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What's next for Disneyland, after the Eastern Gateway project?

October 31, 2017, 7:18 PM · With the Eastern Gateway project scuttled, what's next for the Disneyland Resort? Yes, we know that fans are getting a new parking garage and a fourth hotel to help soak up the expected new crowds coming to see Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in 2019 and beyond. But those additions won't solve all of Disney's out-of-the-park crowd management challenges.

What more could the Disneyland Resort do? In my Orange County Register column this week, I offer eight things that I think Disneyland still needs after cancelling the Eastern Gateway.

Topping the list is the continued need for better access to the resort from Interstate 5 for visitors coming in from the south. A big part of the Eastern Gateway's appeal was that it was an eastern gateway to the property. Given the way that I-5 slices past the resort, the location of that parking garage would have allowed for easier access for visitors driving northbound on the 5. Placed now next to Mickey and Friends, the extra parking garage will handle more cars, but it loses the advantage of doing that in a different location, as the Eastern Gateway project would have done.

Disney also needs a better way for people without cars to get picked up or use ride-sharing services. The current drop-off/pickup lot on Harbor is too often a gridlocked mess. Disney's missing an opportunity to encourage people to stay out of the crowded garages and parking lots by not creating ways to make it easier to get to and from the resort without a car.

But not every suggestion requires major capital investment. How hard would it be to create a few security lanes for people without bags? Or — to throw a huge bone to the fan community — to officially designate a space for a new Earl of Sandwich restaurant in the fourth hotel, or elsewhere in Downtown Disney?

And, finally, with all of these projects now announced, isn't it time to give fans a preview center for them by reopening the Blue Sky Cellar?

Please give the column a look, then tell us what else would you like to see Disneyland do to improve the logistics of visiting the resort.

Read Robert's column:

Replies (17)

October 31, 2017 at 10:07 PM · When Carousel hotel is demolished, as planned, pave the lot to be a new temporary Northbound location for DropOff/PickUp.
November 1, 2017 at 5:36 AM · Eliminate all fast passes and replace with single rider lines.
November 1, 2017 at 7:06 AM · With the second parking garage next to Mickey and Friends, it makes even more sense to have an exit out of Galaxy's Edge, but only at the end of the day. But keep the main entrance as the only entry point. It seems like the no-bag check line is a no brainer, but Disney hasn't done it. Add more trams! And keep them coming constantly.
November 1, 2017 at 7:51 AM · Disney needs to up their tram game considerably if more crowds will be parking near Mickey and Friends. Already tram capacity is low and loading is slow. Something which would allow for strollers to load without being folded. And a better labeled, more enjoyable walking path from the structures would be appreciated too, because even if walking takes longer I enjoy the feeling of contro;ling my own pace and not waiting in an additional line.
November 1, 2017 at 8:00 AM · Your article's headline says "Disneyland must make these 8 fixes to handle larger crowds" of which only 4 items are related.

The Star Wars Hotel, Monorail Stop at DCA, quick service restaurants at Downtown Disney, and Blue Sky Cellar have nothing to do with it.

What they still need to do is consider (a) build more hotel resorts on Disney owned undeveloped property, (b) develop more parking at Eastern Gateway in a phased approach to an overall master plan (why not just the parking structure at first), (c) encourage the city to build a separate public bridge to complement Disney's theme park bridge so Harbor businesses won't be shut out. Oddly, there wasn't any controversy when the bridge on the west side was built. Or Plan C, use eminent domain to convert another adjacent property to build a much wider public bridge over Harbor.

Perhaps it's time to change the profile of the Monorail. It's just too small and unreliable to be used to transport passengers. It's a theme park ride, but it isn't useful to move people. Enlarge the monorail for larger vehicles and more cabins.

Consider a new tram design to carry more people. Trams that have train designs will allow for lower profile entrances, standing, and quicker dispatch.

November 1, 2017 at 8:53 AM · The Monorail is a relic Anton, and trying to upgrade the system to be more robust and become an actual transportation option is a pipe dream. It's probably OK to move some hotel guests to and fro (though even that is a bit ambitious with even more rooms coming soon), but anything beyond that would require a serious upgrade of the entire system, including the tracks, which would turn the entire resort into a huge mess during construction.

What they need are speedwalks to expedite guests from M&F instead of trams. Perhaps once the new garage and hotel are in place, they will bridge M&F and Downtown Disney with covered speedwalks.

