Transportation the Disney Way

Last weekend I flew to Orlando for a somewhat ill-fated weekend at Disney World with my mom and aunt. Let’s just say my 12-hour delayed flight home was not the worst of the problems…

Nevertheless, I love Disney World, and since my mom and aunt had never been, it was fun to explore everything with them. I love Disney because of the emphasis on imagination and creativity, and the details that permeate everything. This was my fourth trip since 2001, but the first time I stayed in a Disney resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort. I have to say, it was pretty great to be so connected to the parks.

Even the Magical Express takes you from the Orlando airport to your Disney Resort.

Even the Magical Express takes you from the Orlando airport to your Disney Resort.

Now that I work in the transportation industry, I saw this trip in a whole new way. I’ve always loved the monorail, even as a small child at Disneyland, and the train that circles the Magic Kingdom, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (is it any wonder that I love subways?!), but this time I was impressed by the bus system. Not only are there buses that connect each park with every other destination, there are buses that connect all the resorts to each park, plus inner-resort buses! These complimentary buses run every 10 minutes or so, and in the mornings and evenings, are packed full of families from all walks of life.

A blurry shot of the PeopleMover, from the PeopleMover.

A blurry shot of the PeopleMover, from the PeopleMover.

It was amusing to observe these families on crowded buses. You can tell the ones who are not used to public transportation, because they don’t really want to get to close to others, and didn’t really understand the “move to the back of the bus” concept as more and more people packed in. But Disney makes the buses part of the vacation – by offering these free, reliable buses, families can leave the car behind for a truly stress-free vacation. The buses are full of ads (no surprise there) and have clearly understood recorded announcements along the way. The drivers are friendly and cheerful, no matter what time of day (again, no surprise – it IS Disney, after all). So it is an easy introduction to public transportation.

Disney 021

The Gateway to Magic!

But is it a gateway drug? I doubt it. Tourist families return home, and parents tell other parents about how great it was to be car-free, and how easy the transportation system is, but they only associate it with vacation and The Happiest Place on Earth. It’s a shame – a flawlessly run system that connects everywhere you need to get to should be what every municipality strives for, but I’m sure they also do not look to Disney World as inspiration for their systems.

The interactive "organ" while standing in line for the Haunted Mansion - totally fun!

The interactive “organ” while standing in line for the Haunted Mansion – totally fun!

Also in line for the Haunted Mansion - pushing in the books that pop out of the bookcase, only to have more pop out. Loved this!

Also in line for the Haunted Mansion – pushing in the books that pop out of the bookcase, only to have more pop out. Loved this!

But what are the takeaways? Disney wants the public to get everywhere, so it makes it easy to do so. Everything, even the steamboat that takes you to the Magic Kingdom, is free, included in the price of your ticket and hotel room. They don’t want people standing around in line, bored, so there is a steady stream of buses and trains to keep the crowds moving. Plus, the more time people spend in the parks not waiting in line, the more time they are spending money. Isn’t that what cities want?  People spending more money? So by making public transportation go everywhere, rapidly, efficiently, cheerfully, residents would be able to access more shops, more easily, without wasting time in their cars, circling for parking, cursing other drivers. So better public transportation means more time to spend more money! Just like all the studies show. Funny, that’s what we keep saying…

Wish I'd had these Princess Pirate ears for my pink pirate birthday party this year!

Wish I’d had these Princess Pirate ears for my pink pirate birthday party this year!

2 thoughts on “Transportation the Disney Way

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