All that to say I don't know what I'd be willing to pay per attraction. I suppose if the park has enough attractions and it will save you time, it's worth it.
Also, I think that wait in line is part of the ride, especially at a well theme parked like Disney. Just a few weeks ago, I was at Disneyland for a friend's birthday. She and her husband are big Indiana Jones fans and have been on the ride several times, but I found them some decoders for her birthday and we spent an hour in line, letting people pass us, decoding all the puzzles.
For example, it would be 16 cents per minute, so if the posted wait time was 60 minutes, it would cost $9.60 to skip the line. To make this system work, the pass would be good for immediate-use only, say 5 minutes before it expired.
If you're with friends and family who don't want to get the the park that early then maybe it might be worth it, but I wouldn't be willing to pay too much.
We got there early in both cases and managed to ride about 3 of the attractions without much of a queue before the parks filled up then we rode them again later in the day with our passes.
I think it is a good idea to offer these passes for purchase, however the number available should be limited and I'm not sure if it is for the one I purchased.
If I only have a weekend for fun the last thing I am going to do is stand in line for anything if I don't have to. I actually budget that option in my trip.
If I am on a 10 day trip or if we are in off season I will stand in line because they are all very short.
I miss the Cedar Point freeway system. They used to give out so many free passes per hour for the big line rides. It was a one time pass, good for an hour. It seemed to work great, because they limited the number of passes. I'm not sure why they decided to stop doing that.
Having said that I an a proponent of any creative ways a park may wish to allow all guests (not just the ones who can afford to fork out a few extra dollars) to maximize the number of attractions that can be experienced in a day. Several years back when I was at Disneyland they had a free line jumping system with two criteria:1) You got a time window that started after the posted wait time. (If you got the ticket at 3:00 and the wait time was 30 minutes your window would start at 3:30 effectively putting you on the ride at the same time)2) You could only skip one line at a time.
The end result was that you could be virtually waiting for one ride while actually riding another, having lunch, shopping, etc.
As for a per ride basis, it really depends on the ride.
So, to add a corollary to Robert's initial formula: If the Fastpass enables a person to spend one less day in a park, then it has value if it is priced less than the cost of coming a second day.
Universal started this crap and I haven't been back there since they did nearly 10 years ago (and won't go back...they lost my business).
Disney on the other hand does everything in it's power to shorten ALL guests wait times in queues and make the queues as entertaing as possible besides.
One has a 'free' fast pass system that works great, the other has a pay extra for the privilege mentality (whether buying there ticket or staying in their over priced hotels). One is very profitable and the model for all other parks to follow, the other has decreasing attendence every year for the past several years and decreasing profits (or perhaps losses).
Which way do I think is better (and which way do the numbers prove is better)....take a guess.
And sorry, you have to actually do the real math. Not per person (unless you aren't paying or your a loner), what does it cost extra for MY FAMILY of 4-5 people to pay for this on a daily basis? Short term gain, long term pain....ala the Universal system -vs- thinking long term and treating 'all guests' as equals ala Disneys policy. Easy call in my book.
I'll never pay the ransom....I just won't go to that park or on that ride. I have actual money to spend....they aren't going to get it, someone else will.
Parks usually devote between 10% and 20% of a ride's capacity - the number of people getting on every hour - to a fast pass system. Disney parks are fortunate in having a consistently high attendance and can therefore sensibly invest in lots and lots of very high capacity rides. So they can therefore reserve lots of passes for their fast pass system.
Sea World only has a few high capacity rides relative to it's attendance and has a much lower total potential ride capacity then Disney. This in turn means the number of passes available is a lot lower as well.
If you were to turn up to Sea World as the park opens and grab a free fast pass, it would work great. But turn up with the family an hour later and you'd find all the tickets had sold out, simply because there are so few available. And, bringing me onto my second point, you'd find the main ride queues would be slower because 10% to 20% fewer people would be getting on every hour.
So, make sure you turn up at park opening, and you're sorted right? Not even Disney could cope with their entire attendance turning up at park opening - the line would simply be at the admissions gate and turnstiles instead.
Is a very complex process. For most of these parks, charging for the system is obviously a way of boosting discretionary spend. But, it is also more importantly a way of fairly distributing the passes available.
Some parks are now using the Q-Bot system. It's supposed to be fairer because, from the time you book, the wait is the same amount of time as the normal queue. So you queue, but not in the queue. Guests who don't fork out for the system don't feel like guests who have are cutting the line...
One final point. Neither Universal or Disney parks are in great shape at the moment. Disney might give out their passes for free, but they charge a higher admission price and guests usually spend a lot more, as they are encouraged to stay for days at resorts. Job losses and attendance drops show that they are already feeling the pinch of the current economic situaiton.
If anyone is profitable this year, it will be the regional theme parks like Sea World and Six Flags - and probably, all the ones that choose to charge for fast passes.
At Disney, I've heard that FastPass can be 50 percent, or more, of the admissions to a ride in a given hour. That does make the stand-by line much longer than it would have been without the reservation system.
