Two options for the transportation problem that's keeping a third park from Disneyland Resort

June 27, 2012, 9:36 PM · Several weeks ago, Disney CEO Bob Iger made his annual declaration to investors that the company would begin to scale back its capital spending on theme parks. I called BS on that at the time, and today Al Lutz provided more detail on the next wave of big new projects under consideration for the Disneyland Resort.

With Cars Land's success, a big new project at Disneyland is in the bag. The only questions now are what, and where? The two potential answers for the "where" question are in Frontierland - in the space behind Thunder Mountain where the barbecue and festival arena stand - and in Tomorrowland - which would displace Innovations, part or all of Autopia, and possibly the Finding Nemo submarine ride.

Google Map of Disneyland Park
Here's the aerial view of Disneyland. You find the space for a major new theme park attraction. (Click for the Google Maps page.)

The problem with the Tomorrowland site is the monorail track, which would prevent whatever project goes in there from having clean vertical space unless the monorail were rerouted - which Disneyland didn't do for California Adventure, Buena Vista Street, or Downtown Disney, so don't bet on that happening anytime soon.

But Disney's learned the Big Lesson of Cars Land and Harry Potter, which is that if you spend big bucks on creating a well-detailed and immersive, themed environment, people pay you way more in return to visit it. Disney's not going to leave theme park fans' money on the table. It will identify a franchise to develop and, based on which of those two sites provides a better thematic fit, will proceed with building it, starting within the next couple of years.

Beyond that, many people in Disney are convinced that Disneyland can support a third theme park. But don't expect construction on that to start anytime soon.

Nothing's going to happen beyond the new land or mini-land at Disneyland until the resort addresses its major transportation issue. Disney faces a huge barrier to additional expansion at the resort - the lack of space to park additional vehicles and the road access to get those cars into and out of resort property. Disney's big problem is that too many of its visitors are driving to the parks alone. They're annual passholders dropping in for the day, perhaps meeting other APers at the park. This isn't Orlando's crowd, where entire families fill the majority of cars through the tollbooths.

It's too bad for Disney that Orange County's decided to spend its transportation dollars on expanding freeways instead of building a rail system, as neighboring Los Angeles County is doing. Disney's two other two-park resorts - Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland - have local transit train stations on property, connecting those resorts to the regions' mass-transit systems. Imagine if those old LA-area Red Cars weren't just an attraction on Buena Vista Street, but if their successors were around today to bring individuals from around Southern California to the Disneyland Resort.

There is a Metrolink line that runs near the Disneyland Resort, but its nearest stop is the Anaheim Stadium parking lot. And those Metrolink trains are scheduled to serve 9-5/Monday-Friday commuters, not tourists. Even if you could get a bus to take you from Disneyland to the station, there'd be no train coming until the next morning if you tried to use it to get home at the end of your Disneyland day.

That leaves Disneyland dependent upon cars and buses to bring people to the resort. But even if Disney spent the money to build additional parking garages to accommodate more cars, it would still face the challenge of getting those cars into and out of the resort via Interstate 5 and Anaheim's surface streets, which are often gridlocked when the parks reach their current capacity. Just imagine how bad they'd be with a third theme park.

If Disney's going to add a third theme park in Anaheim (or a fourth hotel, or an expanded Downtown Disney) it's simply got to find a way to increase the number of guests for every car that parks at the resort. Here are two options:

Option 1: Bring Disney's Magical Express to Anaheim

I have no idea how many people typically fly into the Los Angeles or Orange County airports each week on a Disneyland vacation package. But it's conceivable that some of those guests would opt not to rent a car - and take space in a Disneyland Resort parking lot - if Disney provided a free coach to take them to their hotel instead. Just like they can choose in Orlando.

As Disney mulls additional hotels and attractions in Anaheim, the lure of saving several hundred parking spaces daily might be enough to convince the company to start Magical Express on the west coast, especially if it helps sell additional vacation packages to would-be visitors apprehensive about driving in Southern California traffic. Again, it all comes down to the numbers. If Magical Express only keeps a few dozen rental cars out of the Disneyland hotel and theme park lots, it wouldn't be worth the expense. But several hundred? (I assume that if out-of-market Disneyland guests were taking up more than a thousand spaces in resort lots on a daily basis, Disney would be doing this already.)

Option 2: Restrict the parking benefit on Annual Passports to cars carrying two or more guests

If Disney really wants to get serious about increasing the ratio of guests to cars on property, this is the step to take, despite the wailing it'd provoke on Disney fan sites.

Got someone with you in the car? Fine, you get your free parking. Driving in by yourself? That'll be $15, please, no matter if you have a Premium AP or a parking add-on on another pass. If Disney wants to add a spoonful of sugar to help that medicine go down, it could offer free parking to any annual passholder with four or more people in a vehicle, even if they haven't bought the parking pass.

This move would encourage some Disneyland fans to carpool to the park, and might encourage some others to visit less often or to drop their annual pass. Either way, the visitor-to-car ratio would go up, as Disneyland needs.

Got any other ideas? I'm sure that some frustrated Disney executives in Anaheim and Burbank would love to hear 'em.

Replies (18)

June 27, 2012 at 10:29 PM

It is nice to have a post to discuss the situation, but your examples does absolutely nothing to resolve the problem. Carpooling is fine, but Disney will still have tons of single drivers. If they couldn't convince their own employees to drive in a carpool, why expect their customers to behave this way?

Since you are a local resident as myself, there are 2 solutions: more parking structures and more buses or trams. Disney could discourage park hopping to alleviate traffic to the third park, but they need to have a full day park instead of the DCA fiasco.

