Disney World Plans – More Monorails and Parks

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Kevin Yee, Walt Disney World

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Published on July 19, 2012 at 4:00 am with 31 Comments

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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About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida. He spent more than a decade working at Disneyland and cultivating a never-ending fascination with that park’s rich traditions and history. Now relocated to Orlando, Kevin enjoys the Disney offerings on both sides of the country. Kevin is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations: UltimateOrlando.com – Kevin’s personal blog for daily WDW updates Public Facebook page – or friend his personal Facebook account, Twitter feed (user UltOrlando), Google+ account (user cafeorleans), Email at [email protected], Weekly Walt Disney World, a Facebook group of regulars who visit Disney World each weekend. Visitors from out of town are encouraged to come and say hello when in Orlando! Join the FB group to learn when/where the next meet is. Kevin’s books on Amazon

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31 Comments

Comments for Disney World Plans – More Monorails and Parks are now closed.

  1. Thanks, Kevin! That was interesting,

    Until more monorails are built,
    Disney could have little, inexpensive trains, covered Peoplemovers, or bike paths connecting Port Orleans to nearby Epcot

    and connecting Pop Century &/or the Caribbean Beach resorts to Disney’s Hollywood Studios,

    and/or maybe a train connecting the Caribbean Beach Resort to the back of EPCOT’s World Showcase.

    Check out how close those places are on a Google map.

    These would be minor improvements, but they would be nice perks for these three large, moderate hotels.

    And/or maybe health-conscious Thomas Staggs could make Walt Disney World the bike capital of the south and get previously non-Disney fans to associate Walt Disney World with fitness. (A Saturday Night Live commercial parody with Bill Hader as Clint Eastwood in the Chrysler Superbowl commercial got a big laugh by making fun of out Americans at Disney World.) The bikes could all belong to WDW and resorts, and parks could have covered bike parking. No locks–just drop one off or sign one out.

    –Tom Sinsky

  2. Penultimate sentence should read “out-of-shape Americans.”

  3. I’m sure one of the things that makes monorail construction so costly is elevating the track. This idea serves to ease ground traffic and delays that light rail systems have at intersections. With WDW’s open spaces along these routes, I wonder if they have considered dropping the track to ground level to lower construction costs.
    Or maybe my assumption is wrong and that would be just as expensive as elevating the track.

    • I’m sure it would be much cheaper to run Monorails or trains at ground level, but it would also be more dangerous due to the electrified beam and potential collision dangers (guests walking where they shouldn’t and wildlife). To keep animals and guests away from the beam, they’d have to install miles of fences, which would be ugly to look at for both passengers and passers by.

  4. This article is all wrong in the sense that you dedicate much space to discuss your Monorail Orange route. This most inefficient route since the route from TTC to Epcot already exists. They don’t need to construct a route from TTC to DAK. Just go from Epcot to DHS to DAK with the Epcot terminal as the new hub.

    You also mention they could save costs by not going with a double route. The savings isn’t as much as you claim. It will be a marginal difference in cost, but the impact from not having full efficiency is priceless if rider capacity is realized. Besides, there will be a major impact when two different monorail lines are operating at different capacities. Customers will wait and people will wonder why Disney cheaped out, yet again.

  5. the problem with the monorail system is it does not connect all the resorts with the Theme Parks, Downtown Disney (Hyperion Warf if it gets built) and Wide World of Sports.
    At issue is the need to remove trains during the slow periods of the day and back in service at closing. Instead of going to the monorail barn, a better idea would be a system similar to roller coaster trains – where parallell tracks slide back and forth to remove and replace the cars when needed. The bus sytems is crazy and really only works with Fort Wilderness because of its size.

  6. One of the main problems with Animal Kingdom is that you can only reach it via car or bus. Not so magical.

    At least the Studios Park is accessible via boat and a short walk from Epcot. But a line which connected those two parks to the rest of the Monorail network would be absolutely fantastic!

  7. Monorail Loops

    There are currently two monorail loops, around the Seven Sea Lagoon, and the one going to Epcot. This is actually a good idea because if a monorail breaks down on one loop, it won’t concomitantly effect the other loop.

