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. The Las Vegas monorail costed about $88 million per mile of track. There are 13.6 miles of track at WDW, which today would cost about $1.2 Billion if it was the same cost as Las Vegas. However, the Las Vegas monorail system had to work around traffic and buy land, a WDW monorail extension might cost less.

    Of course, WDW’s monorails are not meant to be just effective public transportation, but part the show at WDW. Adding a monorail line to AK and AK Lodge would be a selling point, and you’d get more guests and be able to charge more. The Epcot monorail gives a great view of Epcot, an advertisement of sorts, if the monorail went to AK/DHS, guests would be more inclined to spend extra time in these parks.

    Also, being green is a big deal these days, Disney would get tons of free media if they extended the monorail line.

    I think the monorails are so convenient, especially if you are “park hopping”. Without them less people would go to the resort.

    http://www.monorails.org/tmspages/HowMuch.html
    http://www.bigfloridacountry.com/monorail.htm

  2. I love monorails. I have the models at my desk, the silly ‘please stand clear of my coffee’ mug in honor of the monorails and as many trinkets as I can get. That said, I think it is time for Disney to move away from the monorail system.

    WHAT? BLASPHEMY!

    The thing is, Walt was a transportation geek. Back in the 50s and 60s the very idea of monorail travel was futuristic. It was awesome, new and could solve our need to get to more places, faster. What ended up happening is that the automobile took over instead and the monorail concept never took off. But in this is a golden opportunity to do what Disney does best and deliver a new and exciting transportation system that is already proven, but not widely developed… yet…

    It’s called Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). Check out the basics on Wiki here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_rapid_transit The fundamental change in design here is that instead of one large train carrying hundreds of people, you have many, many, many smaller cars that carry say 6 people at once (or 1 family size). Instead of going from transit station to transit station, the PRT guides are set up in such a way that you are taken directly to your destination. No stops. In a well built system a user would generally not need to wait any more than 30 seconds for a car, but they have medium scale systems that have that time down to 10 seconds today.

    The idea of an elevated track could still be used and would be uniquely Disney (in a way). Simply jump in your car from the park, hotel, Downtown Disney or anywhere on property (heck, you could even run the line all the way to the Airport!) A screen asks you to touch your destination. Then woooosh! Away you go getting a custom guided tour the entire way keeping you and your family entertained.

    Next generation transportation making the parks more efficient, modern and fun! It is like combining the PeopleMover with the Monorail in to one uber transportation system of the future.

    Anyhow, that’s my $0.02. Seems like since Walt passed the idea of next generation transportation at all Disney parks has died. Would love to see someone within Disney light that spark of wonderment once again and start pushing for a truly innovative way to get people from A to B quickly, all while keeping them entertained.

    Thanks,

    Benjamin

    • Good point. As much as I love the monorails, and as much as they are better than buses, perhaps 2012 calls for a different, more modern approach.

    • The PRT (like Heathrow’s ULTra system) is certainly more in keeping with what Disney would have done had the technology existed. At $7 – $15M per km, vehicles / control inclusive, the ULTra could be the perfect technology for WDW in particular. It would take hundreds of pods to connect the major resorts to the parks and destinations like Downtown, Boardwalk and ESPN with enough capacity, but much of it could be done at ground-level.

      Capacity of off-the-shelf ULTra stations is 400 persons per hour – comparable to what Disney is accomplishing at each of its O/O hotel properties with existing bus service (assuming very optimistically up to 30 people / 10 busses per hour). No additional scheduled stops means that there are huge gains in efficiencies for moving people more quickly to the resorts as load and unload is handled entirely on side-spurs.

  3. I’m not sure Disney World really needs to expand anymore. There is a lot they can add to existing parks still, but maybe one more park could be good down the line.

    People normally only get 1 week off for a vacation, and I think that’s how much time people normally spend at Disney World. Takeaway 2 days for travel, that’s 7 days they can possibly have at the parks.

    I really think park hopping is hardly done by the average Disney World visitor, and seeing as some parks can take more than one day to finish, that really doesn’t leave a whole lot of time left over. If the resort expands many visitors are going to have to start leaving things out.

