SFGAm 8/20/02 -- Line Jumping & FastLane

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With the economy in the toilet, and losing my job several months ago, my wife and I decided that we wanted to go to SFGAm this year. We've had season passes for the past two years, but couldn't scrape enough together to get them this year. My 12 year old cousin wanted to go with us, so we buckled and took him with. He's never been on a coaster, so my wife and I were apprehensive about going in the first place. We didn't want to spend the day looking at the coasters. :)

Anyway, first ride... The Wizzer. 1:2. (My cousin wanted to ride 1:1 by himself). This ride still packs a punch. We were the fifth or sixth train to leave the station. I'm glad they decided to save this classic.

Second ride: Viper. I wish someone would do something about the queue dumping right into the station. Absolute chaos. Good ride, though. Sat last car, first seat. Kept the lap bar about 2-3 inches off of my lap. Great airtime! (As usual!)

Third Ride: Demon. Last seat. I've heard stories about the ejector air-time in this seat on the first drop. So true. The loops were pretty smooth for me today, but had some headbanging on the corkscrews. (I'm 6'2"... Goes with the territory).

Didn't get a chance to ride Deja Vu. (Of course). Although we did get a chance to see the trains up close and personal in their vallied position. When I heard the stories of the wooden platform, I was expecting something cheap, not too well constructed. Well, temporary. No. This was well done, like a nice backyard deck. It seems SFGAm maintenance thinks this will be a permanent fixture. I've decided to re-name this coaster, in honor of it's favorite activity. "Valley Vu".

Onwards and Upwards. Next stop, Eagle backwards. Red side opened up at noon, just a few minutes after I passed the split in the queue. We went in 2:1. This was much better than I expected. Very smooth. It's a totally different experience when you can't see what is coming. This ride was one of my two surprises for the day!

Fifth ride: Iron Wolf. I hear they changed the harnesses this year. Couldn't tell the difference. Still feel like I was in a blender on "puree." I remember saying to my wife... "You enter the first corkscrew very nicely, very smoothly, but then SLAM." Two aspirin later, we were on our way to lunch. Wolfie was my first encounter with line jumpers. This one wasn't too serious, but annoying none the lese. These three twirp kids, having seen the line forming past the queue entrance, decided they didn't want to have to wait at the end, and joined the line right in front of us. After my wife and I both say something, as well as point out the sign prohibiting such actions, they proceed to call us a few choice names, and continue in the line. It's interesting how little respect pre-pubescent people have for us older folk. (I'm 25).

We walked across the street to Burger King, thinking we'd save a few bucks on lunch. Got a half-full order of fries, a watered down Dr. Pepper, and a burnt double cheeseburger. The food court wasn't sounding too bad at this point. The food is expensive, but at least you get a lot of fries. :)

Back in the park, we decided to go to Raging Bull next. The queue was full, but we decided to get on anyway. By this time, my cousin had built up enough courage to want to try RB front row his very first time. (A decision he would later come to regret, but then would later re-consider that regret, and eventually brag about his decision). About half way through the queue, these two parties started shouting at each other. Obscenities and birds flew at an alarming rate. The line stopped moving, of course so everyone could watch. In fact, the line started moving backwards. Before long, one of the parties involved hopped the queue rail and was looking to make this little tiff physical (much more so than the release of several little birdies of the middle finger species). By that time, I saw a ride op make a valiant leap over another railing, as well as several spectators, and begin to break up this rather interesting yet to be brawl. Several uniformed security guards were there, leaping over previously mentioned railings and guests, attempting to aid the quite successful ride op in dismanteling this yet to be brawl. Before long, the altercation was history, and life returned to normal. The line moved forward. I bring this story up to bring recognition to the security staff at SFGAm. They appeared out of nowhere, and very professionally prevented a fairly serious "almost brawl" from happening.

That was only the beginning.