    A monorail expansion which involves putting a loop at the Epcot station heading out to DHS/AK is what is planned. If the monorail to TTC from Epcot broke down, then you’d still have this other loop running from the Epcot station. Critical when you’ve got huge crowds. For this reason, any new monorail track added would be its own self-contained loop, it just doesn’t make sense safety or efficiency-wise to expand a given loop (or run a train backwards) as you’ve got to build new track no matter what.

    In terms of hotels . . . the pricier marquee hotels like Contemporary, Grand Floridian, get the monorails, they’ll never put a monorail out to Pop Century as it is a lower priced hotel. I could see them putting in something at the Swan & Dolphin, but even more likely than that the Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is a premium hotel served just by buses, at a corner of the park.

    Mystery Project at the TTC

    As you noted, land here is being eyed for development, and happily, it is right at the TTC and the Magic Kingdom parking lot. This parking lot could easily be expanded for parking for this park (in addition to Magic Kingdom) which would automatically have monorail access. There have been some recent surveys of the land, figuring out what would be seen from the precious five-star resorts around the lake. Your expansion area for this area is off, it is much bigger, and your basically using backroads for the shape which are going to go anyway.

    Land North of Animal Kingdom

    Measure the distance from AK to Epcot, then make a big circle using this diameter. Disney doesn’t want to build a new park in this area as the fireworks/night show at any new park might disturb the animals. This negates a theme park in the area you describe, the new park at TTC, which is far away from AK like Epcot.

    Avatar Expansion

    The plots you have on your map are correct, at least in terms of putting something in at Animal Kingdom. Will Avatar happen? Remember, this was a project cooked up on the quick by Iger, a paper threat given Potterland’s success. In 1965 Walt Disney’s plans for the Riverfront Park in St. Louis, which was pretty far along in “development” fell through . . . magically almost, as the company’s *real* project was the Florida Project. Walt wasn’t planning two parks/developments at once, one was a decoy, something to talk about and get folks excited.

    I’m not saying Avatarland won’t be built . . . a much cheaper version, a sub-land, may make it into Animal Kingdom (I doubt it), but the big project, WDW’s Fifth Gate . . . is what will drive resort expansion long term.

    You’d think that Shanghai Disneyland would be the big project that would require everything Disney has to make happen, not by a long shot. It’ll take a while to grow into a decent sized theme park worthy of the Disney name, and it won’t be 100% Disney owned. The real crown jewel that they’re saving their powder for is WDW’s Fifth Gate.

  8. Great read, Kevin.

    The lack of more monorail lines, coupled with the increasing “unmagical” use of busses has also been a sore spot for me.

    I understand Disney is now big business with accountants in control, so how can the cost be justified for them?

    Busses are not cheap, particularly if Disney went to Hybrid versions. $300 to $500K each.
    I wonder if anyone has run the numbers of monorail per mile along with the offset cost of a reduction in busses and it’s required bus infrastructure, i.e. roads, traffic lights, fuel & maintenance, parking, inspections?

    How about the intangables. Getting to the parks faster. Green factors, less polution, more efficient electric vs. fuel and oil. How about the “Magic” factor the monorail has.

    To get the most out of Disney World, there is far more than just the theme parks. It’s the entire onsite WDW experience of traveling to another world and the monorail is a big part of that experience.

  9. One of the most interesting articles I’ve read in a while.

  10. Is the big yellow blob in Future World a Wonders of Life replacement, or is it farther out?

    • I noticed that too, I first thought of Universe of Energy, but then remembered that space is the former Wonders of Life, as for speculation, I’d speculate as what maybe going there, would be anything that would fit the mold of the traditional sciences in Future World East, like Energy, Life, the Future, (later Space) and Motion (later glorified Tests.) While complementing the Seas, the Land and the Imagination.

      Timekeeper

  11. It’s always been my understanding that the huge cost factor of adding to the monorail line is directly related to drilling the monorail line pylons to the proper depth required to reach the bedrock far below the sandy Florida soil.

