Cedar Point Day 1 08/05/13: Not Even Fastlane Will Save You

Thursday, August 8, 2013 12:28 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

I see what you doing and it makes sense if you're basing the value on the number of rides.

However, I probably wouldn't. I wouldn't use Fast Lane to get more rides (at least not significantly more), but I would use it to get on and off rides more quickly so that I could just hang in the park doing other things...or nothing.

But even with some sort of time/cost equation, I can't see how paying extra to wait 45 minutes benefits me any more than the per ride equation.


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Thursday, August 8, 2013 12:45 PM

There is more than one way to find value in Fast Lane than just cost per attraction. There is value in spending less time in line. Being able to go at a more leisurely pace. Walk on the beach, take in some sights, take some pictures, etc. You can leave the park earlier and do something else with the rest of your day. Different people will place different values on each of those. If the value proposition presented with FL on the days discussed here isn't there for you, it still may have been for someone else.
Gonch's post beat mine. I think I can still find value in paying to wait 45 minutes. If I had to go to Cedar Point in July/August (and as a kid, we did one annual trip to CP in July and waited in long lines for pretty much everything -- though we only ride the big rides), it would be better than waiting twice as long (or more) without paying. Is that enough value? Depends on who you ask.

Last edited by GoBucks89, Thursday, August 8, 2013 12:50 PM
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Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:03 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

GoBucks89 said:

I think I can still find value in paying to wait 45 minutes. If I had to go to Cedar Point in July/August (and as a kid, we did one annual trip to CP in July and waited in long lines for pretty much everything -- though we only ride the big rides), it would be better than waiting twice as long (or more) without paying. Is that enough value?

I wanted to argue with this, but I remembered a few times I bought a standard Q-bot at a SF park and had to wait that long for my ride and I still found value in that.

Then it hit me.

There's a big difference between the two - at SF I don't have to wait physically in line for that time. This is the single biggest key to Lo-Q being superior to Fast Lane. (for me)

Even if I'm waiting as long as everyone else in line, I'm paying for the privilege to not stand in line and do something better with my time. It's still a win.

I'd rather wait 60 minutes in line virtually than 30 minutes phsyically. It's a much better proposition if time for things other than rides is the concern. If the number of rides is the main objective, then whatever system gives you the shortest wait for attractions is the winner.

Seems like the biggest difference between Virtual Queue systems (Lo-Q, Fastpass, etc.) and Front Of Line systems (Fast Lane, etc.):

VQ buys you time. FOL buys you rides.

Such as basic concept/fact and it never hit me until right this moment!

It's an idea that has the potential to change the conversation.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:06 PM
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Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:12 PM

Flash Pass might work at CP. They have a huge array a smaller lined rides. Just think, you can ride Magnum and Power Tower while virtually waiting for TTD.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:20 PM

For a lot of people going to Cedar Point in July/August, I think buying rides is more important than buying time. They are pretty much a guaranteed a day of waiting in lines. Though as noted, we are still only talking about a handful of rides in the park with the long FL lines.

VQ though does have the benefit of flexibility. If I want to just buy time, I can get the regular pass. If I want to buy rides, I can get the upgraded passes.

Last edited by GoBucks89, Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:20 PM
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Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:25 PM

If Gemini is racing, it's never more than ten minutes, Power Tower is always short, Gatekeeper is never ridiculous, Magnum is never ridiculous, but then there is MF, Maverick, TTD, and Raptor that almost always are over 45 minutes. Sometimes, it's twice that.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:26 PM

No, we've talked about that, back in the discussion when we listed the different qbots at six flags, what we pay for them and what you get from them. I've mentioned the day it saved us at SFOT many times, but more in terms of planning our day with other activities during our wait time. I thought, at least, the conceptual difference was clear.

What has greater value? I've always been one to subconsciously add up number of rides i get against the money I spent. One time at the Florida State Fair I played a little game where I tried to get myself down to a dollar a ride, making that expensive wristband more of a bargain, therefore more worth it. (I only made myself sick.) But that would be a time when, for me, number of rides weighs heavily in my decision to participate or not. I think Cedar Point for all it's busy-ness falls on that side of the fence.

I see the other side, too, and Dollywood is a great example. When we went at Christmas time we reserved a spot in line for the popular holiday shows and spent the time in between on rides that had no lines and dinner. At that time, and at that park, the qbot presented the greater value.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:29 PM
LostKause's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:

VQ buys you time. FOL buys you rides.

Such as basic concept/fact and it never hit me until right this moment!

It's an idea that has the potential to change the conversation.

It sure does complicate the issue a lot, but maybe it is necessary. I think I like it.

Last edited by LostKause, Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:30 PM
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Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:31 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

It gets even more complicated when you consider the idea that you can use the time you bought with VQ to try to get more rides. (because you don't physically stand in line)

We got full-on Theme Park Queue Management Philosophy 101 happening here.