November 1, 2017 at 9:39 AM · Disneyland must be cursing Universal Orlando, and how easily they are able to buy up huge tracts of land to expand. If it were only that easy for Disney in Anaheim, their problems would be solved.

What's a mouse to do, except continue to put the pressure on the local businesses by hurting their bottom line, and working them until they sell? It's a long-play, but the space limitations are going to be a constant battle throughout eternity.

I'm curious to see how efficient the Imagineers can be.

November 1, 2017 at 11:28 AM · Anton - Quick service restaurants, monorail stops, attractions at hotels, and the Blue Sky Cellar all get guests off the walking paths, or, as some might phrase it, "handle larger crowds."
November 1, 2017 at 12:04 PM · Does anyone think the seller didn’t approach Team WDW?!?!?

Of course they did. And Team WDW PASSED!

Business 101: create a bidding war

Team WDW is quite confident with their current park line-up, ‘Coming Soon’/announced attractions/entertainment line-up, ‘Active Development’ attractions/entertainment AND a killer boutique park expansion. HINT: it would open at dusk

Team Universal Orlando is well aware of the boutique park’s theme and has assigned its legal team to determine if a certain part of IOA can be spun-off into its own boutique theme park. HINT: TUO would use Disney’s own IP against Team WDW

November 1, 2017 at 12:48 PM · Hurting local businesses to make them sell is a long play. It'll be way too long to have any measureable results and it's still no guarantee they'll sell. What needs to happen is eminent domain, which is still a long process, but more precise in results. Force 1 or 2 businesses to sell to ensure a new transportation hub that's owned by the city. This means Disney will either offer an easement of their property to the city or Disney will also join in the fun of relinquishing their property to city. So everyone wins and Disney still wins in the end except for the Harbor businesses who are losing out to the city instead.
November 1, 2017 at 1:05 PM · I'd like to see DCA have a monorail stop and the Marvel tie-in is a fun idea. If Disney had acquired the rights to Star Trek they could have simply beamed people around the resort, but I guess that's water-under-the-bridge now.
November 1, 2017 at 1:44 PM · Why would the city deliberately cut itself off at the knees (reducing property tax income) to create a transit hub that only benefits one property owner and would then become a drain on the city's finances? Your eminent domain concept makes no sense, and would never hold up in court.

Disney is boxed in, and it's clear that Anaheim is not interested in doing the company any favors (let alone gobbling up properties through eminent domain). They're trying to do what Universal is doing in Orlando, except Disney has to continuously battle Anaheim and the council's mob-mentality. Patience is a virtue here, and either the composition of the council changes to favor Disney's ideal plans or local businesses realize at some point they're going to get pinched out so they'd be better served selling high.

November 1, 2017 at 2:20 PM · That's what the city did to build the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure when motel owners did not want to sell to Disney. That's why Disney doesn't actually own it right now. The city will sign it away to Disney for free after 30 years. The city doesn't charge anything to Disney for the parking structure. All parking revenues are for Disney. The city sold bonds to pay for the parking structure, which is on track to be paid off. So how this financial structure works out for the city really isn't hard to see. The city gains more from Disney's contributions via taxes than the smaller businesses.

Since 2000, of course the eminent domain laws have changed, but this was the model of how it was done. The businesses don't want to sell to Disney, but maybe they'll be more willing to sell to Anaheim on the good for a public benefit of a pedestrian bridge and a transportation hub that will bring customers to the other side of Harbor.

I must point out the play to build the current parking structure on the West side plays into a possible new strategy on the East side. After the new election of the Anaheim City Council and Mayor, there will be political changes that will allow the debate of whether the city should step into the debate on whether there is a public benefit to building the bridge and whether the city should come up with solutions to the transportation hub. (cough, Marvel Land, cough, Hotels, cough, more customers, cough, more shopping/restaurants, cough).

November 1, 2017 at 3:28 PM · While the real threat of eminent domain exists, there are more watchful eyes and more media, and independent groups focused on fair play. As eminent domain could have been enacted again by past councils, I don't believe the city or Disney want that as their legacy considering the sharp negative views that that still reside with their east coast counter part.

When you consider how quickly information spreads in present day, some of those past methodologies would face screeching halts today. Rubber-stamping and auto signatures (w/o reading) from politicians would however, creating false credentials and dummy corps is not going to garner a "discount". They know who is across the street and they don't care why you want to purchase their land because they already know.

