Discussion in 'The DIS Unplugged Podcast' started by WebmasterLeah, Aug 15, 2012.
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Excellent article. I agree with everything you said, except, perhaps, the legal advice. You deserve better legal advice. . . .
I used to doubt the podcast team when they said a car is more convenient than the buses (paraphrasing). They were right. I was wrong. The WDW bus system will no longer waste my vacation time.
I will add my opinion. I have to admire the work that Disney does to manage their transportation system. They are always adding new busses, they are redoing the bus charter lot at the TTC to accomodate the new bus loop at MK.
I do get to ride the transportion options at Disney quite often and never have a problem. I don't use it at closing though unless it is a monorail.
I try to give them some leeway since it is a "free" system. Just imagine WDW without their transportation options and everyone driving cars. It could be a lot worse.
oh boy I have LOTS to say, can't imagine why
But am busy atm, I'll add more later
Im so glad this topic came up, because Ive got a LOT to say, both good and bad. Lets start with the good:
First, lets take a look at a map thats been circulating on the Transportation boards. Just take a look at this thing:
Its huge! Before criticism can be rendered, we have to look at just how massive this operation is and give credit where credit is due. Unofficially, 17 million people visited MK alone last year. Due to the setup, every single one of them had to use Disney transportation to get to MK except those who walked from the Contemporary, which is a relatively small amount of the overall population. That means 34 million used Disney transportation just at MK alone! Now add the resort to DTD routes, park to park routes, people going to dinners, we move a LOT of people in a year. For the size and scope of the operation, overall things run pretty smooth.
Now obviously when crowds rush transportation, there can be issues. Ill start with monorails since theyre the red headed step child of transportation. They suck, they break, parts fall out and start fires, bus bars fall off the beams cutting power, I could go on
and on. Yeah sure, theyre iconic but what theyre iconic FOR is starting to change and its not a good thing. 3 major holidays in a row they broke and caused a LOT of people to be stranded at MK due to boats being down for wind(1 of those 3 times). Ive seen strings of people walking from MK to TTC in these situations. When monorails break it causes mass chaos for both MK and the other parks because buses have to be brought online to assist watercraft with getting guests out of MK and to the TTC. And its not just major break downs that cause a problem, it can be a medical emergency, someone puking and the need to clean it up, or a squirrel on the beam that can bring monorail operations to a halt. For this reason, I think it would be a horrible idea to spread monorails to other areas on property. They can barely keep the operation they have running, how on earth are they going to handle more? They have made steps in the right direction by reducing monorail hours to perform maintenance(and thats a decision I will forever back management on because I see the negative effects of their lack of maintenance the last 10+ years), but that doesnt mean they are ready for an expansion.
Now its on to buses. Buses are absolutely the work horse of transportation. We run nearly 300 buses every single day. Buses are deployed partially by an automated system and partially by human intervention. This can mean an inconsistent experience depending on who is deploying the buses and what circumstances might be happening elsewhere. For instance, monorails being down and forcing buses to divert causes delays everywhere else. Disney runs X number of buses according to foreseen demand. They cant just start up a bus and send it somewhere, it takes time to bring additional buses online and it takes staff they might not immediately have. Additionally, the biggest difference between buses and monocraft is they do not just simply run a route. The dynamic deployment makes things much more complicated. This is the biggest reason why Disney says and I frequently preach allow at least 1.5 hours to get to your destination when using Disney transportation. There are many variables and you should always be prepared for them.
Having said that, I see Disney is addressing the bus problem. When AoA came online, more buses were added and they have tested those bendable buses as a way to increase capacity on routes and make it at least a little bit more comfortable for people. Thats not going to prevent lines at peak times, but the idea is to move more people quicker and more efficiently. They are aware of the increase in traffic and are making efforts to prepare for it.