As for the pay systems, the one time in recent memory I went to a Six Flags park was SF St. Louis last October, and the place was jammed. I waited a hour for one coaster, then said "screw it" and blew $100 for the Flash Pass for the whole group. It was worth it. But SFSTL did such a poor job of line mgmt (open seats, half filled cars) that the Flash Pass was mandatory. And since our admission to the park was free, I didn't feel too slighted.
As for Universal, I love staying at the Royal Pacific resort and taking advantage of on-property Universal Express. Heck, you have to stay somewhere, so it might as well be a resort that is a) close to the action, b) nicely appointed, and c) relaxing, and with the Universal Express pass built into your room key, it is definitely relaxing. Basically an unlimited fastpass, on-property Universal Express means you can tour the parks when you want for as long as you want and NEVER have to worry about waiting in a long line. Unless you have utilized this perk, you cannot imagine just how relaxing your vacation becomes when the crowd factor is eliminated. It actually feels like a vacation!
And for the person who said the Universal resorts are over priced, you are definitely not comparing them to Disney, as all three Universal resorts are on par with and less expensive than comparable Disney resorts. Furthermore, from a convenience standpoint, Universal's Royal Pacific Resort beats almost anything Disney has to offer unless you stay at a monorail resort or an Epcot resort (which is about $325 to $425 per night for a "cheap" room, compared to about $150 to $200 for the Royal Pacific). Once you park your car at the Royal Pacific, you will not need to return to it until your trip is over - everything is within easy walking distance. Citywalk is 5 minutes from your room, and the parks are maybe 6 minutes away. Everywhere you go you and are surrounded by lush vegetation, fun activities, delicious restaurants, and immersive theming. Plus the Universal Express pass built into your room key is a perk that cannot be beat. In fact, I will not go to Universal without on-property reservations. Once you experience Universal's perks it is almost impossible to tour without them, imho.
I am not sure how to calculate the cost, Robert. Currently, I can book a standard room at the Royal Pacific for $150 a night, for a 5 night stay in September. That reservation would include six days of park touring with Universal Express (your room keys are still valid on the day you check out). I guess if I booked a moderate Disney resort for $160 a night, I am actually saving money by going Universal, so my cost for Universal Express is $0. Hard to beat that price! ;)
The Universal system works great and in actuality costs nothing. The resorts are just as nice as the one's at Disney and you get just as many benefits including the Universal Express.
I realize Disney can't do something similar at their resort simply because they have so many hotels. I am aware of their desire to give resort guests first dibs at Fastpasses, but perhaps they could segment their hotels into sections and give each one(Epcot resorts, Animal Kingdom, etc.) a specific day for front-of-the-line access. At the very least, Disney could implement the idea in California where they have only three hotels just like Universal in Florida.
However, I don't want to see theme parks turn into a caste system where the wealthier have far more privileges than average folks. Going to a park should be as egalitarian as going to the movies. I remember reading in the old Disney Magazine that factions in Imagineering were thinking of turning the parks into sporting events or theater shows where people who paid more could experience more of the rides. This was a terrible idea that thankfully appears to have died. People shouldn't have to pay more to enjoy themselves at the parks. The parks should make the experience as enjoyable as possible by designing efficient attractions and running rides to capacity.
I honestly don't think that any amount higher than $5 is worth any kind of line-cutting privilege.
If this is your one and only day to visit a park (and it happens to be very busy), it's worth it buying those passes.
That being said, these Fast Passes (and all its forms) are pure profit for parks and are forces not to mess around with. I've heard crazy stories of two moms fighting over the last of some free Fast Passes at Disney.
And Deidre? Busch Gardens Africa only sells about 700 tops of their Quick Queue daily (and it's good for 10 uses, not unlimited). I've worked there when the QQ sells out and guests get FIERCE when they can't buy it. I've seen them demand explanations from managers.
Personally, if you can only visit a park once and you don't have the money for these passes AND it's a busy day, then the first 2 hours and the last hour are always the shortest wait times. Between then, look at the animals, the shows, or take pics of the scenery.
If its for length of stay, it really doesn't pay for the passive theme park goer who is pinching pennies and trying to cut cost corners for their trip. If you are going to be there for 3 or more days and be able to park hop, you may not need it depending on what you want to see. In those cases, you will be able to hit all the major attractions over the course of your stay with extended hours, regardless of wait time, but it does free up the vacation from running you ragged to hit every attraction in that time.
I would most likely pay for it either way considering much of my WDW vacations are split by staying at WDW, doing day trips to USO, other orlando attractions, and on-property attractions that are not in the parks. I am all for paying out to make things easier, and I know that to others in the park who can not afford it, it may not be fair....seriously though, with the amounts of money that is spent to get down there in the first place and to survive in the parks, whats another X amount a day to make the nuisance of the unthemed part of the queues go away? As it stands, other places besides WDW, the themed part of the queue is still traversed even with your line-jumping passes in your own row that walks past everyone else and you still get to see the themed queue, just walking fast through it...sounds like alot of plus signs in the "let me have this, please" column to me, but it does include yet another plus sign on the price tag of an already expensive vacation.