate growing number of major accidents involving guest transportation at Disney World. Two other bus incidents – one of which just occurred last week – sent park guests to area hospitals with mostly minor injuries and one serious one. Combined with the Monorail cast member death last July, these accidents seem to be happening with more and more frequency, especially troubling as Walt Disney World prides itself on creating a safe environment for its guests.
So while Web Watch has talked about HOW TO IMPROVE DISNEY TRANSPORTATION in the past, perhaps its time to take another look at what else could be done.
Certainly, the bus system is the biggest obstable. While the Monorail is without doubt the sexiest of all the available Disney transportation options available, the number of passengers that the Monorails carry pales in comparison to the number of guests that are driven all over the resort by the fleet of 263 buses, carrying passengers over 15 million miles each year. With that many buses on the road, accidents are bound to happen – due, in part, to the buses also having to deal with other road vehicles. And, as we stated earlier, the buses aren’t going to go away.
First, let’s take into consideration the bus itself:
- Should the buses have their own dedicated bus lanes around the resort, to eliminate possible collisions with regular passenger vehicles? Unlikely to happen, as the road infrastructure – especially around the Magic Kingdom – wouldn’t support having two additional, isolated lanes just for buses. For one, they’d have to widen the tunnel underneath the Bay near the Contemporary Resort, and that’s just not going to happen.
- Should the drivers receive better training, or work shorter hours so they aren’t tired or easily distracted? Definitely. At least to eliminate, as much as possible, that the accidents that have happened as being something avoidable.
And for the passengers:
- Should seat belts be mandatory for bus riders? Compared to other safety features, it wouldn’t be a huge expense, but the buses are built to accomodate as many people as possible (and their bags, and strollers, and Fantasmic! light-up toys, etc). Most of the seats on the sides could have seat belts added, but that still leaves those passengers standing in the aisle holding the wrist strap or hand rail. If Disney is going to add seat belts, then they will have to not allow riders to stand while the bus is in motion OR will have to reconfigure the seats to eliminate the wide aisle at all – making the Disney bus more like a school bus setup. In either case, they will be cutting down on the number of passengers each bus can carry, resulting in lower customer satisfaction by forcing people to wait longer for another bus to come by.
Or perhaps the transportation model in general is flawed:
- Why not eliminate all cars from the resort – the roads can only be driven on by Disney buses or other transportation models (like the PeopleMover). Force all visitors to park their car in the Magic Kingdom parking lot or the Epcot parking lot, and to use Disney Transportation for everything else. Not likely to happen for any number of reasons, let alone the inconvience factor of trying to check into a hotel across property after leaving your car at Epcot.
- Expand a form of continual mass transportation to all resorts. If the Monorail is too expensive, at an estimated $10million (or more) per mile, then let’s go with Sky Buckets instead.
The bus accidents aren’t due to the number of buses on the road – taking buses away or adding buses to the fleet will not solve the issue at hand. We know how hard it can be to get park guests from Point A to Point B, happily and safely. But if the Monorail can run for 38 years without a fatal accident, then certainly Disney can figure out a way for their bus system to be injury-free for at least one year.
Sadly, right now, it looks like the buses can’t even go one week without an incident. And that’s something that needs to be fixed right away.