Then we rode bull. Front seat. I struck up a conversation with the people right behind us (who were very nice, by the way). My wife and I were talking coaster talk, and they said "You sound like you know what you're talking about." To which, we replied "Well, we pretend very well." They then asked "What is the best time of the year to go to Sandusky." And we answered "Don't know. I've heard that any time is a good time to go to Cedar Point." By some strange twist of fate, we then started discussing how long we waited in line. We said "Just under an hour." To which they replied "Really? Did you have the Fast Pass?" "Nope" was our reply. "Wow, we do, and we waited 45 minutes." My immediate reaction was, "Sucker". But then, I felt sorry for them. We'll get to the Fast Pass discussion when I ride Batman.

Next ride... Batman. :) The queues were pretty full. 2/3 or the queues outside the park were full. But the wait seemed to take extremely long. (A not quite full queue took 90 minutes!!!) The reason why in a few lines. So about 45 minutes into the wait, our party was in the Gotham City Park. I looked over at the wall, where the "sponsors" names of the project were written. I got a pretty good chuckle out of seeing "Architect: Bolliger & Wintrode, Ltd. Civil Engineer: C. Mabillard & Associates." Not so much the names of B&M, but Wintrode's name thrown in there. And more than that, on the same "level" as Bolliger. While getting a decent little chuckle out of this discovery, four young men (I'm being nice here... Better translation... punks) decided that they didn't want to wait 90 minutes like the rest of us. So they jump fences, and find a path that isn't being used, and skip the queue outside the park, as well as most of the queue inside the park. They just join the line. Then one of them lights up a cigarette (despite the very numerous "no smoking" stickers placed around the area. A very funny note about these stickers... the cigarettes are all upside down. Pointing down, as to suggest being put out. A person behind me commented about that, 'so they don't want us to put our cigarettes out?' I thought it was funny.) Anyway, back to my story. Another man, on the other side of the "park" stands up on one of the railings and basically says "Did everyone here know that there are four guys over on the other side of this park that decided they don't have to wait like the rest of us. Yes, you know who you are. And one is even smoking in line which he's not supposed to be doing. Apparently rules mean nothing to these four guys. Yeah, you. Over there." Right about then, a security guard walks past the area, but outside the "park". Another guy gets the security guard's attention, and about 40 people in the "park" start pointing out the four guys. Well, they then leave the queue area, and take off. Right about that time, a bunch of people in the queue line start applauding. I'm not sure what happened to the four guys, but the weren't in our line anymore. I'm glad that one guy stood up and said exactly what every one of us in the queue were thinking.

Now, why did a not completely full queue take 90 minutes? The Fast Lane system. Allow me to express my disgust at this system. Especially the implementation of it at SFGAm. B:TR for example, the ride op collecting the fast lane cards, would stop the queue line, and let 15 or more fast lane people through at a time. No wonder why the regular queue took so long. I'm not sure what the intent of the fast lane system was (other than the financial gain of SF), but it sure has had a negative impact on the queue times, as well as guest satisfaction. Several people behind me in the line had some really interesting comments, as well as references to Communism and Marxism. I don't necessarily see those relationships, but I sense their frustration. The line we were in should have only taken 50 minutes or so. But, because of the fast lane system, it took 90. Same thing on Raging Bull. A 45 minute line took 60. The fast lane line on v2 was almost as long as the regular line. I believe that this system has actually hurt the park, and will continue to hurt the park. First of all, the people who had to spend money to wait in line for 45 minutes on Bull, when we waited 60 and got in right in front of them, they're probably not going to buy a fast lane pass again. I suspect they're not the only ones who have had that experience. Second, those who do not have the fast lane pass are going to be less likely to visit the park again, especially when confronted with 90 minute waits on a TUESDAY afternoon. If you have to have fast lane, fine, but only sell a limited number of passes, like last year. But, I don't understand why you "Need" fast lane. If you want a shorter line, get there earlier like the rest of us. We've saved the Wizzer through a campain... can we eliminate Fast Lane by the same means? I'm up for trying!

