What's the point of single train operation?

Thursday, October 5, 2006 3:09 PM
It's also a matter of sustainability of the line, not just length.

I'm going to pull numbers out of thin air to illustrate the point, but it applies to anything:

Let's say you have RollerCoaster1 which loads 30 people per ride, and can dispatch 20 rides per hour (600pph 1 train, 1200pph 2 train).

Now let's say you have a line that happens to be replenishing at the exact rate it's "eating" people (600pph). Now lets say a huge group of 300 people show up at once, and the line now jumps to a half-hour wait. It will continually be a 1/2 hour wait on one train, but the line won't get longer. If they close the ride to add the second train (and do block checks and test run, which for the sake of argument lets say it takes 10 minutes). Now the wait would be 40 minutes with 1 train (30 minute wait + 10 minute downtime while people were still coming in) but now you're eating the line at twice the rate. There are still only 600pph coming into the line, so the current line will be gone in 20 minutes, and then you'll be sending out trains only 1/2 full.

I saw this happen first-hand on Thunderhawk at Dorney 2 years ago -- There was a considerable line, and I saw them add the second train (which, according to the one op, requires another attendant on the platform). Within 15 minutes of adding the 2nd train, the line was gone, and they were lucky if there were 6 people on a train. They ended up closing of the back half of each train for efficiency reasons since they have to close every seatbelt on every train.

"Life's What You Make It, So Let's Make It Rock!"
Thursday, October 5, 2006 3:11 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Odd Todd said:

Think of it this way, if a person can ride everything in the park in under two hours because there are no lines, the average guest doesn't just keep re-riding the same attractions over and over again - they leave.

I'm not sure this is true. When I go to a park that's really crowded I leave a lot sooner than when I go to a park that's nice and empty.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Thursday, October 5, 2006 3:46 PM
Yeah, but you're hardly a normal guest, now, are you?
Thursday, October 5, 2006 3:47 PM
IB used to be the worst at this when they had their policy of not even sending a train if it had more than 2 empty seats. I made an arguement then that I think still applies to these parks today with their one train operations. The people in their park have made a good effort to be there and it is upsetting that the park choses to punish those customers due to the park's failure to get more people in the gate. If a park wants, they can advertise more or get more attractions or whatever to make lines longer, but they don't need to be punishing the few customers that they do get if they don't get the business they want. Biting the hand that feeds you is just bad business, especially if you do it when you have less people feeding you. Some people make an effort to go on inconvenient days just to try to get short lines and the parks rely on these people if they don't want to be a weekend-only park.
Thursday, October 5, 2006 3:47 PM
Unfortunately ApolloAndy, the average guest probably would leave early if given the chance to have an empty park. I remember years ago Sam Marks [from Coaster Zombies] was telling me about a family at SFA who had ridden everything at SFA and were complaining to Guest Relations because they had.

Great Adventure was open last Saturday from 10:30a.m. to 11p.m. There's no way that most of the average guests would get there at 10:30a.m. and stay all the way to 11p.m. if they had finished all the rest of the attractions they wanted to get in by a decent hour. That's why the parking lot was relatively empty at 11a.m.

As an enthusiast, an empty park means a park I can do a "hit-and-run" on if I'm trying to get in multiple parks on a trip. Sometimes things can go wrong (as they did earlier in the summer) and plans change. Therefore, HW became a two-hour trip this time around.

The park I would most like to see go to two-train operation all the time is Knoebels. I can't tell you how many times I've been there and both Phoenix and Twister are running one train. Even if the ops are quick, it doesn't matter; you still have to wait X-amount of time for both to get back to the station.

Thursday, October 5, 2006 3:56 PM
I have only been to Knoebels once, but from what I have read, they only run one train when they have POP, but they run more when you have to pay for every ride.
Thursday, October 5, 2006 4:15 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar As long as you pay up, we'll run the coaster to capacity. But when we offer a single price, we're going to make sure we limit just how many rides you can get.

Sounds strikingly familiar to complaints about other chains.

Thursday, October 5, 2006 4:59 PM
Great adventure was actually open at 9:50 last saturday I know i was there at opening.
Thursday, October 5, 2006 5:34 PM
Except Knoebels POP is offered on weekdays, which are traditionally less crowded days. There are a few May and September weekends they'll offer it. I still do the pay per ride on those days and can do 3-4 rides on both coasters plus 10-12 flats for less than the POP price.