    I think the problem with expanding the monorail is that it really won’t solve any problems. The monorail wont be going everywhere, and buses will still be needed to get to everything other than from park to park. So you still need buses that go from every park to every hotel, to the water parks and so on. Maybe they could require everyone at a park that needs to go pack to a hotel ride the monorail to single pickup location but holy crap what a nightmare that would be.

  4. Ben,

    I say your idea is full of it. You just described the Great Glass Elevator. You’re not fooling anyone here. :)

  5. On my first visit to WDW, I was totally floored at the endless open space they have. I’m surprised they haven’t expanded more than they have. Disneyland would KILL for just a tiny, tiny fraction of that open space.

  6. I believe the real issue is that we are sick of cramped buses – strollers, cranky kids (and parents), the smell of sweaty bodies. I don’t know how many times I have been on a full bus and the driver has to slam on the brakes for deer in Fort Wilderness, golf carts and pedestrians.
    Having just check out the article on Personal Rapid Transit – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_rapid_transit
    this looks like the ideal transportation model for the resort. Now if Disney can convince a major player in this field to build it – the possibility would exist for other cities to put a PRT system. Someone has to take the first step.
    This really fits in to Walt Disney’s ideas of transportation for EPCOT.
    Any takers on planning the routes?

  7. Here’s what you do….set up a large track going 45 degrees downward toward another park, and have a really tall elevator lift the guests up on a ride vehicle, then it speeds down the track…giving them a thrill and arriving at their destination also. $5 per ride. Issue solved

    (the above post was purely being facetious)

  8. ChrisFL – but it does sound like fun!

  9. Long beach Ca and Los Angeles have light rail.
    To me took up alot of roadway more street light and car hit the trains.
    This is what you hear on the news and online.
    If disney use road and above track., Just keep away from cars and bus.

  10. I don’t mean to sound doubtful because I am very grateful that you shared this with us, but what is your source? How did you get to see the master plan? I may have missed it if you spelled it out int this article which I did enjoy reading very much.

  11. Let me start by saying I have no experience in transportation what so ever, and this is only my own ideas.

    No one has mentioned the strain a monorail expansion would put on the current TCC. MK currently averages 17 million visitors a year. Think of the logistics of getting all of those guests from TCC to MK during peak times when you have all the resort guests also.

    One monorail line cannot handle a park closing on its own. Someone pointed out they figure one train is equivalent to 3 buses, let’s say 4. How often does a train leave the station? It takes a couple of minutes to load, plus a couple of minutes between trains, I figure a full train will pull out every 8 mins at best. That is the equivalent of 1 bus every 2 mins at best. Next time you are at a park closing watch the busses pulling out. A different bus pulls out at least twice as fast when you consider all of the busses; plus all of those guests are in route to finial destination, no transfers needed.

    A quick search said Disney operates 140 busses, assuming the 4 to 1 ration that is 35 monorails needed to replace all the busses. The cost to replace the busses entirely would be staggering and would take lifetimes to recover the costs. A business needs return on investment much sooner than the monorail could offer, if at all. The logistics of bus elimination just isn’t possible.

    The monorail is a novelty; the busses are the backbone of transportation. Disney will have to maintain a large fleet of busses to operate the resort. Any savings gained from fleet reduction would be minimal considering the operating infrastructure will have to be maintained anyways.

    That doesn’t mean the monorail doesn’t have its place. It provides a level of entertainment and magic, but the cost of monorail expansion would be paid for with that in mind, not transportation. Disney has the ability to write a check for a Billion dollars, they just did to improve DLR, but they expect to see increase in traffic in return. How much new business would come to WDW with more monorail? I would love to see it, but I just don’t see it in the cards.

  12. Thanks for your comments, all. Sorry to reply so late, but I’ve been traveling (to Anaheim, it turns out).

    I did in fact get to see the master plan – this wasn’t just extrapolation (except for the actual monorail route – that part I didn’t know entirely). You’ll understand that I cannot reveal the source.

    I suspect Disney keeps monorails on the master plan so they always have that alternative, not that they expect to use it anytime soon.