And lastly we get to Watercraft: Bailing out monorails for over 40 years. First, the resort routes at MK are pretty well set and boats do get dynamically deployed after fireworks to move the crowd as quickly as possible. But this is definitely a situation where we need more boats. The addition of BLT had a big effect on the blue route, to the point where we had to change the flow of the 2 launches to accommodate the crowds. Again, its all the same in the end, but we were able to make a modification that at least makes it look better. The same is inevitably going to happen when the GF DVC opens. The gold route only has 2 launches and we only have 1 spare launch. What we need is at least 1 if not 2 additional cruisers, but apparently the resorts dont want to pay for it. With the current setup, the red/green routes suffer when there is lightning (which shuts down the launches) or when the monorails break(which is like
daily). It forces a cruiser to be transferred to the gold and the red and green routes experience longer wait times because of it. So yes, we need more boats, preferably in the form of cruisers since they are ECV capable and have a much higher capacity than the launches. In addition to that, we need the ability to take boats out for maintenance and cleaning without worrying about the operation. 1 spare launch and 2 insanely slow MK boats are not cutting it.
Next its on to the ferries. First, as indicated in the blog, I think there has been an increase in the number of people driving. In the last 3.5 years I have definitely noticed an increase in the number of people taking the ferryboats. I doubt its because anyone listens when we say its quicker at fireworks time to take the ferry than the monorail, so I can only assume its because more people are driving. That said, there is really one main issue with the efficiency of the ferryboats which is that we cannot unload and load at the same time. Therefore, more (ferry)boats will only make the situation worse, not better. In order to address this problem, the queue areas at TTC and MK need to be redone to allow simultaneous loading and unloading. Recently we have begun experimenting with the idea by having a ferryboat docked in both the main slip and temp slip at MK during the fireworks exit. The problem is due to the angle of the temp slip at the TTC, it can only be utilized in an emergency situation as it creates a difficult situation for ECVs and strollers. So they are not helping anything with the test they are doing, except putting 1200 people on 2 boats and making them wait to dock. Truthfully, its all the same in the end. Until they effectively make 2 main slips on each dock and properly configure them, more boats will not help the situation. I also want to add it takes at least 45 minutes to get a ferryboat out of dry dock if monorails go down. If the 3rd boat is already out, it takes 20 minutes to get a crew across, do the necessary checks, and bring the boat online. Again, its a combination of having the necessary staff and equipment available to help the situation.
The benefit to the boats is if there is a mechanical, medical, or security issue, we have backup slips to utilize so the operation does continue even if it slows things down.
With all that said, information IS being gathered to take a look at the MK watercraft operation. GPS units have been ordered for the boats which will help with more efficient deployment and Im hoping (speculation here) will lead to some kind of wait time indication being given either on LCDs on the docks, through the My Disney Experience app, or both. Disney is absolutely aware of the increased guest flow and is trying to do something about it, but like any huge corporation, it takes planning, budgeting, etc to get anything done and they move at a snails pace!
I hope Ive given a true double sided view here. Im often critical of Disney, but I see they are making some decisions with regard to transportation that is a step in the right direction. Yes, there are issues, but again, for the size and scope of this privately run operation, we do a pretty good job. Ultimately its up to the time vs reward value of each individual.
I can only put my own personal opinion since it's all I really have.
I'm from a fairly large city with crappy Public transit and even crappier crowded roads. Around here if you don't live near a public transit hub don't bother using it, driving is easier but parking sucks. Walking or public transit is usually better than worrying you will get towed or get a parking ticket. In that sense I'm fairly use to waiting for trains, buses or even taxis. While I at least twice in 2007 remember waiting a bit longer than I would like for a bus to get 'home' or to a park it still beat driving and getting lost(which happens a lot). There is also the added expense of paying for parking. Since driving is a necessary evil in America and pretty much everyone has to drive to and from work for a living I don't see people not using Disney transportation if it is offered at least once during their vacation especially if it's free with your resort stay. With that said unless gas prices magically get better and the parking goes down, if I stay at a disney resort or any resort that offers a bus, train boat etc. unless I'm waiting hours for it(I never truly waited more than maybe 45 mins for a bus) I'm more likely to take that than drive.
I'm a bit nervous at driving on my upcoming trip to France but since it isn't the US it seems more adventurous. The fact I don't have to be adventurous at Disney World is worth that added hassle of waiting with others on vacation. Usually the buses keep coming and I found that if you wait till after the crowd leaves after the fireworks you can usually get a much less crowded bus to get 'home'. I did this in MK after Wishes on my visit and enjoyed an ice cream at the plaza whiling watching everyone leave. After I finished my ice cream most of the crowd had left with the buses and magically there was an empty bus waiting for us when we went to go 'home' for the night, it was one of the most memorable nights of my vacation. Well that and they 'upgraded' my husbands ice cream. The pure terror(you had to be there)on his face from it was priceless! ahem anyway unless the driving in Flordia is less stressful than in most of the east coast I don't know if I will ever drive. Although I still haven't done Sea World or Bush Gardens Tampa yet so I guess I would have to drive to do that.
