Without a doubt, Disney is the master of crowd control. Their most popular parks, the Magic Kingdoms, are ingeniously designed with lands branching outward from a central point, like the spokes of a wagon wheel.
When Disneyland opened in 1955, each of the lands were connected only to the central hub and not to each other; in theory, a guest would have to leave a themed realm by returning to the center before heading off into the realm of the next. Unfortunately, this idealized concept was trampled under the guests' tired feet, and over the years alternate pathways opened up – some examples include behind the Frontierland and Adventureland entrances, "Matterhorn Way" leading to either Fantasyland or Tomorrowland, Big Thunder Trail connecting Fantasyland with Frontierland, etc.
(Photo credit: localdisneyfan)
Today, most of the dead ends and traffic problems have been addressed, and crowds flow through the park quite effectively. The addition of the “shortcuts” to the central hub design means that any one destination is the least amount of steps away possible.
But there are two BIG problems left, and they are two that every person reading this thread is already aware of. Since you do, I'll make it brief, but it's necessary to walk through these scenarios to get my point across.
The first and most obvious problem is on Main Street USA. That poor little turn-of-the-century town gets the most foot traffic of any land, if only because it is simply the only way in from the entrance and out to the exit. If you have ever entered the park in the middle of a parade, you know you must dodge the floats, the guests on the sidelines watching the floats, and the ropes that rodeo in the guests watching the floats. A mass exodus immediately after shows on crowded days results in opening up the backstage passageways on both sides of Main Street, and besides destroying the illusion or being an example of "bad show," it lets guests bypass all those tantalizing spending possibilities in Main Street shops!
Fantasmic! and R...DCT present an even bigger problem. The guests who are trying to leave the park before and during the shows are bottlenecked by the guests that gather at the hub to see the fireworks, and in turn guests that are trying to get somewhere else in the park are forced into a mad circle around the whole hub along with the exiting guests, and then F! ends and...where do they go?
It's quite simple. Don't make them all exit through Main Street.
Let them exit through Critter Country.
Which leads me to the second flow problem: Critter Country is a dead-end land. Frontierland and Adventureland merge into New Orleans Square, and Critter Country branches off of NOS, and that's the end. Splash Mountain and Winnie the Pooh exit near the back of the land, and you must then retrace your steps the way you came. There isn’t any logical path around the Rivers of America for a path to wind, so in terms of park layout I see no way to undo this.
However, I envision a second entrance that would be located on the very back boundary of Critter Country and have an underground walkway that would connect it with the Mickey & Friends parking structure.
Check out this rudimentary map I made on GoogleMaps.
The yellow indicates where an underground pathway would go. At either end it would have to consist of ramps of a shallow incline (no stairs) to allow for strollers and wheelchair access. It would begin at the far end of the M&F tram station area (where a circular planter exists currently), cross underneath Disneyland Drive and the tram route, and reemerge in the square of green.
This green area is currently a section of the backstage road that encircles the park. I believe it is possible to reroute this road underneath, allowing for a “mini-esplanade” here. Basically it would be a place to allow for lines to the entrance gates, a ticket booth or two, and so forth, surrounded by plenty of trees to blend with the country woods of Critter Country (and hide the backstage buildings and roads).
The area encircled in red is the back end of Critter Country, consisting mostly of Pooh Corner and the Winnie the Pooh meet-and-greet area, and also a backstage entrance hugging Splash Mountain. I believe Pooh Corner would need to be removed or seriously decreased in size to allow for about six entrance turnstiles.
What are the problems with this idea? One is that you miss the visual icons of the traditional entrance and Main Street.
But then again, how is this concept much different than entering DCA from the oh-so-special side gate for the Grand Californian hotel?
Admittedly, there’s less to miss when bypassing DCA’s entrance, but that should soon change.
There also is a path specifically for the Paradise Pier hotel that leads to the land of the same name, but since it was underutilized it is no longer used. But I assure you, this second entrance would get used, if guests know how (and when) to use it.
The second entrance would be a godsend for guests wishing to get out of the park from the west side while Fantasmic or R…DCT (or both) are going on, without the hassle of fighting through the crowds at the central hub and Main Street. It would also be an excellent choice to enter if you are headed for Splash Mountain or the Haunted Mansion as your first stop of the day. Heck, even the under-utilized Winnie the Pooh attraction might get some added traffic from this.
Of course, this is not an alternative to parkhopping, so Main Street is still quintessential for crossing over to DCA. Mostly, the second entrance is for traffic to and from Mickey and Friends parking structure (& Pinocchio lot), which is what most driving guests use.
Obviously, it is of benefit only to guests using M&F. If guests ignore the signs while exiting through the second gate and discover they parked in Lion King instead, they would simply take the M&F tram to the entrance plaza, cross the esplanade and take the right tram.
The second entrance might not always be open. Perhaps it (and the underground pathway) would only be used on particularly busy days, or during the evenings to allow an easy way to return to the structure.
What do you think? Is this idea too radical for traditionalists, too costly/complicated for analysts, or too unnecessary for skeptics?