    However, I am surprised the Disney has never attempted a light rail network. I always chuckle how their “green” and “healthy eating” initiatives are only touted when it is convenient to them and not the guest.

    Light rail should be more cost effective than operating a network of 300+ diesel spouting busses just from a staffing issue alone. Add in the environmental aspect and it seems like a no brainer.

    I would envision the first line running roughly parallel to Buena Vista drive. Starting at the All Stars and ending at Saratoga Springs with stops at Blizzard Beach, Coronado, Boardwalk/Hollywood Studios, Caribbean Beach, Old Key West, Typhoon Lagoon, Westside, and Marketplace along the way.

    Then create “transfer stations” at Blizzard Beach, Caribbean Beach and Old Key West. From the Blizzard Beach station a line could come in from AK Lodge (running concurrent with Osceola Parkway) with a stop at Animal Kingdom and continuing on past Blizzard Beach with a stop at ESPN WWoS and then veering onto Victory Way with another at Pop/Art of Animation before ending at the Caribbean Beach transfer station. The Old Key West transfer station could then have a line (shadowing Bonnet Creek Parkway) with stops at French Quarter, Riverside, (bearing left along Vista Boulevard) Fort Wilderness and Wilderness lodge with an end station at TTC. (Continue on from TTC towards the Tree Farm and the line could eventually link back to AKLodge to complete the loop.)

    Of course, Disney is so vast that they could no offer door-to door service and some supplemental light rail and/or bus lines maybe needed to get from within resorts like Caribbean Beach to the actual Caribbean Beach station, or a spur from Boardwalk to Yacht/Beach and the EPCOT monorail station may be required.

    Some resorts may need two transfers to get to a theme park but if light rail service ran every ten minutes the inconvenience would be minimalized and no worse than the exisitng bus network.

    Blue Sky

  12. Monorails are a great way to get around. Maybe they could get sponsors for each link of the track, and have video screens that played commercials aboard the train as they passed over the sponsored areas (Disney designed, of course).

  13. Coming from the architectural design world, the cost for the Monorail track should be comparable or less than traditional roadways, and far less damaging to the Florida ecology. Segments are pre-formed and trucked to location, foundations/towers are made with essentially large molds, wiring can be pre-installed and hooked during track segment installation. Maintenance on the track itself in less than traditional roadways and your fun per mile rate is high. However, when it’s down, your up sit-creek, especially when you have large numbers of guests that need to go from here to there at the same time. Quoted estimates on the cost per mile seam a bit high to me, however maybe they use extra magic dust in central Florida concrete. Hey when it works, the Monorail system is a fun, efficient, and exciting way to travel. Load the internal monitors with a combo of Coke/Sunscreen ads interspersed with Disney tips to help subsidize the cost, most of us are too busy looking out the window at treetop level dreaming or chatting with friendly folks from fifty other states to care.

  14. I wonder to what extent the addition of Monorail lines like this would reduce the need for buses? I’d imagine it would be pretty significant:

    If two monorail cars (and I’m roughly guessing) handle as many people as one bus, and there are 6 cars on a train that’s 3 buses off the road. That’s 3 bus drivers to 1 pilot.

    Monorails would be more direct, not limited to roadways and traffic. Score one for traffic impact.

    Monorails would load/unload faster (stand behind one ECV or double-wide stroller for a bus and disagree with me :) )

    Monorails aren’t redirect-able as buses to accommodate sudden crowds, but how many of us have seen 3 buses for the same resort come to the same stop while we wait for one to ours? That seems to indicate that the ‘redeployment’ (if happening) isn’t very efficient anyway so I think Trains would win there too.

    Also, the long-term benefit would seem to be far-more favorable for the Monorails: the fuel, tires, maintenance, number of operators, impact on guest-drivers, litigation (compare monorails injuries/deaths to those by bus), storage, washing, and many other factors and it would seem that the immediate budgetary impact would be painful but the long-term return would pay off in multiples.

    It seems accountants are making decisions when an enterprise like that needs economists.