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Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:33 PM
LostKause's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:

We got full-on Theme Park Queue Management Philosophy 101 happening here.

Haven't we always?


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Thursday, August 8, 2013 1:52 PM
sirloindude's avatar

Tyler, GateKeeper absolutely gets ridiculous. It's wait was only shorter than Millennium Force by a few minutes.


13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

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Thursday, August 8, 2013 3:46 PM

Really? I've ridden it always after 6 and only waited more than 30 minutes once. That one was on opening day, and that was three hours.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013 4:05 PM

Here's how I did the math to come up with the numbers I did.
I was focused on determining the impact of fast lane on the normal line. In order to make the math easier, I had to make some assumptions. The normal line has the same number of people in it. This one is the biggest, but I don't know how crowd flow is affected between fastlane and normal.
First, if there is a 50/50 split, the standard line is only getting half the available seats. To estimate the new line length, I divided one hour by the number of seats going to fastlane. 1/.5=2. (an extra hour). For an 80/20 split, 80% of the seats are going to fastlane. 1/.8= 1.25. (15 minutes extra)
One more assumption that I had to make is that the fastlane people would not be in the standby line. Yeah, I know that isn't the case, but that is what I used. This should at least work for a "wait from this point" change.


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Thursday, August 8, 2013 4:14 PM

Quite frankly, I don't think CP's rides are moving people as well as they have in the past and it is probably a contributing factor to this debacle. Almost every time I've gone this year, I've seen Magnum posted with a wait of 1 hour or 1:15. I worked there for three summers a decade ago. We never had a line of over an hour and that includes days with a full queue spilling out onto the midway. Not that many people are using FastLane on that ride so I don't think that is the cause. They rarely hit interval and they never attempt to fill the trains. If a train goes out with three or four empty seats every time, there goes at least 10% of your capacity. If you miss interval by 10 seconds every time (I bet it's worse on average this year), there goes another 12.5% of your capacity. Raptor is the same deal. Stand in the front of the park and listen/watch. Raptor should always have a train on the lift as the previous one is finishing the course. Basically, it should never get completely quiet. You should always be hearing Raptor with a train on the lift or a train on the course and usually both. Way too many times, they get all three of them stacked or barely have one leaving the station as the last one hits the brakes. I wouldn't say operations are a complete joke, but they certainly aren't as speedy as they once were. Both of these rides are capable of over 2 million rides per season. I'd be shocked if either gets above 1.6 this year.

I've never been impressed with the capacity on MF, TTD, or Maverick so I can't tell you if they are also slower than in years past. But they were never as good to begin with.

You also have STR and Skyhawk down which takes probably 2000 people per hour out of those lines and puts them into other lines.

The other major factor is they're selling too many FastLanes. If the FastLane throughput exceeds 20% of the throughput of the regular line, there are too many FastLane customers and the people who paid will feel ripped off that they are being sold "direct to the station" access and receiving a 30-45 minute queue and the people who didn't pay will feel like they are getting screwed as they are waiting twice as long as they might have in past years.

Finally, there are still those $25 tickets out there until August 11. I still wonder if that's a decision that helped or hurt the bottom line, but I don't have the data necessary to make an informed conclusion.

I think the solution probably involves a combination of better operations, higher prices for FastLane, or possibly something more outside the box - like something that only allows one or two rides per ride even with FastLane or maybe a QBot-like system that lets people wait virtually, but actually makes them wait longer, they just do it outside of the line and can do other things in the meantime.


-Matt

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Thursday, August 8, 2013 4:17 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

0g said:

One more assumption that I had to make is that the fastlane people would not be in the standby line. Yeah, I know that isn't the case, but that is what I used.

And I think that's enough to throw the whole thing off.


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Thursday, August 8, 2013 4:51 PM

Gonch, I completely agree with you on buying time vs buying rides. On the quantitative side, rides seemed to be the easier to do with concrete numbers.

I've never done the Six Flags Q-bot thing, but based on what I've read here, you could lump Disney into the same bucket as the lower end Lo-Q system. You virtually queued for the ride, although the time slot you get at Disney has no relevance to current line length. You then enjoy other activities while "queued".

I don't think Cedar Fair is nowhere near prepared to collect enough data to get this working well. While Disney is displaying wait times in a mobile app that are typically accurate to with-in 5 minutes, I witnessed the comedy Monday as a Cedar Point ride crew did the top-of-the-hour routine of yelling turnstyle numbers across the platform while ride operations came to a complete halt.

As someone else mentioned above, I don't see anywhere in the process where Cedar Point is able to collect any info on how many rides are given on a particular ride from Fastlane. Without even a good guesstimate of how it is being used, how can they make an educated decision on gate price vs Fastlane price, or on how many Fastlane wrist bands to sell.

for Tyler: yeah, what sirloindude said. We waited it out, finally got in the Gatekeeper line just after 7pm, and it was slightly over 90 minute wait. Pretty sure the line was the same or slightly longer when we got off the ride too.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013 6:25 PM

This may have been thought of before and maybe even implemented somewhere although I don't think so. What about this?