I think they also need to change the way the handicap riders work.
While waiting for a bus a wheelchair and their family of 15,pulled in and got right on the bus with no wait. Funny thing was the next day at the pool at the hotel the same handicap person was involved in the pool games dancing and jumping in the pool having a great time ...hmmm....
I have over heard many conversations how its worth the extra money to pay for a wheelchair to not wait in lines...... WOW !!!!
maybe this needs to also be addressed !!!!!
Disney World is roughly 1.5 times the size of Manhattan, a city I'm well acquainted with. I guess I'm just used to the imperfections of any mass transit system, and feel lucky that Disney offers the service for free. All in all, I've found there to be few times when things were crazy crowded, and even then it was only for a few minutes. It beats the city bus during rush hour.
I've always been a fan. I'd image, however, that if you weren't used to mass transit, that it may seem slow or crowded, but I think it comes with the territory of moving that many people.
That said, sure it would be nice to have an extra bus or two around closing time. But I'm pretty low key and will sit if I need to, or run when I need to.
overall I think they do a pretty good job!
We have been going to WDW at least annually for over 22 years now (ugh, that makes me old) and always stay on site, varying our resorts from deluxe to value. The bus service has seriously deteriorated over that time and keeps getting worse. I know the resort system has gotten bigger over that time but the bus system has not kept up with it. You used to be able to get a bus to/from your resort to/from any park every 10 minutes and you didn't share with any other resort. The first sharing we experienced was when we had the 2 Port Orleans resorts but it wasn't bad because the buses were frequent, any time of the day. Fast forward to today and you maybe get a bus from your resort to a park every 20 minutes and you will always share with at least one resort, if not more, even in the deluxe resorts. In fact, it seems sometimes that the value resorts get more frequent service because they are so much larger. When AKL opened, we were very happy to stay there and the bus service was great to any park. Now, we avoid it because the bus service has deteriorated so much - much longer waits for any bus, including those going to AK. We now stay only at resorts where we have options other than buses and sometimes use our car or taxis to get around, especially to Downtown Disney (don't get me started on that one and the water parks). I am particularly upset with the bus service at deluxe resorts - if I am paying a premium price for a deluxe resort, I do not expect to have to share buses with other resorts or wait 20 minutes or more for a bus to get me someplace. Coming back from a park near closing is ridiculous - no one should have to wait that long or endure the crowded conditions that we face.
I have always loved WDW because it was a safe and fun place to visit - when I was a single mom, I could bring my DS and we could have a great vacation - never had to drive anywhere, felt totally safe, and we had good, fun meals at the restaurants. Now with a new DH and DD, it is still safe but not nearly as much fun - we have to plan meals 6 months in advance, the food isn't nearly as good, you have to wake up super early and get to the parks so you don't spend hours in line, and the transportation is horrible so we end up driving more than we want or spending money to take taxis. We still come to visit but we end up spending more time doing other things - going to Universal, Sea World, etc. - or just spending more time at our resort at the pool, etc. Nothing wrong with that but we are almost to the point of not visiting anymore - my DH doesn't come with us most times now because he can't stand paying so much and having to spend so much time waiting. When DD and I went in June 2012, we spent more time hanging at our resort than we did at the parks and we didn't even go to HS.
This is all the result of massive growth and a system that is perhaps too dynamic. Thanks to the rise in international tourism, slow periods are nearly non existent. I think the majority of transportation complaints still stem from buses. I also think that even if you go in peak times, you CAN avoid the long lines if you know how to strategize. That doesn't mean meticulously planning the day. It just means doing what everybody else isn't. If everyone else is leaving at fireworks, wait until after the crowd. Or watch the fireworks like half way down main street, turn around and walk straight out afterwards. You'll be way ahead of the crowds. I know people shouldn't "have" to do these things, but it really has become a situation where you have to always be one step ahead of everyone else. That's what makes a site like this so great, because you have so much information and tips that believe it or not, most visitors don't know. Some still don't know what a fast pass is....
well the joke is on them because the guest assistance pass is free and gets you much quicker access to lines. That said, Disney will never be able to punish abusers of the wheelchair situation like that. One wrong move and discrimination would be claimed, a lawsuit would erupt, etc. Some things are just the result of the deterioration of society and there's nothing even Disney can do about it.
