CoasterBuzz Podcast #165 posted

Posted Monday, December 7, 2009 1:13 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Jeff, Carrie, Mike and Pat review this week's news in the amusement industry.

  • Jeff goes to Disney World. What did they really do to Space Mountain? It didn't seem that different, aside from a lot of paint. New Hall of Presidents film is way cool. "Peterman" was doing the Candlelight Processional. Snow in Houston made travel difficult, and Seattle to Orlando is a lot longer than it looks.
  • Osborne Family Christmas light display at Disney Hollywood Studios is completely amazing.
  • The Kings Island versus Mason tax issue seems to sway overwhelmingly against. The panel seems to agree that it seems like an arbitrary money grab.
  • Universal Orlando fined by OSHA for accident involving worker in Dueling Dragons low zone, fences coming.
  • Six Flags Great America "saves" a family coaster from Kiddieland, but really they get a cheap ride that will be easy to market to families. Hardly the philanthropic cause it sounds like on the surface.
  • Busch Entertainment sale complete, new company called SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.
  • Check out the Busch Gardens Christmas Town photos in the Day in Pictures forum.
  • Speaking of Christmas events, remember the one they started at Kings Island? Cedar Fair should have given it some time. Insert "old man's gotta go" rant here.
  • Yet another proposal for a Six Flags bankruptcy plan, including the suggestion that Six Flags shouldn't get to decide the only plan. Carrie doesn't care, she just wants to hear about the outcome of the bankruptcy.
  • A guy with a robotic wheel chair makes a big scene about how poorly Disney World treated him over his sweet chair. We can't help but feel that there's a certain amount of douchebaggery going on from him. Jeff can't honestly believe he would be "harassed" after just being at the parks, given their own employees and the accommodations they make.
  • The electric scooter thing is still out of control at Disney World. Jeff's wife wondered if you'd see the same thing at the Disney parks in Paris or Tokyo. They've become a crutch for anyone who just doesn't want to walk. Carrie believes that culturally even doctors want to treat the symptoms instead of the cause, and this is representative of that.
  • Additional thoughts on the goings on at Disney World during the holidays, including how they measure wait times.
  • CoasterBuzz Club is $25 per year. You can join or renew today. Enjoy CoasterBuzz with no ads.

Link: CoasterBuzz Podcast

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 2:52 PM

I haven't been on Space for a few years. If so, do they have the ability to put a train on a "spur track" so to speak...so as not to disrupt the flow of the ride?

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009 7:54 PM

I would've guessed Peter Pan as having one of the lowest capacities. When I visited on November 9th, nearly every attraction had a 15 minute or less wait, except Peter Pan. That was the only ride we used a Fast Pass for that day.


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Wednesday, December 9, 2009 9:11 PM

Peter Pan created the only complaint that I had about Fast Pass. We got in the regular line late in the day. Line looked like it would be in the 15-20 minute range (based on other wait times for other rides before that). But we waited almost 90 minutes for PP. Problem was fast pass folks. About 4-5 FP folks were going thru for every one regular line person. Talking with people afterward, the issue wasn't the number of current time FP people in line but people who were past their FP time. To me, at that point, they should decrease the ratio of FP to non-FP folks. I disagree with the idea that the purpose of FP is not to wait at all. To me, its to reduce the wait (typically substantially and often times to no wait). But whatever number of FP tickets they give out for any given interval, if everyone shows up at the same time, you will wait so FP doesn't give you a no-wait ticket.

Other than that issue, FP was great the rest of the time there. After PP, we avoided any lines with FP late in the day if we didn't have our own FP tickets. And having 2 of the 4 of us not interest in riding most of the bigger rides, made double rides in a short amount of time very easy.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009 11:05 PM
Jeff's avatar

What did the sign say for standby? Those tend to be fairly accurate, because they give people a lanyard with an RFID at the start of the line, then scan them when you board, and that's how they get the wait time.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Thursday, December 10, 2009 12:56 AM

When I was down there (a week before you, Jeff...) I clocked Space Mountain at 600 PPH per side (36 second interval, 6 riders per train). For Disney, 1200 PPH is low capacity*. Now remember, I was there on the last day of soft open and the first day of official open after the "rehab" so it could have gotten better.

The RFID method for measuring the standby queue is a great idea, but with FastPass it is seldom accurate unless they control the fastpass percentage. If they consistently run, say, 4:1 as is typical for, say, Rock 'N Roller Coaster, then the standby queue will move at a predictable rate, and the wait time will be somewhat accurate. But if the FastPass percentage varies constantly because they don't bother to keep track of the ratio, it will only reflect the experience of the one guy who carried the RFID tag and the people around him as the FastPass percentage bounces from 100% to 50% to 80% to 0% to...well, you get the idea. That's exactly what GoBucks89 was describing about Peter Pan.