Take the day and break it up into hour or maybe even half hour time slots. 10-10:30am, 10:30-11 am and so on.

Take 20% of your hourly capacity for each ride and put it in a pool of available seats. This would be a different number dependent on the ride's capacity. So for example, Magnum might have 320 seats per hour in the pool, same for Raptor and Gatekeeper since they have high capacity. Dragster, MF, and Maverick would be less - say 240 per hour. Skyhawk and Maxair could have 160, you get the idea.

Sell the available seats ahead of time on the web and/or at kiosks in the park. 10 or 12 bucks per person for one seat on the newest, most in demand rides (GK, MF, Maverick, TTD), 7 or 8 bucks for a time slot on Magnum or Raptor, maybe even all the way down to 2 bucks for a time on a flat ride. You could increase the prices on summer Saturdays and lower them on May weekdays. Maybe my prices are too high for a single ride - I don't know, but people right now are shelling out 60-80 bucks and thinking they are going to be able to ride whatever they want with no wait and reality is very different.

You'd have to devise a way to tie the boarding times to the ticket or the pass and make sure the system couldn't be cheated, but it's doable with the technology we have today. You'd also have to come up with a plan for what happens if a ride is down due to weather or maintenance. Do you refund the price to the card, allow them to select another ride, allow them to ride at any time later in the day or whatever.

You'd gain knowledge of exactly how many people are using the system and be able to make adjustments dynamically to help the bottom line. Not only that, but you'd be able to manage and control exactly how many people are using it per ride during each timeslot. The people could use the website or kiosk to "plan their day" either by going straight to the one or two rides they really want to ride and are willing to pay for and picking a time slot. Or they can see what rides have availability during each timeslot and actually plan out their whole day in half hour increments.

So basically, $54.99 to get in the gate and get stand-by queueing on all rides. Then, on a per ride basis with varying prices depending on demand, pick one or two rides you know you want to ride without a wait and pay accordingly. OR, plan your day out completely with no waiting in switchbacks ever and pay through the nose. Want to ride GK twice with no wait, reserve a seat in two time slots.

People a would be paying for a premium experience in a way that they control exactly how much they are willing to spend and how premium they need their experience to be and the park would be able to effectively manage the usage of the pay to cut system in a way where the people buying it were getting what they paid for and the people not buying it still had a reasonable chance to have a consistent experience from day to day.


-Matt

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Thursday, August 8, 2013 7:27 PM

Benefit of the FL system for Cedar Fair is that its easy/cheap to implement. Going with a more complicated (and likely more expensive) system, only makes sense if the increased profits are greater than the increased costs. That could be the case if you are able to wring some additional money from customers at the top end with a tiered approach. Could also be the case if the simple system is creating sufficient dissatisfaction amongst your customers (either FL, standby or a combination of the two) which impacts profits.


Is there enough info at this point to say definitely the simple approach isn't best? There are issues this year at Cedar Point over the past few weeks. Were there issues there last year? I do not recall seeing/reading about any. How about at the other CF parks? I didn't see any issues at Kings Island in 2011 when they implemented the system or 2012 with visits in July each of those years. Are this year's problems at Cedar Point isolated or long term in nature? Can you make adjustments to the system during the peak weeks and still retain the simple system? At this point, the park has the best info on that.

Last edited by GoBucks89, Thursday, August 8, 2013 7:28 PM
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Thursday, August 8, 2013 11:18 PM

Ok, so maybe the assumptions of crowd movement may invalidate my line length estimates. However, I don't have any better ideas as to how to account for that. If you have any suggestions, I'm open to them. I guess I should have been saying wait time from point x. If that was an hour, now it's y.
I think MDOmnis hit on some good key points. Much of the time, I don't see the operators attempting to fill empty seats. Usually there are a couple of empty ones on Millennium. They seem to miss interval quite often. With all the money they make on Fastlane, would staffing a couple extra operators help make interval?
I like the idea MDOmnis had of pay once cut once. All that should be needed is a good point of sales system. A concert style system should be easy to adapt to sell specific to sell specific times.


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Friday, August 9, 2013 5:37 AM

WhyBoblo said:

As someone else mentioned above, I don't see anywhere in the process where Cedar Point is able to collect any info on how many rides are given on a particular ride from Fastlane.

The employee at the merge point has a hand counter. I have to believe those numbers are included in the hourly operational report.

As Matt said above, operations certainly appear to be slower than they have been in the past, at least on the typically high capacity rides. I've also noticed crews don't seem to be trying to hurry guests along as they put their crap in the bins, which they've often done in the past. Not sure if that's just the crews being lazy, or a change made from higher up, but it certainly hurts the throughput.


And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

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