Anyway. I was very surprised by my ride on Batman. They must have put new wheels on the trains, because it was probably the smoothest ride I've had in years. I usually walk away with a fairly substantial headache. Not today. No headbanging for me. I walked off the ride excited, not in pain! So, it was a good experience.

My cousin really enjoyed the day, as did my wife and I. If any of you reading this are security guards from SFGAm, Thanks. You really were outstanding today. Larry, Security Guard at B:TR. Good work!!!

Thanks for reading my ramblings.


"Getting on Iron Wolf is kind of like going in a blender and pressing PUREE"

--Ever lying in wait for someone to say something stupid.

Great TR!

Im the #1 Canobie Lake Park Fan!!!These are my top 3 coasters:
1. S:RoS @ SFNE 2. Yankee Cannonball 3. Cyclone/B:TDK

I operated Raging Bull last summer and I'll tell ya I hate having Fast Lane there as much as any average guest! Yah, we were supposed to hold up the regular line to let in the Fast Lane...yet we have the punch the cards so it takes time...not to mention punching those cards isnt easy on the hands after an hour or so. Due to holding up the regular line...people get mad...its its even harder to do when you've got those numbered tickets to collect from them. Those things really help to prevent line jumpers, yet in order to get them caught you have to stop EVERYTHING to make a call to controls and get a lead asap! This is when people usually say screw it and just go past you (and I do mean both regular and fast lane) So...you stop Fast Lane a sec to calm the regular line guests and Fast Lane people get mad cause they're supposed to get in fast.

Honestly, I havnt liked the system since I first experienced Fast Pass at Disney's MGM...although Fast Pass and Express (Universal) do work better than Fast Lane as they arn't purchased and they're limited and specific for each attraction daily. I waited double the posted time at Rock N' Rollercoaster because Fast Pass were scootin into the preshow while I was sitting on the ground for miniutes at a time.

I work at Islands of Adventure now...I find Express to work best of the three, despite the Express queue at most attractions is lacking theme. Spider-Man's Express goes through part of the themed queue and then gets dumped into an employee area where the control room and glasses wash room are before heading up into the station. Not to mention Spider-Man Express is completely distributed for the rest of the day in a matter of an hour or two after opening the Express consoles.

Whoever had the idea to start these programs thought well, yet it proves not to work so well. Each attraction needs one person to collect passes anyway...why not put this person into a DJ booth and save some paper...its not like you're paying any more for that employee...I know of one park that has this and I rather wait in a 2 hour line at Millennium Force than an hour line at Raging Bull!

Frank "Professional Coaster Operator"

Being someone who visits this park fairly regularly I have to agree with you on most of your comments. I have had a season pass for 3 years now and I have never realy had a problem with line cutters untill recently. It has become a very big problem and has happened at least once every time I have been there this year. Unfortuntly I have noticed that the Security Gards have been more distant this year and harder to locate while in line.

To make thing worse the SFGA employes selling refreshments exc. are powerless to stop line cutters even if they catch them doing it because they dont cary radios or another means of comunication to contact security.

my best guess to why the line cutting is geting more frequent is because of the fast pass system. now dont get me wrong the fast pass has some good qualitys (like when you want to ride the whizzer a lot before they remove it) but this pass should be limited to certain times of the day for each individual ride. pearsonaly i would like to see the fast pass option only avalable on the major rides after 3pm. for example raging bull, batman, v2, and Deja Vu would be great canadates.

anyway these are just my thoughts

long live the whizzer ondrew

they stopped selling a limited amount? thats really idiotic....maybe its a good thing i didnt plan on going to sfgam this year...
I also find it kind of odd that those people were calling fastlane a communist activity. If it were communist wouldn't everyone in the park be equals? ;) I call those pay to jump the line systems names as well, but not that.

Joe E.,

That was exactly my thought. :)

"Getting on Iron Wolf is kind of like going in a blender and pressing PUREE"

--Ever lying in wait for someone to say something stupid.

