Disney World’s Master Plan: More Parks, More Monorails

Master plans don’t HAVE to come true. They aren’t blueprints, they aren’t set in stone, and the items contained on them aren’t yet pitched to top executives, let alone greenlit. They represent a vision, and an overarching plan so that when things do get built and added, they do so with a purpose. Thus, we can’t get too excited or worked up about what’s on Walt Disney World’s master plan. More parks and monorails? Some (many?) of the things on there may never happen. And remember that the markings on the master plan simply indicate POSSIBLE additions, not that there are any actual designs created. It has more to do with zoning and strategic inclusion of the right mix of attractions and infrastructure, rather than actual designs.

So what’s on the master plan for Walt Disney World (WDW)? Lots of colors and shaded areas. The plan itself is an overhead map, not too different from a Google Map, with zones shaded in by certain colors. Things on the plan include “conservation” land that won’t be developed, as well as infrastructure items like canals and future roadways.

There are also, excitingly, a few areas marked as “future attractions.” I’ve recreated these onto a Google Map so you can see the main areas marked as such. This recreation was done from memory (the master plan is, uh, not available for public view or online anywhere that I’ve seen), so there are probably a few areas that are slightly off in my re-creation, but by and large, I’m pretty sure it’s true to the actual Master Plan (unless that changes often?). Here are the future “attraction” expansions at Walt Disney World:

Yellow zones indicate future attractions.
Yellow zones indicate future attractions.

My map doesn’t include the Magic Kingdom, but the real version did (and it had the Fantasyland expansion also marked as an attraction expansion).

You may notice that World Showcase in Epcot still has numerous places between existing pavilions that are marked for expansion—not that there are any plans I’m aware of to add anything.

I was surprised that the majority of the wooded space–between Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK) and Magic Kingdom (MK), or north of Epcot–was not going to be set aside for theme parks.

The biggest theme park will come next to the MK parking lot. It appears to have as much acreage as Epcot, maybe a touch more. The two other big zones, near ESPN Wide World of Sports and north of DAK, could each be about the same size as Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The areas in DAK (Australia? Avatar?) make sense, as this was a known expansion slot. But the pad outside of DAK and overlapping with Camp Minnie-Mickey, where insiders insist is where Avatar is now slated to be going, was not marked as an expansion zone. Either I got it wrong by memory, or this map didn’t yet account for Avatar. The Master Plan I saw may well have been created before the Avatar announcements, and might be outdated. If so, that tells you how malleable and changeable master plans are.

With that last admonition in mind that things can and do change, let me also mention that a monorail expansion was on the master plan. Again: simply being on the plan doesn’t mean it’s imminent. It’s not even “for sure”. It’s just something they put on the plan in case they want to do it, so they can plan out how things fit together.

The monorail expansion did NOT use the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) as a home-base, or a hub, for the monorail activity. That surprised me at first, given the TTC’s name. Instead, it used the existing Epcot station as a hub for future add-ons. That’s when I remembered: the Epcot station is already built to handle expansion. Haven’t you ever wondered why the walk to the exit ramp is so long? It’s because another “terminal” is supposed to go here.

 

You people are standing in the future terminal!
You people are standing in the future terminal!

 

The plan as written called for the monorail expansion to leave Epcot and circle off to the right (east), so as to swing by Port Orleans / Old Key West as a first stop. I can’t recall if Downtown Disney was on the route, but it might have been. The beam would then head back, stopping at Pop Century (and Disney’s Hollywood Studios? I can’t remember) before finally making its way to DAK. It could easily also stop at a future park near ESPN Wild World of Sports.

Red dots indicate likely stations.
Red dots indicate likely stations.

 

Monorails are expensive to build—we’re talking millions of dollars per mile just to build the track. So while adding hotels onto a shuttle loop would be both visitor-friendly and a selling point (and a reason to raise the room prices), it would be a gamble. I would hope that they might consider linking up at least the parks, even if they don’t add hotels.

Monorails make inter-park travel fun.
Monorails make inter-park travel fun.

 

But a full-scale “loop” actually means a double track – one headed in each direction, like we see on the Epcot beam now. That doubles the cost. Is there a way to do a “shuttle” service that uses the same beam for traffic heading in both directions? Certainly technology allows for this—many airports have it already, on shuttles/cars that are automated. All it takes is a side (spur) line for one train to “hide” in while the other one passes going the other direction, and such diversion beams are a perfect thing to have at a stop halfway to the final destination (such as a hotel or a park en route).

Adding hotels and DHS would be nice, but the real prize is DAK. It’s so far out there that it gets visited much less frequently. I wonder if they could add a monorail track just to DAK. Surely there would be a way to do this from Epcot, or even from the TTC.

Not on the plan, but wouldn’t this work?
Not on the plan, but wouldn’t this work?

 

If they built a loop (dual beams) from the TTC to DAK, they could find a way to link it up with the Epcot line, and then you could have monorails complete a figure-eight pattern. Monorail Orange could go from Epcot to TTC to DAK, back to TTC, and then back to Epcot, for instance. That way you wouldn’t need to add monorail trains, but could expand the reach of the network. If necessary, they could do this with a shuttle beam concept as long as they created “turnouts” for the monorails going in opposite directions to pass each other. That might be tricky operationally, but a lot cheaper than building two-directional beams.

A different idea (not on the master plan): Blue is the existing Epcot line; red would be a direct route to DAK.
A different idea (not on the master plan): Blue is the existing Epcot line; red would be a direct route to DAK.

 

 

Yet another idea to connect just the parks.
Yet another idea to connect just the parks.

 

Again I have to stress: a master plan does not mean that things will necessarily unfold that way. Reportedly, monorail expansion has been on the master plan since, well, since the 80s. It hasn’t happened yet, so perhaps nothing whatsoever will come in the next decades. But it’s nice to know they are thinking about it at least.

People associate monorail travel with a Walt Disney World vacation; they should use that!
People associate monorail travel with a Walt Disney World vacation; they should use that!

 

 

One of Walt’s last dreams was to solve transportation problems – so why not do just that at WDW?
One of Walt’s last dreams was to solve transportation problems – so why not do just that at WDW?

 

 

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