The World’s First Traffic Jam

In the classic EPCOT Center attraction, the World of Motion, they based an entire show scene around the idea of the World’s First Traffic Jam, complete with animatronic chickens.

But Disney World’s First (and Worst) Traffic Jam happens every night at the Magic Kingdom. I don’t spend a lot of time musing about the future here (too many old haunts to visit), but I do find it interesting that Disney has finally turned its eye towards the colossal log jam that develops seemingly every single night at the Magic Kingdom. It’s like they’ve suddenly come awake to the problem, after 40 years.

As a local, I will tell you that Magic Kingdom is by far the most involved park to visit — and you know why. The parking lot is a mile away from the park itself. Going to the Magic Kingdom requires an investment in time just to get through the gate. And if you want to go home after the fireworks (i.e. when everyone else wants to go home), it requires even greater stamina.

It’s well known that Walt want the park situated as far from the everyday as possible. The monorail and the ferryboats represent a decompression chamber. As you sail over the Seven Seas Lagoon or glide in through the Contemporary atrium, the real world melts away, replaced by a fantasy land of make believe. It’s all well and good until the kids are tired, your feet are shot, and sixty thousand strong are streaming towards the monorail station.

It seems like in the span of a few months, they have embarked on major efforts to fix this.

First we have the Main Street Back Alley coming to life over behind the Plaza Restaurant. They’ve always used this backstage area as an alternate route through Main Street during heavy crowds, but now they have plans to theme it, which I am all for. It’s interesting to think of Main Street gaining another corridor, and it should be fun to see what they come up with. Anyone who has ever been stuck on Main Street during Wishes will welcome this new path.

Not only that, but the entire Hub is being expanded — hence the recent draining of the moat. I’ve heard grumblings about the loss of green spaces, but I really think Disney has absolutely no choice in this. Either cancel the fireworks, or create a bigger viewing area. Pick your poison. All it’s going to take is for some nutjob to shout “bomb!” during the nightly performance, and there will be a mass panic with lots of injuries due to the body-to-body crowds. And on peak nights (Fourth of July, New Years), you literally cannot move. It’s horrible.

Those efforts help with traffic inside the Magic Kingdom, but they’re doing things outside as well. When I arrived at the TTC earlier this week, Wishes was just about to kick off — meaning the Monorail system was about to get put under heavy load. They actually routed those of us coming into the park onto the Resort Line. It was frustrating for me, because now I had to wait for it to stop at Poly and Grand Floridian on my way in, but I’m sure the reason was to allow faster turnaround of the Express Monorail.

And finally, there is a new Ferryboat dock under construction, both at MK and at the TTC.

The new dock, still under construction at Magic Kingdom. The ferry in the distance is docking at the original dock.

The new dock, still under construction at Magic Kingdom. The ferry in the distance is docking at the original dock.

Ferries are really their best way to add capacity. You can’t add another monorail track without a lot of expense, but you could conceivably add more ferries without much more cost than just the boat itself.

It did get me to thinking about other ways in which to solve some of their problems. I don’t have much of an answer for the monorail/ferry overload. For years I’ve wished for a bridge and sidewalk over that small canal at the end of the Walkway Around the World (the one which houses the Electrical Water Pageant during the day). This would allow me to walk to the Grand Floridian, and from there continue on to the Polynesian and the TTC. It’s a ridiculously long walk, I know, but on the bad nights I wish I had the option. I hate waiting in interminable lines.

For the Fireworks problem, I’d like to see them expand the show a bit. They’ve made the Castle the centerpoint for years, but why can’t they have multiple unique viewing spots? Some fireworks that are centered around Space Mountain or Big Thunder or the Riverboat? That would disperse crowds throughout the performance, freeing up some of the logjam on Main Street. When I was at Disneyland a couple years ago, the Christmas fireworks had fake snow, with several snow points at different spots in the park. We ended up at Small World, and it was much more relaxing and the fireworks were just as good.

Anybody else have some ideas for how to improve the bottlenecks? Maybe we need a third transportation mechanism at the Seven Seas Lagoon. Ziplines over the water? An underwater tunnel? End-of-the-day Monorail FastPass? Maybe we can crowdsource a solution to make life easier. With all the changes happening to Magic Kingdom these days, a better exit strategy would be among the most welcome.


Comments (10)

  1. Nothing will ever beat Sept 13th 2013 or better known as Friday the 13th The Villians Special Magic night at Hollywood studios. That was the biggest cluster beep I have ever seen. I ended up being stuck on buses for roughly 6 hours that night and never even made it into Studios!

    • That night must have been miserable. I went to the parks that evening — but to MK. We saw the traffic on World Drive backed up for the Studios. Unreal.

  2. When the lines are insane at monorail and boat, I walk to Contemporary. Then I hop on the bus to Downtown Disney. It stops at Grand Floridian on the way to DD. I get off at Grand Floridian and have a relaxing walk to TTC. It’s not a bad walk and it’s much better than dealing with hoards of people.

    • I have been known to hike to Contemporary as well. But then I usually just hop the resort line back to the TTC (it’s the next stop). Also, on especially busy nights, they do run buses from MK to the TTC, which are not as well known as the Ferryboat and Monorail, and can sometimes be the fastest option.

  3. The last time we were at MK I watched a girl have a panic attack in the fireworks crowd.. poor thing. She could not get out no matter that she was completely freaking out.. there was simply nowhere to go. Several of us used our strollers to surround her while she lay in a little ball on the ground sobbing and pushed people back as far as possible (maybe two feet.. it was that bad) until word could get through the crowd that we needed medics to rescue her. It took at least ten minutes to get word out to cast members and the medics to arrive.. if it had been someone having a heart attack or a fight or something serious it would have been over and done by the time they got there. I’m rather surprised something worse has not happened already. I don’t see why they cannot make the effects on the castle 360 degrees so you can see it from any direction.. and your suggestion for various focus points around the park is a good one. They also need to alert people to the issue and establish alternate routes just to get around the park.. maybe a big map at the front gate. Either that or patrol and enforce walkways. You cannot get from one place to another until the show is over, we missed a dinner reservation one night because of it. I’m sure it happens all the time to new visitors. Of course the obvious fix is to limit the number of people admitted to the park.. but that’s not going to happen.
    I think a simple fix for the “park exodus” issue would be ensuring the park stays open for a reasonable amount of time, at least two hours, after the fireworks.. and give people a reason to stay that is good enough to lure about half the crowd but not all of it. Maybe a bunch of characters showing up for photo ops or, handing out fast passes, a discount for the shops (night owl 10% off maybe) or something.

    • Charlotte, you’re exactly right. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often. One heart attack, one seizure, one crazy psycho and things will go bad in a hurry. I’m not especially agoraphobic, but the Hub on the Fourth of July or New Years is enough to rattle anyone. Disney really has no choice but to do what they’re doing, or axe the fireworks completely.

  4. I’d suggest that they also increase the ferry capacity between the “monorail” resorts and the MK.
    Then they could make both monorail tracks express to TTC, and direct all Poly and GF guests to the dedicated ferries.

    • This is a pretty good idea, though I’m sure the “Monorail Resort” benefit is a huge selling point for Disney in filling those hotels. Maybe they could stagger the operations, so that the resort line becomes an express monorail during peak hours and all resort guests are funneled to the boats. They might even get to save some operating costs there by shutting down the boats during the non-peak hours.

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