Is this the end for the Epcot monorail at Walt Disney World?
If you've visited the Walt Disney World resort any time in the past decade, you've likely faced a monorail downtime. Disney's once-futuristic transportation system now seems anachronistic in a different way — a throwback to an unreliable system now running in a more automated age. Monorails are frequently out of service, backing up the lines at the ferryboat dock and bus lanes, as guests look for alternate ways to and from the parks.
This week, Disney's monorail system endured additional public humiliation in addition to its long-standing operational challenges. A Disney World guest posted a couple of videos to Instagram earlier this week showing Monorail Red running with a door open.
Um, no. This simply never should happen with a modern transportation system, monitored by automated failsafe systems that would prevent a train from running with an opened door. Compare Disney's monorail with the terminal shuttle system at the Orlando Airport, which reliably moves tens of thousands of people per day around that facility. It's like comparing a Pinto with a Prius.
Fortunately, no one was hurt when Monorail Red's doors decided to let a little extra fresh air into the cabin. But Disney's monorail system has failed with deadly consequence in the past. In 2009, monorail driver Austin Wuennenberg died when Monorail Pink crashed into his Monorail Purple at the Transportation and Ticket Center. Again, a modern crash avoidance system should stop a monorail before it comes to close to another vehicle or other blockage on its track.
With this history, Disney must know at this point that it is playing a legal game of Russian Roulette by continuing to operate a monorail system without additional modern safety upgrades. The company has no plausible deniability that would allow it to escape a devastating legal judgment following any future incident involving an injury or death. The videos are out there for anyone to see.
So what would it cost to upgrade Disney World's entire monorail system? The airport shuttle replacement cost a reported $90 million. And that's for much less track and fewer trains than Disney runs, so the cost would be much higher for a complete Disney World rebuild. Disney has been investing in increased automation of the monorail system, but it's clearly not been enough to prevent incidents such as what happened this week on Monorail Red.
But what if Disney didn't rebuild the entire system? What if Disney threw in the towel on its Epcot line in order to focus its resources on better maintaining the Magic Kingdom line?
That's the possibility floated by Screamscape today and echoed by others I've heard within the Disney World community. It makes sense. With its new gondola system coming on line in the next few years, Epcot will be served by another "out of the ordinary" transportation system in addition to the boats and buses that guests can use in lieu of driving into a theme park's lot. Dropping the Epcot line would save an enormous number of miles each year on the monorail system's trains and allow Disney to take more of those trains out of service, giving them extra time for repairs or even allowing the worst of the current trains to be salvaged for parts to support the remaining trains.
Maintaining the Epcot line also creates a unique operational challenge for Disney whenever it wants to wrap its trains to promote a new Marvel film. Thanks to the licensing deal with Universal Orlando, Marvel-wrapped trains cannot run on the Epcot line, which goes into that park. That reduces Disney's flexibility in moving trains between routes to keep the system running. With no Epcot line, Disney can wrap all the trains it wants.
Ultimately, replacing the Magic Kingdom route with new trains and fully automated monitoring would cost much, much less than replacing both lines as they now run — perhaps enough less to allow Disney to justify spending the money for a rebuild.
It's hard to imagine that Disney World ever could stop running the monorail system entirely. It's invested too much in promoting the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian as premium-priced "monorail" resorts, with dedicated "out of the ordinary" transportation to the Magic Kingdom. If Disney did not run a monorail through these resorts, it would need some alternative, novel system to take its place. Would that be any cheaper than just paying for a new monorail?
Whatever Disney chooses to do about the Walt Disney World monorail system, it's becoming increasingly likely that its most expensive choice is to do nothing new at all.
Rate and review:
I'd hate to see it happen as the monorails are just part of the Disney landscape, an icon in so many ways. They do need upgrading but hard to see them just vanish.
“Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas ...”
Disney is spending BILLIONS to upgrade the parks. So $90 million is too much for them? The track already exists. The net cost to just replace the monorails shouldn't be that much. It makes me wonder what made Disney refuse the offer from Siemens to replace their existing monorails in exchange for a corporate sponsorship.
But my bus driver told me they're going to expand the monorail to go through the middle of the Dolphin hotel any day now.
Putting new trains on an existing rail would be a drop in the bucket, comparatively. The monorail is as iconic as Mickey. Replace and expand!
Just pony up the cash and fix it. Getting rid of it would only further strain the other transport systems. Think how many busses run from the TTC and take 1/3 of that number and add to it. That’s what it would take to get people from there to Epcot daily. That would get ugly quick.
Please update the story to mention that Disney said the report was completely false. It’s also interesting to note that most urban subways in the US do not yet have the crash prevention technology so disney is services a lot less people thus has less risk.