I'm not arguing that FastPass doesn't enable you to multitask, in fact that's one of the reasons it's been largely phased out at Disneyland except on certain high-demand rides: with nobody waiting in line they ran out of space in the park to hold all the people who were waiting to take rides! What I do argue is that while it doesn't affect the ride capacity it does increase the rate at which people can start waiting for a ride, thus potentially increasing the *demand* for the ride. I also argue that it can, and should, be used for load balancing on rides that have unbalanced demand. Think about Raptor, for example, which gets a crush load at 10:00 resulting in a 70-minute wait, but becomes a walk-on by 4:00. Known patterns like that can be fed into the FastPass distribution system so that the tickets can be used to try and better balance demand for the ride based on measured patterns. Initially Disney was supposedly experimenting with that, but I don't know if they're still doing it or not.

Incidentally, any capacity numbers I've mentioned in this thread are based on measurements I took while I was waiting to ride. Hey, any discussion about how to get rid of lines is meaningless unless you understand why lines form in the first place! :)

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
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Thursday, December 10, 2009 1:42 AM
Jeff's avatar

The fact that you were there the second busiest week of the season kind of makes all observations possible fringe cases. I'm not sure I'd trust anything I see then.

Regardless, the FastPass percentage is completely irrelevant in measuring the standby queue time. If a person gets the lanyard at the entrance, and they scan it when they board, then that's the time they waited. There is no variable, that's a direct measurement, I saw so many handed out that I'd be shocked if they did it less than every ten minutes.

And furthermore, the mix percentage has already been decided hours ahead of time by the number of passes issued. They don't have to meter the mix at the merge point, as they already know that they issued x passes during any given 60-minute return period. If someone arrives, let them in (which is what they do for most rides). And because the periods are overlapping and staggered by five minutes, there's never a rush at the top of or end of an hour, because a new pass period starts every five minutes. There are zero decisions made at the merge point.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Thursday, December 10, 2009 8:19 AM

I don't know if this plays a role or not....but:

I'm wondering what the effect of a large show dumping out has to do on a nearby attraction with Fastpass. For instance, if a ton of Fastpass users have a return time somewhere in the 6:00-7:00 range and everyone has a similar idea to catch the 5:30 stunt show (man, the theatre for Lights, Motors, Action is HUGE) then it does seem that the Fastpass line could get pretty clogged up at 6:15 or 6:30 when the show dumps.

This will have an immediate impact on the standby line. So, it it was 1/2 hour before the show dumped it could immediately increase by another 1/2 hour (in the least) and you would be inside the line and unaware of what happened.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009 9:01 AM

(36 second interval, 6 riders per train)

Sounds like they were "sandbagging" the trains. They are capable of dispatching more frequently than that. They increase interval when the trains are cold, and they also do it train-by-train if it is "light" to prevent setups. The block timing is so tight that a heavy train can manage to catch up to a light one when they are running at full tilt, so the train after a light one is delayed a little bit.

I happened across some SOGs that someone had "made available" in the interwebs once upon a time, and the Space manual was one of them. Interesting reading. I don't remember the specific dispatch interval, but I know it was better than 600/side. It might be closer to double that.

(As an aside: as I understand it, one of the big changes during the refurbishment was an overhaul of the control system so that setups can be cleared much more easily in most cases.)


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Thursday, December 10, 2009 3:52 PM

If I was in the Disney parks in their second busiest week of the season, then this season must really suck, attendance-wise. I was in all four parks on Saturday, and only the Magic Kingdom was crowded (and it wasn't too bad) and in the Magic Kingdom on Sunday...and again, while it was busy, I've seen it much worse.

The queue time measurement is direct, but my point is that if the queue movement is erratic, that measurement is meaningless for someone standing on the midway trying to decide whether to wait or not. And the lack of decision making at the merge point...relying on the distribution computer...is the root of the problem because of exactly the phenomenon (whether it is show dumping or not) of people arriving late for their FastPass appointments is exactly why failure to moderate the flow once in a while causes such problems with the wait time measurement.