Kick The Sky's avatar

The one thing I really have to give credit to this year at SFGAm is the security. They have done a bang up job this year every time I have visited in getting rid of line jumpers, smokers, and general trouble makers. Last Sunday when I was in line for V2 I saw security eject not one, but two groups of people for line jumping and that was in the short 15 minutes I waited because I was using the ultra evil FastPass :)

I have alson noticed that security seems to camp out in strategic locations now and watches to line. I remember back when Marriotts still owned the park that they had life guard chairs in the ques to cut down on line jumpers. Maybe they need to go back to that.

As for FastPass. Yes it is an evil system but I use it. Without it I would ride no rollercoasters as my wife doesnt like to wait around for an hour and half for me to get in line, wait, and ride. I can tell you for a fact, that at a park that gets as crowded as SFGAm, I would not have gotten in five rides last Sunday without FastPass.

Bob Hansen

A proud CoasterBuzz Member

"So you think your'e really brave, gonna see the DEMONS cave.
You silly dude, your'e only food, for the DEMON"

CPLady's avatar

When we were at SFGAm, we also got the "evil fast lane pass" pretty much for the same reason as Kick the Sky. My husband cannot stand in a line for more than 40 minutes without his back killing him, and although he doesn't mind sitting out while I wait in a long line (my 90 minute wait for Deja Vu), he likes riding coasters as well.

The days we went, the fast lanes had very few people in them, people were "filtered" into the lines 4-6 at a time, and didn't seem to disrupt the regular line much. The only exception was on Raging Bull just before the 8 pm fast lane closure. The fast lane line was HUGE with all the fast laners trying to get into line before 8 pm.

I felt VERY sorry for the ops who had to punch those plastic cards. I saw at least two pinch their own fingers while trying to punch, and one poor girl who had a stack of 80 finished cards on her trash can "desk" whose hand and fingers were bright red and beginning to swell.

I think if they did like CP's Freeway system where only a certain percentage of stamps are given out for each assigned hour, it would insure the line will be short. Stamping over the freeway stamp is much easier on the ride ops than trying to punch plastic cards with a hand punch. The SF system seems to be a free for all where anyone with a fast lane pass can get in any time they wish.

We didn't encounter any line jumpers when we visited, but I had to endure a group of four 12-13 years olds who were acting like 4 year olds. (actually my son was much better behaved at 4!). They were directly in front of us and were pushing, shoving, kicking and punching each other, which resulted in several bystanders getting knocked into several times, including my son and I. After enduring this behaviour for 35 minutes (and rather than embarassing my son by going into full force "mom" mode and threatening their lives) I made a rather loud comment about their childish behaviour and maybe I should report them to security. At least one of the two girls tried to keep the others under control after that. When we encountered the same group several hours later, they were much better behaved.

I'd rather die living than live like I'm dead

I'm curious to know how those folks on Bull ended up waiting so long. When I was there this season, the Flers would join the line just before the stairs to the platform. There's no way, even waiting for the front that someone who went through all the mazes in the two covered areas would catch up to one joining the line at the stairs. I think they shot you a line.

But I am suprised that SFGAm hasnt gone to a "timed reservation" system yet as that seems to be the preference throughout the chain. But next year when Lo-Q is there, that much will be taken care of....

BTW: What were the posted wait times for Batman anyway? Didya happen to notice?

"To get inside this head of mine, would take a monkey-wrench, and a lot of wine" Res How I Do

Kick The Sky's avatar

Actually, the way that FastLane is supposed to be done in the lines is that they let a certain number of people go in the regular line and then let in a set amount of fast passers. I think it was something like a 10 people from normal line to 1 person FastPass. Anyhoo, the FastPass line for Raging Bull has been known to get quite long in which case your wait can be just as long as a guest who entered the line normally or even longer.

I remember going one day when the line didnt even use any of the switchbacks, it just ran out to the midway which made it about a 15 minute wait tops. Anyways, there was a huge FastPass line for some reason and many of those people had foolishly waited like a half hour.

I know that my FastPass wait last Sunday for V2 was somewhere in the half hour range because the FastPass queue was full.