We are in a time where public perception can turn on them uncontrollably in an instant and demonstrating patience while experiencing frustration and failures still leaves them the possibility of future success.

If you think back to when those bonds were issued for M & F, your major outlet of information was still traditional media.

Hotels will leave their properties through attrition when they become aged and too outdated to keep their branding on it. Disney will outbid any lower tier market that tries to buy that property. As they change the landscapes behind those businesses, they may not be motivated to stay.

November 1, 2017 at 5:18 PM · The issue of so many strollers needs to be addressed. I don't know how, but Disney needs to figure out something. Maybe eliminate totally free admission for infants, and make people put their stroller in a storage room similar to coat closets(free of charge) when no one is attending them. At this rate Disney's next parking garage will be for strollers!
November 1, 2017 at 5:24 PM · I agree with everything in the article except the Star Wars Hotel. At the moment, Disneyland needs things that will help with moving guests, not getting more guests to visit. Plus, if the hotel is going to be connected to Star Wars Land it won't fit in California, and the appeal of an immersive experience is lessened if the immersion is being broken on a regular basis. Let's see how this works in Florida before jumping on that bandwagon.

The absolute #1 thing Disneyland needs is direct resort access for travelers coming from the south. Why not close access to Mickey and Friends from Ball Road, and instead build a direct ramp from the freeway accessible from both directions? Expensive, yes, but it would probably be the easiest way to solve the problem. A smaller secondary entrance could be added off Magic Way for everyone else.

In addition to what's mentioned, there are three more things Disneyland needs to do:

1. Update/replace the Mickey and Friends tram. By my estimate, during peak times 7,000-10,000 guests per hour will be needing transportation between the combined parking structures and the esplanade. While I don't know the current tram capacity, my best guess is that it can probably move about 4,000 guests per hour if everything is going smoothly. Clearly, that won't be enough once the new structure opens. My solution? Keep the trams as they are, but build a gondola that runs from the top of the new structure to the west side of the esplanade. Not only would this increase hourly capacity by about 5,000, it could probably be done for less than $20 million.

2. Replace Fastpass with a true virtual queue system. The current format worked well when it was created, but technological innovations have allowed for more efficient systems that have less of an impact on those in regular queues. My solution? Instead of a reservation window, guests enter a virtual queue and are given a return time based on the actual length of the wait. They don't have to return right at that time, but they cannot join another virtual queue until they've used or canceled their previous return time. To ensure accurate wait times, computers would track the throughput of the attraction and post an estimate based on the total number of people in line (physical queue plus virtual queue). The system could be all digital, freeing up additional queue space where distribution machines are currently located, and various restrictions could be implemented to keep the system from becoming overwhelmed (for example, certain rides can only be reserved once per day or some attractions may require an upcharge).

3. Redo the AP structure. Disneyland has over a million AP holders, and on any given day up to 80% of their attendance may fall into that group. If the resort wants to become a true destination resort, they need to find a way to reduce the number of AP guests so that the parks are enjoyable for those who only have a day or two to spend there. My solution? Eliminate the So Cal passes, and replace them with a new budget pass. This pass would be around the same price as the current So Cal pass (or perhaps slightly lower), but would only allow entry to one park per day. Additionally, guests would be required to wait seven days between visits to discourage frequent visiting and would be required to enter by a certain time (probably 4 P.M. or so) to discourage simply using the parks as an evening hangout. Lastly, blockouts would be park specific to help keep one park from becoming overwhelmed.

November 6, 2017 at 9:08 PM · Because, AJ, Disneyland doesn't give a crap about its visitors until they actually set foot on Disney soil. They've proven this repeatedly over the years: The trams suck. Both entrances suck. Security sucks. Parking sucks, and it could suck even more if it wasn't for the allegedly-horrible Anaheim city council, who made the Mickey & Friends parking situation happen. Disney sure wouldn't have bothered throwing any money at their worsening situation without everything the city did for them. Disney probably wanted a similar minimal-cost situation silver-plattered to them for the Eastern Gateway and acted like whiny little babies when they didn't get everything they wanted. Compromise is not part of the Disney business model.

Disney just relies on the fact that people will enjoy themselves so much inside the parks that they will forget all the horrors outside the parks. What happens when Star Wars opens and these horrors become worse AND increased attendance brings more horrors to the inside of that park?

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