Walt Disney World resumes limited theme park bus service from Downtown Disney
Published: September 17, 2013 at 2:11 PM
Disney stopped running buses between Downtown Disney and the parks in order to clear spaces at the shopping and dining area, by preventing visitors using those lots as free parking alternatives to the pay-per-day theme park lots. Disney's calling the bus service to DAK "experimental," and said that the service will run until October 31.
You can avoid the Animal Kingdom parking lot by taking the bus from Downtown Disney instead. But only for the next six weeks.
Could this experiment clear the way for a resumption of bus service to all the Disney theme parks? The timing is curious, as Disney's begun the transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, which involves the closure of some of Downtown Disney's sometimes-crowded lots. As today's Disney Parks Blog post notes, Animal Kingdom closes much earlier than the other Disney parks, so visitors using the Downtown Disney lots for a visit to Animal Kingdom likely would clear out before the evening rush to Downtown Disney's restaurants, freeing spaces for those visitors.
But don't forget the flip side. Ultimately, if parking's scarce at Downtown Disney/Disney Springs, it makes sense for Disney to try to take pressure off those parking facilities by encouraging people to leave their cars at the theme park lots. Disney's running the DAK/DD route until 1am each day, long after Animal Kingdom's closing time, which varies from 6-8pm. That implies that Disney intends for Animal Kingdom visitors to leave their cars at the park while they visit Downtown Disney for the evening.
Of course, free parking at Downtown Disney versus $15 to park at Animal Kingdom affects visitors' parking decisions. Disney Springs will include parking garages in addition to surface lots, and some fans have wondered if Disney will attempt to impose a parking fee in those garages in an effort to influence parking demand. For what it's worth, Disney charges people who park at Downtown Disney in Anaheim for more than three hours (five hours with validation from certain retailers). Universal Orlando offers reduced price parking in its garages after 6pm to encourage evening visitors to CityWalk, but it still charges. (Visitors to CityWalk and the Universal Orlando theme parks use the same parking facilities.)
Perhaps Walt Disney World is using this experiment to collect usage data that might eventually help it determine a price point and policies for Disney Springs parking? How much does Disney need to charge to discourage people from parking at Disney Springs to visit the theme parks, while still providing bus transportation that enable people to leave their cars at the parks when spending the evening at Disney Springs? Knowing how many people will use those buses each way with the current $15 price difference for parking might help Disney begin to answer that question.
Will you be using this bus service, if you're visiting the resort in the next six weeks? Would you use it in the future?