On the weekends when they don't offer the POP and it's pay by ride, the park is much more crowded and both coasters are running two trains. Rarely have I seen the line for Phoenix (other than during PPP) extend to the ticket taker's booth. Two weekends ago it happened (single train running on the last Sunday of the season) but that turned out to be because a group couldn't decide what row to go into and were blocking the aisle. Once they moved their asses, the line on the ramp vanished.

The complaint in this thread deals with single train op when the park is fairly crowded. Two different concepts.

Thursday, October 5, 2006 5:51 PM
I absolutely hate being forced to stand in a line when there's something the park could do about it (add another train). If the park is running efficiently with maximum trains, I don't mind the wait. It means the park is doing well.

It's been my experience that, for the most part, people DO know when maximum trains are not in operation. That's particularly the case when the transfer track with a stored train is visible. And I've often seen people walk out of a line because it's moving too slowly. And when that's the case, I can't help but feel that these people are disgruntled, and that's not good for a park's reputation, not that many parks seem to care about their reputation these days.

As for Knoebels, I'd heard that they run multiple trains only on non-POP days, but on my last visit, which was a POP day, they had maximum trains (including 3 on the Pioneer Train) on all rides.

My summer has seen awful operations at Kings Dominion, which I know for a fact has seen decreased attendance. I can't help but wonder if there isn't a connection.

My visit to Great Adventure saw single train operation on Rolling Thunder, and late openings for most coasters, and people in the lines that formed before the rides got around to opening were complaining.

My visit to Holiday World saw only 2 trains on Voyage, when a 3rd would've been appropriate, and 1 on Raven and Legend, with fairly long waits. Both Raven and Legend had started with 2 trains, and reduced to one. I left HW with a negative feeling as a result.

One park I hear is very consistent in maximum train operations is Hersheypark.

Bob Hooley

Thursday, October 5, 2006 5:59 PM
sirloindude's avatar The worst one I ever had was at IOA. It was about 45 minutes until close, the line was relatively short (trains were still filled, but there wasn't much of a line beyond that). With 45 minutes to go, they shut down the ride and transfer one train off of each track. Wasted a good 5-10 minutes doing it, too. That's where I draw the line. As long as that line takes with one train, if they're only gonna run one, I'd like to see a really good reason for it.

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


Thursday, October 5, 2006 6:14 PM
matt.'s avatar I've worked at a park. I've asked a mantinence guy why a coaster I've operated virutally never runs more than one train. I was told by the mantinence guy

"Cuz the line would be too short, then! Yah woodent have any line at all!"

The end. The bottom line is that coaster enthusiasts such as ourselves can analyze this sort of thing to high heaven and back, but at some places there isn't that much thought put into the decision.

Not speaking for all parks or all coasters here. Just saying.

Thursday, October 5, 2006 6:22 PM
Here are a few reasons for one train operation. (at least at six flags parks)

1. Staffing. Most parks require increased staff members for multiple trains. Ex: with one train you can have the loader check height. With two trains thats not possible so a height checker is needed. Also, with two trains you need to move faster loading and unloading so you should have more attendants. 3 or 4 instead of a miniumum of one or 2. Either your short on staff or you aren't budgeted for it. Its not that individual parks are bad at managing money its the overall company. Each year corporate tells you what you can spend and you have to match that number. That means you can't always staff for maximum capcity even if you want to. Most park managers want to provide the best product they can but your hands are tied by the budget number sent from corporate.

2. Maintenance. Maintenance is the main reason why you only see one train. Either the second train is being worked on or the maintenance didn't inspect it. Contrary to earlier posts the majority of the stress on a coaster (steel) is on the trains and that is where the majority of time inspecting the ride is (with wooden its the track but it HAS to be inspectd or it dosen't open at all so there is no cost savings there) The check of a steel coaster track is simple, you check electrical and hydraulic systems, the lift and the block system and the the brakes and thats it. The trains take the most time. If you can cut your time by a third by only checking one train you will. Maintenance labor is far more expensive and harder to come by than an operator making 6.15 an hour with no over time. Most of the time one train is run to save on maintenance labor. It has nothing to do with wear on the track (steel) or the air gates or anything. Its the time inspecting the train and the wear on the train. A train has more moving parts, thus more wear. With wood coasters its the same story. After the track is inspected which it has to be, if you can skimp by only checking one train it can save some time so you need fewer maintenance guys to open.

3. Ease of operation. Sometimes with light crowds its easier to run one train. If you are sending the train 3/4 empty each time then its a pain to buckle all the seat belts. (99% of six flags coasters have a seat belt to contend with.) It takes a lot of time to close and fasten empty seats so its easier to run fuller trains with one train.