I'm always amazed at how well people can document the transgressions of those in wheelchairs and how the stories are always amazingly similar.
Family of 15 pulled in front and boarded bus, seen dancing and jumping next day.
What was the rest of that family's day like? What else did they do? Was their entire day fun and frolic or did they wait longer at attractions for the designated ride vehicle? Did anyone in the party give up their fun day at a park to push the wheelchair and have to spend all of their attention watching out for people who were oblivious to the fact that they arent alone in a theme park?
I'm sorry to pick this particular post apart, but every time there is a discussion of transportation at Disney or the use of wheelchairs at Disney, someone posts of the horrible family that boards the bus as the group, forcing everyone else to wait and then joins the limbo contest the next day.
And because this story comes up over and over again, I will continue to post the same thing I always post in response.
Thank God no one in your party needs to use a wheelchair. Thank God that you are in the position to wait the extra 15 minutes. I'm sure the party in the wheelchair would gladly change places with you.
Even if the party you saw was taking advantage of the "rule"...why punish those that truly need the "rule" because of the actions on an idiot?
I would just like for the busses to return to being busses,with actual seats, and not "cattle cars". I really want to start mooing when I'm in a crowd being herded into one of the new buses, with barely any seats, and lots of standing room with nothing close to hold on to. Does Disney realize that many small children also have to ride standing, and there is nothing at their level to hold on to? Someday, there is going to be a suit from somebody being seriously injured in a sudden stop when the whole darn crowd falls down....
Unfortunately, there are some flaws in your argument. Sure, you can get a GAP. But, it doesn't cost anything. And merely being in a wheelchair doesn't get you easier/quicker access to most things. The vast majority of attraction lines are now wheelchair/ecv accessible..so you go with the flow. If the line isn't, then you use a different line, but you don't get to just board..you will have some kind of wait times.
As for the buses??? There are new 'suggestions' at the bus stops. The wheelchair/ecv rider is supposed to be at the bus stop, waiting, when the bus arrives. They are supposed to be accompanied by a set number of family members...I can't remember what it is now, but it's a fairly good number.
Other members of the family must board with the rest of the guests. And you need to remember that those people that preboarded, in wheelchairs/ecvs, have to remain on that bus until everyone else is off before they can get off.
Are there abuses? Sure there are. And there always will be.
But, in my 30+ stays in WDW, I don't think I've seen bus abuse, of that nature, more than twice. It's just not the issue that many seem to think.
Whenever I see this post....apparently this 15 person family goes to Disney every day and stays at every resort, because everyone has seen them...I always wonder why no one ever posts about all the families that I always see with someone in a wheelchair that "obviously" needs it, having a wonderful time enjoying the parks because of the accessibility that Disney provides? Truly, if I ever see the evil family above I'm okay with just waiting for another bus while counting my blessings and knowing that the vast majority of those I see in wheelchairs or on ECV's certainly wish they weren't, but are so happy to be able to come and enjoy Disney with their families like everyone else.
I agree with your points here and have always thought about the fact that children have nothing to hold on to. It's something that I have experienced as I can't reach the handles and there haven't been poles nearby to grab. Similarly, what about all of the adults who hold children while standing? That's a huge safety issue, IMO.
I'm really enjoying everyone's thoughts here. Keep them coming.
I saw another family of 3 ECVs and 10 people pull up to a bus stop when the bus arrived. Because only 2 ECVS could fit on the bus the other one argued with the driver because they couldn't ride on the same bus. While the argument continued every one else but the family members had to wait to board the bus. And then guess who was left behind.. the one ECV still complaining to anyone who would listed and about 10 of us who were denied access on to the bus because it was now too full.
The next bus came about 10 minutes later with the ECV rider still telling the story. I don't know if he expected them to change the bus to hold 3 ECVs or something...
I don't think the problem lies with the bus system, but more the inconsiderate folks that ride it.
When it comes to abuse of the wheelchair and GAC systems, I don't pretend to be able to tell who is legit and who is abusing the system, so I don't try. Given the legal risk, I don't really expect Disney to do much about it either.