Oh please....dont listen to the scaled back EPCOT idea....this is exactly what disney wants. Any reason to scale back further. In 5 years from then it will be well lets scale back the MK line now...BS. Disney pony up you cheapskates. Use the Tax reduction to overhaul the system.
Didn't they just laid out 63 Billion on a buy out ????? They have the money,This just didn't happen its been going on way before the accident in 2009 that killed a cast member. They have kicked the can many years on this subject and now its really going to hit them in the wallet !!!!!
Don't worry guys, they're putting in a skyway ;)
To the West Coasters out there....
If they go we won't be returning that's in my opinion the best way to get around busses suck and takes way to long
Disney — Fix this!! Why do you let your parks fall apart?!
Anton m are you kidding me you want people to pay for ferry monorail ect .... er hello have you seen the price of the tickets lately and they are going up 2 adults and 2 kids 2000 we are paying enough thats just 1 family . Thats not gonna happen people wont be impressed by that . Just fix it Disney.
The monorail lines are 35 and 46 years old, relatively low capacity for rail, and time consuming to switch in and out of service. There’s an average 160K Park entries a day likely swelling to a quarter million at peak,40-50000 employees a day, and over 30K hotel rooms, it’s all about capacity at peak travel.
How much did Disney pull in last year...Fix it!
I would be astonished if they removed some of the monorail. It is used on so much of the marketing for WDW; it is iconic. It allows them to charge ridiculous prices for the "monorail hotels". Even just removing the Epcot line will have an effect on that. Not to mention the proposed Epcot resort hotel which will instantly become less attractive.
I don't see Walt Disney World dumping the Monorail System. It's far too much of an iconic part of the Walt Disney World experience.
I know artist renderings aren't meant to be 100% accurate, but in the D23 announcement that showed the future Future World (or whatever it will be called) the monorail is clearly still there. Of course they could have put it there just so people don't get mad, or they could change their mind at any time.
I could see them replacing the Epcot line with something else. Maybe light rail...as part of a larger system???? But regarding replacing the monorail with buses....buses aren't free. They cost between $750,000 and a million each, require more expensive fuel, more drivers and need replaced more often. And they require roads to travel on that are not cheep to build. If they had extra road capacity and spare buses they didn't need then maybe it would be a big savings...but i don't think they have either. Ignoring the issue of limited road capacity, I'd guess they would need more than 50 busses to replace the Epcot line. That by it's self is 35 to 50 million+. The life of a Disney bus is probably 10 years at best- more likely 8. Do the math. I don't see the savings vs. 100 million for new trains that will last 25 years.
They keep rebuilding California why not some love other than timeshares , be built in Orlando
EPCOT was used as the sole drop off point for my hotel shuttle when I visited... spaceship earth wouldn’t be the same without the monorail circling it.
Maybe Disney is planning to reopen the airstrip east of the main parking lot. The proximity of the EPCOT monorail prevents use of the runway.
Let Tesla do it!
Im getting pissed with WDW more and more... If the monorail goes, I may too.
Can someone explain to me why the monorail purchase was feasible during the early stages of Disney World construction, but now they can't even seem to be able to come up with the money to maintain the lines they already have in place? Is the monorail made of some precious metals that don't exist anymore or something, what gives?
The Monorail is the blood stream of WDW. Di$ney spends bucks on everything else it up keeps so this should not be dismissed. Replace the aging trains with modern ones and move on. The Dream is here. Monorail revival to save teh system!! And sell the trains intact to a collector for BIG BUCKS to off set the cost of new ones.
I can see Rocket Rods 3 coming soon along those tracks haha.
They should put an inverted monorail like in Japan. They are really cool. And there's always the good ol' bus lol.
They should put in an inverted monorail system like in Chiba, Japan. They are really neat. There's always the good ol' bus too lol.
Did someone say guests should pay for WDW transportation between their resorts and parks? You mean, like cab fare? If you mean incorporate such charges into the hotel room rates and admissions fees, that's one thing, but if you mean fork it over or you're walking to EPCOT from your WDW resort...I won't use the kind of language that inspires here. You get where I'm coming from.
I agree with Chad H -- "skyway 2.0" is a cheap stopgap that doesn't fit into the disney landscape. For whatever reason, Disney doesn't want to invest in the monorail. Not surprising when they are doing things like buying Fox.
What about a modern version of the WEDWay People Mover connecting all of WDW at ground level. Zero pollution and no vehicles.....just as Walt wanted with Progress City.
I agree with Prof Plum.
Phew! Panic over. Disney Communications has said that there are no plans to retire the system.