Minimum number of riders needed to run a coaster

Thursday, January 1, 2009 1:53 AM

I would like to know if anyone has any information on how a minimum number of riders needed is determined. Do parks decide this on their own or do manufacturers give instructions? Or maybe there are other factors which I do not know about.

I am curious because there seem to be large differences between the way Knott's operates their coasters and how SFMM and the Las Vegas Hotels operate theirs.

For example, there have been times that I have been to Knott's when I have tried to ride but couldn't. The ride operators say that they cannot run the coaster unless they have at least 6 adults or 8 children. It has only happened on Montezooma's Revenge and the Boomerang. However, I have been on every coaster at SFMM and in Vegas with 2-4 riders and have never had them refuse to run a coaster due to not having enough riders. Does anybody know why there is a difference.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009 4:20 AM

Well the true minimum to run a coaster is 0, but I dont think thats what you meant. I'm sure each park has their own guidelines for the number of people they need based on different factors. When I worked at Kings Island a few years back the only minimum I ever saw was on Flight of Fear. They would only launch it with a certain number of people because it would get going to fast without the extra weight and cause the ride to be rougher. Of course that was before they got rid of the shoulder restraints so I doubt they still have that restriction. Other parks I know will close sections off when the attendance is low and only run half trains. I believe the only park I have seen do this is Cedar Point. I'm not sure of the exact reason for this but it always bugged me. I'm sure if parks do have a minimum it can usually be traced back to the money aspect of it.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009 8:08 AM

The Boss at one time had a minimum of Eight to ride and they had to be in the first three cars. If they sent it out without that many they had to use sand bags. FOF at KI used to have a ten rider minimum. Corect me if Im wrong but I think that whole reasoning is COST. FOF's electric bill is staggering. That being said I took a night ride once, sat there while they waited for more to arrive and none did and me and my brother got a ride as the only two on the train as the park closed down. LAUNCH!!!!! :)

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Thursday, January 1, 2009 9:14 AM

I've never worked for Cedar Point rides, but half or partial train operation at a park like that makes sense to me.Usually it's an early morning thing on rides that are less popular, or toward the back of the park. Gemini and Mean Streak are good examples. When the crew arrives in the morning they load the track with the number of trains they think they'll need for full capacity that day. If ridership is low in the meantime, they simply block off certain rows of seats, fill the other ones first and operate the ride as if they have a full load. As numbers increase in the queue, it's easy to open additional rows of seats until full capacity is reached. This prevents stacking of trains while they wait for riders to hurry up and get in, makes bar/belt checking faster for the platform operators, keeps blocking consistent throughout the day, and eliminates the need to completely stop the ride later on to add or remove trains - thus reducing customer irritation in the long run.

I've heard that amusement and theme parks pay attention to the psychological "wait factor" and intentionally adjust wait times as a way to control crowds, maximize guest experience, and raise their bottom line. (the longer a customer is in the park, the more likely they are to buy lunch) But in Cedar Point's case I think it's mostly for efficiency and safety.

Top Thrill Dragster, while having no shortage of riders from open to close, must run partial trains in the early hours to "warm up" the ride with less weight, avoiding time consuming roll-backs. Usually within an hour or so they are filling trains to capacity and everyone's happy.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009 10:38 AM

Depending on the weather (ie if its cold, windy and rainy) MF needs a full train in order to run. I know because I was there one day they would not send it out for fear of valleying.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009 11:46 AM

I doubt thats the reason. They wouldn't operate it PERIOD if they couldn't test it , Matter of fact its state law to have at least two test runs prior to opening or reopening. BTW, Test are done either empty or with a mechanic or two

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Thursday, January 1, 2009 11:58 AM

I doubt that MF was feared to valley as I have seen empty trains run on it at all times, mostly in the morning and sometimes at night.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009 12:57 PM

Empty or full of water dummies?

Big difference.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009 3:30 PM

MF has vallied before. IIRC, it didn't make it over the airtime hill onto the island, and ended up all the way back to the bottom of the first drop. I believe that it happened during the second year of it's operation to the yellow train. The cold temprature is what caused the vally, and ever since then, water dummies are used to test the ride on cold mornings.

I've actuially placed water dummies into the trains, but what do I know?

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Thursday, January 1, 2009 7:28 PM

I know for a fact that Superman at SFNE has required a minimum number of passengers a few times due to "fears of valleying" (it was never phrased that way for us). It happened in rare cases when it got cold and rainy toward the end of the day. They also have (had?) a few gas burners below the train in the station to warm it up slightly as riders boarded.

In those cases that a minimum was set, it was simply dictated by what the mechanic on duty directed the operations staff to do.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009 8:59 PM

Leap The Dips won't operate unless there are 4 people on board. Even at Ridefest when the park was only open for ACE we had to wait for 1 more rider. And when a wedding ceramony was going on on the platform they could not send out just the couple. ACEr's are cool and gave the seat to kids unlike what the GP would do. If they sent it out with less than that it would valley.

Last edited by Ken Jones, Thursday, January 1, 2009 9:00 PM
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Saturday, January 3, 2009 1:44 AM

I'm glad the parks in my area don't have minimum riders except for Kingda Ka. Having solo rides on a coaster is such a fun experience and it is a waste of time to be sitting in the station for minutes waiting for more riders, especially if multiple trains are running.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009 2:33 AM

You're right, solo and near empty coaster rides are great. It means you can ride as much as you want. Almost like a full day of ERT. It is disappointing when I go to Knott's and cannot ride because they can't reach a minimum number. Thank goodness SFMM does not do this. It would defeat my whole strategy of going there on days which aren't crowded if I had to worry about rides being closed or delayed or that the park might close early if they weren't crowded.

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Monday, January 5, 2009 9:17 PM

Six Flags had a policy back in the Time Warner era that a train couldn't go out with less than two riders in the last occupied seat. It wasn't an operational issue but more of an insurance company thing. The idea was that if there was some sort of incident on the ride there'd be at least one witness that would have had a good view of what happened.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009 9:27 AM

Or to get their heads taken off if someone/something came flying back towards them. Where did you hear this. It sounds like hogwash to me.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009 10:20 AM

Ridiculous as it sounds, it was indeed an SF policy during the Time-Warner days. The policy was put into effect after a women fell out of the last seat (or stand) on Railblazer at SFMA.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009 12:47 AM

I went to SFMM many times during the Time Warner era. I rode the last occupied row alone repeatedly and also saw other people do it too. This may have been an "official policy" but it was not enforced at SFMM.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009 4:00 PM

Yes, and I remember that too, it was not consistent across the entire chain or even at a particular park from year to year. They were pretty consistent with it at the three Texas parks though. I remember numerous times when the people in the back car had to be rearranged on Shock Wave.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009 4:13 PM

I was at Magic Mountain just this past year in a goup of three. We headed for the back seat on Colossus. Sat ONE person in the very back and TWO people in the forward seat of the rear car. Ride ops then instructed us to swap seats, so that the very back contained TWO riders. Didn't ask why, we just switched places, assuming it was a weight distribution factor.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009 11:54 PM

Maybe it depends on the mood of the ride op, lol. I've been to SFMM 13 times in the last 2 years and have not seen them make people switch places.

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