As for the original topic, I do appreciate the complexity of the WDW transportation system. But at the same time, Disney has tremendous advantages over any public system in terms of funding and control, so there really is no excuse for the problems that exist. WDW maybe larger than the island of Manhattan, but the complexity of the two systems isn't even in the same universe. There are over 1.5 MILLION people living on Manhattan and the number that commute into the city everyday is also in the millions.
And, as so many are so quick to remind us, Disney is a business. They do not use public funding to provide a service to the taxpayers. They reap tremendous profits from the WDW resort, and the transportation system is critical to making that happen for them.
So yes, I do appreciate the complexity, but Disney has more than enough resources to handle the issue. They do not need our sympathy.
I agree that the busses are probably the biggest issue, but at the same time all aspects of the transportation system affect each other. For example, one reason the need for busses is so great is Disney has not either expanded the monorail or implemented another large system in areas not served by the monorail. Would such an expansion or system be expensive? Certainly, but no one can seriously argue that Disney took any less of a leap when they built the DL and WDW monorails so many years ago. In fact, taking such leaps was a key component of the Disney philosophy at one time, and without that kind of thinking certainly the Disney of today would be a far less grand entity.
So first and foremost, the WDW transportation issue is not likely to truly be resolved until they are willing to get back to the ideas and philosophies that the company was founded and built upon.
Since that isn't likely to happen, we are left to try to make the best of what is there. With that in mind, there still is no excuse for many of the problems with the bus service in particular. Twice on a recent trip it took members of our party over 2 hours to get from one resort to another using the busses. The horror stories are plentiful.
When going from a resort to a theme park or water park (except for the MK) you can sometimes save over an hour a day by driving. That is huge when you are talking about limited vacation time.
There really is no excuse for these issues. What can Disney do, if they are not willing to make a major investment in new transportation systems or monorail expansion? The bus system needs to become more flexible. I can't count how many times I've seen two, three and even four busses in a row arrive at a resort all going to the same destination. We watch the 2nd bus, completely empty, wait for the 1st bus to load/unload, then it just follows the 1st bus along the route, never picking up or dropping off a single passenger. The 3rd bus follows, doing the same. We saw this several times on a recent stay at the BWV. Empty busses following along from the BW, to the Swan, to the Dolphin, and then on to the water/theme parks with only the 1st bus actually carrying passengers. Other times the gap between busses can be the quoted 20 minutes, or even longer.
This is a problem that is going to arise, busses get delayed when loading/unloading wheelchairs for example. But when it does, there needs to be a proactive dispatch system that re-routes the empty busses, or has them hold in position.
Of course another solution is to just throw more busses into the system, but that might not be the most efficient solution. They could also utilize a larger number of smaller busses, giving them greater flexibility.
Is it simple? Of course not, but we are talking about a corporation that makes billions in profits, they can handle it, if they choose to do so.
I think this really explains a lot of frustration people have. It seems the problem is just as much, if not more so the guests rather than Disney itself or the CMs who transport.
As a CM who loads groups of 600 at a time, there are things sometimes beyond our control. When things get frustrating, I always take a step back and remind myself that I'm part of a very large organization and I can't fix or control everything. All I can do is try to get people to their destination as safely and quickly as possible(in that order).
This thread is a bit of an eye opener for me regarding the buses. Perhaps I need to do some investigation to find out more about their operation and why things happen. Not so I can defend them, but just because it interests me.
I always wonder whether our expectations about transit are realistic. Do we want to be ushered from park to park on our own air-conditioned bus, lest we rub elbows or brush shoulders with our fellow traveler? Are we so pressed for time that we can't sit, or stand for 13 minutes while the bus takes us to our destination?
I'm not claiming the transit system is perfect, but I think that we feel especially entitled when we come to Disney and that it's possible that our expectations exceed reality. It's a bus system. It's going to be slower than we'd like. At peak times it's going to be more crowded than we'd like.
Yes Disney has more control than, say, NY or Chicago, but to me, those systems work pretty well too. But we all have to get used to giving up a little personal space and control when we ride buses.
If in one week I spend a total of an hour or so (7 trips home from parks at peak times) in a crowded bus, I'm kinda fine with that. I may get a little cranky, but that doesn't last long.
What do we really want/expect?
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