As for Space Mountain, it's worth noting that for my first ride (Saturday night), the ride was still officially in soft-open, and for my second ride (Sunday night) the ride was in its first day of official operation and had been down for several hours (I was using my 3:00 FastPass at 9:00pm), so in both cases it is very possible that it was running at a slower-than-usual interval. I know the Disneyland ride runs at a 22.5 second interval, and while it has only one track, it also seats twice as many riders per train, so it runs at (3600/22.5)*12 = 1,920 PPH. The Magic Kingdom version is a little bigger, so I wouldn't be surprised if its typical interval is the same or even shorter.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

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Thursday, December 10, 2009 5:05 PM
Jeff's avatar

But the queue movement is not as erratic as you suggest because the moving average of people entering via FastPass does not change.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Thursday, December 10, 2009 8:51 PM

If that were the case, my wait for Toy Story Mania would have been the advertised 40 minutes rather than the 110 minutes it ended up taking. And after someone started controlling the FastPass line, roughly 70 minutes into my wait, the Fastpass line built up a whopping five minute delay while the queue house pretty much emptied...advertised 30 minute wait when I left the ride. Yes, the pace of Fastpass arrivals slowed a bit as well, but it was the crew rotation or shift change that made the biggest difference.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

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Thursday, December 10, 2009 9:25 PM
Jeff's avatar

I still think that you observed a fringe case. That, and you're reluctant to accept that the standby line is, well, standby. If you don't want to stand by, you should get a FastPass. :) I've never witnessed anything that shows FastPass is a failure, and I've used a lot of them, and even done some standby queues (Toy Story twice, in fact).


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Friday, December 11, 2009 12:36 AM

I'd have got a FastPass for that one, if they hadn't "sold out" while I was riding Expedition Everest...

And it doesn't change the fact that if FastPass did not exist my wait could not have possibly been more than an hour (due to the entrance capacity limit), and probably would have been closer to 20 minutes, as it was for both the coaster and the drop tower.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Last edited by RideMan, Friday, December 11, 2009 12:41 AM

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

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Friday, December 11, 2009 12:45 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

When we were there the stand-by for TSM was listed at 100 minutes and FastPasses were gone before noon.

We had already ridden (with much less of a wait) and were still holding FastPasses, of course. :)


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Friday, December 11, 2009 1:08 AM
Jeff's avatar

RideMan said:
And it doesn't change the fact that if FastPass did not exist my wait could not have possibly been more than an hour...

Unless of course you would have arrived early enough to get a FastPass. :)


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Friday, December 11, 2009 1:33 AM

I have been at Disney on some of its most crowded days of the year (Easter Week, 4th of July week) and because those parks are so good with capacity you dont really notice it, with FP I never waited more then 30 minutes for everything. There are a few choke points when you all of a sudden realized how packed it is, like the 4th of July firework show. Imagine Main St.USA paved with human heads, yeah it looked just like that.

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Friday, December 11, 2009 11:38 AM

Yeah, I've seen something like that at Disneyland. I must say, though, the day that I was in the Magic Kingdom, they avoided what I've always noticed to be the worst traffic jam of the day by ending the day with a *parade* instead of a fireworks show. The other thing they did that was *brilliant* was to run the parade from the front of the park to the back, instead of going the other way as seems to be typical. The result was that the park emptied out in an orderly fashion from the front to the back as the parade passed, instead of everybody trying to get out at once. The fact that closing was at 12:00am did not seem to have a significant effect on the crowd size at closing, which I also thought was interesting.

Only trouble is that it was SpectroMagic, with its soundtrack that is only *slightly* less annoying than the Monster Midway Invasion Celebration... :)

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

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Friday, December 18, 2009 3:06 AM

Now that I have actually listened to the podcast, I can comment more intelligently on it... :)

o The monorails at Disneyland and WDW are not the same. Disneyland has the Mark V and Mark VII trains while WDW has the Mark VI trains. I don't know how they compare, but if you dig deep enough on the Monorail Society site there is detailed information.

o I seem to recall a similar issue on PotC, except that everybody was going to the right when I got there, so I went left. I've seen something similar when exiting a sports arena where everyone was going through the one open doorway and down one stairway. I opened another door and started down the second stairway and doubled the exit capacity just like that; the door and stairway were not blocked or anything...

o I think FastPass was invented specifically for Soarin' over California. :)

o Disneyland uses a lower-tech version of the queue timing tactic at WDW. At Disneyland, as you enter the queue, the entrance greeter writes the current time *from your watch* on a sheet and hands it to you; at the platform the grouper again checks your watch and calls the reading back to the entrance. WDW's RFID system is a little more elegant.

o My trip report writing is about 7 months behind. Right now I am working on the trip I took to Great America on July 2, so no I haven't posted a report on my Disney/Universal trip yet. :)

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

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