Thats my take from a former full time rides manager.

Thursday, October 5, 2006 6:42 PM

Bobcoaster said:One park I hear is very consistent in maximum train operations is Hersheypark.

It is funny you mention HP because when I was there they actually had signs in front of a couple of rides that said that the line was long due to a one train operation. These were not make-shift magic-marker signs made up for an emergency; these were professionally made signs that seemed to say, "We know we are busy and there is a long line, but we don't care and will be just running one train but we want to warn you ahead of time so you either don't ride or don't complain."

Thursday, October 5, 2006 11:08 PM
Only one train operation bothers me. No matter how you look at it, it is considerably frustrating. I can understand only two train operation on a ride capable of three, and have seen this system work fairly well recently on Raptor and Magnum. But one train is pushing it, and fortunately I've never seen it happen at CP, except for WT.

Additionally, about keeping people in the park. I agree that people will leave early if the park is empty, but I don't see how it helps to just make them stand in lines longer.

In my opinion, the best way for parks to make money is to install virtual queueing systems that consistently give out about a 30-45 minute long waiting time. If the system gets backed up, patrons would still be called back in 45 minutes but would have to wait in a line. That way, you guarantee that people stay in the park at least another hour, yet they get to go out and eat and shop instead of standing in line. Have interesting shops and insanely good and reasonably priced food, and you'd do pretty well in my opinion.

At the end of the day though, remember that parks have done nothing but sit around and figure out how to maximize profits, so I'm sure all of this has been thought of and shot down at some point. *** Edited 10/6/2006 3:20:25 AM UTC by lettuce***

Thursday, October 5, 2006 11:48 PM

RavenTTD said:

It is funny you mention HP because when I was there they actually had signs in front of a couple of rides that said that the line was long due to a one train operation.

I have seen that sign once before, I think at the entrance to Great Bear. But every other time I've been to HP they have been running nearly everything to max capacity. Even on SDL they always have 2 or 3 trains running. Only coaster at HP I wish ran another train is Stormrunner, which I have only ever seen running 2 trains which makes no sense with a duel loading station.

Thursday, October 5, 2006 11:52 PM
Re: Hershey, they use 2 trains consistently on Comet and Great Bear. Wildcat they'll keep 2 trains running but close off the middle rows when crowds are light.

I've been there when they've used only one side of Storm Runner. Lightning Racer on many occasions uses single train operation. Once when I was in line for Lightning, they were running single trains and the ride had maybe a 6 train wait. The line was out to the center ramp (yeah really long). Some guy was complaining about waiting so long and I told him it was because they were only running a single train. He replies "aren't they running Thunder today?" OK, guess I asked for that.

Friday, October 6, 2006 12:20 AM
Majortom1981, you're right about the opening time at Gadv. last week. It was 10a.m., not 10:30a.m (I was thinking of my homepark SFA). That reinforces my point even more about how long people will stay at a relatively empty park. Most people aren't going to stay at a park for that length of time because it's simply too exhausting. We stayed twelve hours plus the five or so hours driving back and forth and it wiped us both out. Maybe if they built that hotel, we would have stayed!:)
Friday, October 6, 2006 12:25 AM
As someone mentioned before, poorly run rides is direct evidence that parks aren't thinking too much about rider capacity issues. Parks offer guests shorter lines they can pay for so parks don't have to figure out how many trains need to be on a track on any given day. As far as they are concerned the issue of long lines has been dealt with. A majority of the time the decision reguarding the number of trains on a track is decided months in advance in some board room.

I'm a big fan of pay-as-you-go parks like Knobels. Kennywood used to be like that, now you buy your ride admission at the gate instead of at the ride. Now if only parks can figure out how to trick people into paying ride admission at the gate as well as at the ride, wow, that would be wicked smart. Wouldn't you agree Gonch? *** Edited 10/6/2006 5:00:23 AM UTC by rc-madness***

Friday, October 6, 2006 1:00 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Q-bot is evil, I get it. But man, you're really stretching the bounds of cognitive thought to keep fitting it in. :)

But inside the first part of that post you do show some glimmer of 'getting it' - it's all about money first.

As for the second part - I've been to a few parks (most recently Beech Bend) that charge an admission at the gate even if you choose to pay per ride inside. So it looks like some of the parks already have it down...

...and yes, I agree. It is wicked smart. :)

(EDIT - and let's not forget all the upcharge rides inside parks these days that always seem to find riders)

*** Edited 10/6/2006 5:08:48 AM UTC by Lord Gonchar***


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