WDW Monorail System Expansion?

Written by Werner Weiss. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Walt Disney World, Werner Weiss

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Published on June 06, 2013 at 8:50 pm with 13 Comments

Disney fans love to spread information—and sometimes misinformation—about the Walt Disney World Monorail system and the possibility that it will be expanded. Today Yesterland has three updated and expanded Monorail stories and the truth behind them.

Read the three full YESTERLAND articles:

1. Monorail and the Swan & Dolphin HERE

2. Saratoga Springs Resort Monorail Right-of-Way? HERE

3. Monorail Expansion, Million Dollars per Mile? HERE

When you are done reading, please leave your comments below.

About Werner Weiss

Werner Weiss is the Curator of Yesterland, the ultimate collection of Disney theme park past attractions. You'll find his handiwork featured on MiceChat every Friday.

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  • Timekeeper

    Nice Update, Two thoughts: One, I really wish Disney could expand the monorail system in WDW, but would it justify in the long run? And two, if they could do it, could they do it for MK (and WDW’s) 50th Anniversary?


    • Werner Weiss

      A monorail or traditional fixed-rail train works best when a large number of people are all traveling along the same high-density corridor. But WDW has developed over the past 30 years as a widely distributed sprawl of resorts, theme parks, and water parks. A simple plan extending the Epcot Monorail line to serve Epcot’s International Gateway and Disney’s Hollywood Studios might make some sense. A really ambitious plan might be to have a lines radiating out from a central hub at the entrance to Epcot; guests could then get to and from almost anywhere at WDW with a single transfer at Epcot. Unfortunately, WDW is clogged with nor-so-magical buses, and that’s likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    I love rumor debunking. Great job Werner!

  • lionheartkc

    Question on the monorail costs. In the two comparisons, Las Vegas and Brazil, are you just showing the cost of the track, or are you showing the complete cost of the project? I would think, with Disney, the cost would be significantly lower because a) they have an existing fleet of monorails, so they don’t need to buy trains and b) they have a lot of infrastructure already in place that a new monorail system would need to create from the ground up.

    That being said, I’m sure you are right that the cost of adding track is significantly higher than $1 million per mile. It’s not much different than building a bridge and that is significantly more expensive than $1million.

    • Werner Weiss

      The Las Vegas and São Paulo costs are system costs, not just the cost for track. A monorail system requires beams and supports, stations, trains, maintenance facilities, an electrical system, and other infrastructure. If DIsney were to expand the system at WDW, DIsney would face all these costs too. For example, a system with twice as much track and twice as many passengers as the current system would also requires twice as much of everything else, including twice as many trains.

    • MickeysImagination

      When looking at this analysis, we should take into account that most of the current fleet of Mk VI monorail trains has been in service for 20+ years. There have been several retrofits along the way, but eventually, Disney will need to replace the fleet. Plus, the the expanded beamway would require an expanded fleet to handle the added capacity.

      The best statement I have read in while, comes from Werner. The way that WDW Resort has been expanded, no longer supports a good arterial route, which a rapid transit corridor needs to be effective.The same could be said for a light rail system or a lighter Peoplemover system. Sadly, the bus system may be the best (worst idea) available.

      As much as I would love to experience an expanded monorail operation. Even better would be with a Wedway Peoplemover system too. At least the Disney buses are clean and graffiti free. All of the riders are there to have fun in the parks and the resort and that’s pretty darn cool.


  • StevenW

    It will be a good idea to have the monorails connect the theme parks together for park hopping at minimum. I would assume the advantage of park hopping should include monorail transportation. The Epcot station will have a direct connection to Animal Kingdom with a return trip to Disney Hollywood Studios before returning to Epcot. On whether it is cost prohibitive at $150 million per mile without any direct revenue sources, I would think the cost is paid for via on-site guests and/or park hopper passes.

    I find the sprawling issue of the hotels and parks to not be a good argument against expansion. It certainly suggests alternative advanced transportation in the future like Personal Automatic Taxis, but they don’t seem to have advanced their own bus system with a better dispatch system. The bus drivers seem to be on automatic pilot by driving their routes, sometimes with no passengers, and bypassing the lines of waiting passengers. Could this be an argument against the monorails such as excess capacity to the minor theme parks? Animal Kingdom has the least amount of operating hours than Epcot or DHS. To decrease a bad investment, they should consider ways of maximizing usage.

  • Bill

    PRT is the only system that could work in an environment like WDW.

    • Werner Weiss

      PRT would be an appealing transportation solution for WDW. However, I don’t think it’s the only solution “that could work in an environment like WDW”.

      For the benefit of readers who don’t recognize the acronym, PRT is Personal Rapid Transit (PRT)—automated vehicles that take you directly to your destination station on a network of guideways. Think it of as a system of individual PeopleMover cars that don’t just follow a single path, but can switch to other tracks.

      Real-world implementations of PRT are few and far between, and of limited scope. A PRT system sufficient to handle WDW’s transportation needs would have to be huge, with enough capacity at theme par stations to handle park closing times.

      A properly engineered PRT would be wonderful, but the cost would be likely to be astronomical.

      The current WDW transportation system, with often long waits for buses despite a giant bus fleet, is broken. I think someone could design a system that combines frequent departures on a variety of transportation modes (appropriate to the locations) with efficient connecting hubs. As a guest, I would be willing to give up infrequent, often crowded point-to-point buses for such a system, as long as most destinations required only a single connection.

  • Wagi

    Seattle paid out $124.5 Million dollars for their planned monorail expansion before they pulled the plug and not a single foot of new line was built.

  • D.O.M.

    I was watching the Disney World episode of Modern Marvels on YouTube the other day and they quoted the $1 million per mile as what they paid in the 70s.

  • stitchfanocala

    They could try putting a new system towards the south end of the property, that doesn’t connect to the other monorail system. Have one that connects Animal Kingdom and/or Animal Kingdom Lodge with the value Resorts in the area & perhaps over to the Swan & Dolphin. This way the Epcot area resorts have at least some connection to a monorail system on both ends. Guests can walk to the entrance of Epcot to connect to that system, or walk to the Swan/Dolphin to have access to that one, should they put one down there. That’s the only thing I do not like about AK Lodge, is that it has no monorail connection. But its also an advantage, it makes that area of the property extra quiet.

  • aggiemullins

    How ironic Disney will spend $1B+ on technology for something that wasn’t broken and arguably wasn’t needed nor wanted by the guests (MyMagic+), but they won’t spend the same amount to truly modernize their transportation system and make WDW a shining example to the World as Walt originally envisioned. Not to mention it would greatly increase the value of any resorts they attatched to the system and give them the ability to charge much more. Granted it would probably cost more then a billion dollars, but then reportedly so has MyMagic+…