Bob Hansen

A proud CoasterBuzz Member

Operation Wicked Twister - Goal: Lose 50 lbs by next season to ride it! (updates soon)

Wait time for B:TR was posted at 60 minutes when full. The queues weren't full...

"Getting on Iron Wolf is kind of like going in a blender and pressing PUREE"

--Ever lying in wait for someone to say something stupid.

The park was way too busy for me!!!!!
But i was also upset that they started out RB with only two trains!!!!!! They should have known with 2 coasters closed that the ride would be busy and it made no sense not to have 3 trains running from the get go.
Nice trip report and sorry to say i missed all the drama.

Man your experience over on RB with the near brawl sounded an awful lot like my last experience on Batwing,in which a huge fight did break out.

I also share your resentment of the fastlane system and how it increased your wait for B:TR,the same thing happened to us on S:ROS a few months back when the op's allowed a whole trainload of fastlaners through which made our wait all the more longer.

I'm also glad that the people in line had the desire to take a stand and actually make an effort to call attention to line jumpers,which is something that rarely if ever happens at SFA.

Anyhow that was a great TR,it certainly made for some interesting reading.

I'm not sure that Lo-Q is that much better of an alternative... It solves some problems, and causes more too.

First, it would solve the problem of a huge group of people trying to ride at the same time w/ the FLs. I was there the same day you were (white Bad Religion shirt, blonde hair that, after Bull, made me look exactly like Billy Idol... :) ) and after waiting about 40 minutes for Bull (I should say, 40 minutes from beginning to the FL entrance) I looked at the FL line (yes, LINE) and it stretched out, almost back to the photo-purchase booth. Anyone who frequents Bull knows that sort of line is INSANE. Op seemed to be handling it well, and letting about 8-10 people in at a time.

However, if Lo-Q is used like it is at WoA, there will be further problems. I have not used it, mainly because I couldn't afford $20 for a Tamagochi-esque thing (though, it would have only been $10 if someone else with me had bought it for $20). Maybe you will get more than 4 rides in, but that's still quite a bit.

On a related note, I want to know why GAm stopped stamping dates on the FLs. Last year, they were dated, so you couldn't use them on different visits, this year, they are not. They seem to have some sort of color rotation method or something. At any rate, I was there in the beginning of May, and I bought one. Why? At that time, I was still an idiot. It poured that day. I never used it once.

Flash forward to yesterday. I still had the blue pass w/ green print in my wallet, as a reminder of why never to buy the pass again. While walking to Bull (before the aforementioned time) I caught a glimpse of another person's recently purchased card. Blue w/ green print.

Frankly, I don't care what the park says. I wasted $10 three months ago, and if the oppertunity arose, I was going to take it. Right or wrong, I used it (not only on myself, but to get three friends in too, so really, only one ride) just to get rid of it.

Please don't hate me... :)

Yep... It is PICTURES now... http://www.loopscrew.com

I Nar, As far as I know, they rotate the color of the passes each day...I know I have seen blue and white...perhaps there are additional colors, too?

Le roi est mort. Vive le roi.
Thanks Great America!

Use the system if you can... :)
CPLady's avatar

We didn't get the FL's on our Tuesday evening visit (didn't really need them) but noticed the cards of others were blue with white printing. The next day, we got the FL passes and they were white with green printing. I would imagine after they go through the color combinations they have available, they start again.

In my mind, if you paid $10 for a FL and didn't use them all on that trip, then on a subsequent trip saw the cards were the same color again, why NOT use it? You already paid for it.

I'd rather die living than live like I'm dead

The only problem I see with the univeral express system is that hotel key cards work as fastpasses. They have two hotels already and anothere one coming, so theres going to be a lot of people with unlimted passes.
Even if the only colors were the ones mentioned, you'd only have a 33% chance of going the right day (great for batting average, sucky for free throw percentage). I'm sure you could plot and scheme to get the right days and horde a bunch of tickets, but really, how many people care that much?

"To get inside this head of mine, would take a monkey-wrench, and a lot of wine" Res How I Do

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