June 27, 2012 at 10:38 PM

Removing Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage for a new attraction?! That ride is barely five years old. Autopia is an original opening day attration as well. Unless Disney has some big attraction(I'm talking Avengers here) planned than that seems a bit extreme. Frontierland seems to be the place.

As for the third theme park, that would be beyond awesome and there is definitely a market for that. I just think that Disney's options are out of the Anaheim Resort Area and maybe somewhere else in SoCal.

June 27, 2012 at 10:39 PM

This is a tough one. Disney did just open attractions based on Cars Land in an part of the country that relies on their cars. But, Disneyland Resort is a local park instead of a vacation destination. It has a parking area like Magic Mountain and Knott's that guests can either take a tram or walk. (Does Knott's even have a tram? I've always walked from parking)

But Disney does have the capital and tech to make changes. Just a question of if Anaheim and CA will agree to them.

You'll never get guests to the parks via train. A special Disneyland bus would be great. There's a local LADOT bus I've seen in Downtown LA with "Disneyland" on it's front display. Why not adopt an LAX Flyaway system? Pick a few major spots in the cities, airports, Union Station, Hollywood & Highland, Universal Red-Line Metro Station and offer an hourly service for a nominal price. (Price point as to be lower than $30 for 4 people)

Or figure out a dynamic price structure for parking. $20/vehicle with 1 guest. $15/vehicle with 2 guests. $10/vehicle for 3 or more.

Regardless of a new park or attraction, it's not about getting guests from the parking lot to the attraction/park, it's about getting the guests from the 5 Freeway to the parking lot.

June 28, 2012 at 12:10 AM

Interesting how if you look at the satellite map where toon town is, now if you look directly to its parallel position on the west side of disneyland you see a backstage area that is exactly the same size and shape of the toon town area(this is out of view in the provided picture). There's plenty of room in the thunder ranch area for a major attraction but if you included this toon town sized area directly north of thunder ranch you now have a massive area for several attractions or show buildings. I'm hoping for western river expedition myself but I doubt they'll build that because of grizzly river run in DCA is a similar ride.

As for transportation. It will always be cars based in S.CA. Train culture doesn't exist here and probably wont for the forseeable future. Trains are only used by daily commuters to and from work to avoid LA traffic. Outside of LA traffic is actually very smooth so cars will always be the preferred mode of transport. The only realistic option imo is to build another parking structure in the lot directly south of frontier tower and west of paradise pier hotel. Cars can then exit up west street through disney way which is how they currently exit from mickey and friends parking or through katella which is a large street and could easily handle the extra traffic. Also theres a parking lot north of the garden walk that could be used too. Anyway I hope they can find a way because disneyland definitely has the clientele to support a third gate.

June 28, 2012 at 12:15 AM

Remember that Disney by the sea was originally to be built in Long Beach so the multiple parks is not a new idea. Don't they own the former farm land behind the neighboring hotels? This could be prime territory for new lands that could be linked with trams or better yet the Monorail.

June 28, 2012 at 4:41 AM

Robert, no doubt you have more insight on park developments than we readers do, but I am not so sure I buy into these ideas.

Disneyland suffers from the same land lock that USF does. The only way they will be able to add new attractions to Disneyland is cannibalize the park to do it. I am not so sure that is a real smart move for Disney since removing fairly new attractions to add new ones really doesn't seem to follow their game plan, but hey...look what they did with CA, right?

The single rider parking "fine" is absurd. I guarantee they loose money in the short and long run with that move, end of story. There really are only two answers to this challenge and they are build up or out. Either build parking parking garages like USF did or buy some more of that golden dirt that is Cali to pave a new parking lot.

Of course, there is always the hidden third option of offering another level of pass with parking as a perk with an increased pass cost, but the new passes have already been boosted a great deal, so I don't really see that as a good option either.

I am glad I live in Orlando where the Epcot parking lot is big enough to put a Disneyland or two in!

June 28, 2012 at 9:47 AM

Rather ironic since we just debated/voted on the resort size issue. I would rather deal with a little extra well manicured roads than no parking

Ultimately Disney might have to make their monorail a tool and not a toy. If they can't depend on the city to connect to public transtit and spread out parking garages, Disney might have to do that themselve. I know there's the somewhat "historic" route, but the monorail line should be expanded there to connect new distant garages that could be city blocks away. Plus, if there is ever a third gate, the monorail should stop at all three parks and actually stop between Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel. Who knows, maybe at Disneyland they can bring back the PeopleMover in a real world application. Despite it's small size, it still needs to move large amounts of people around quickly and there is only so much walking and courtesy parking trams can do.

June 28, 2012 at 11:06 AM

They need to fix Tomorrowland (Rocket rods and old Astro Orbitor) Then add more to DCA.

June 28, 2012 at 11:17 AM DCA still a fiasco? Don't think so.

June 28, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Disney already has a plan to build a new parking garage on the land that currently holds a surface lot and a US Customs building that is behind Garden Walk on Disney Way. I heard that the plan was put on hold for some reason, but I'm sure that Disney can re-ignite that plan if they need to.
I've always thought that a Peoplemover type system from the parking lots would work better than the buses that they currently use, but there HAS to be a reason that they don't do that. Disney isn't stupid. I'm sure they have run the numbers and they probably don't work for some reason.

As to more mass transit, the OC Register reported that ART (Anaheim resort transit), OCTA and Santa Ana is looking at building a streetcar that will link up with Santa Ana and Garden Grove and possibly beyond.

June 28, 2012 at 12:48 PM

@Jason Jackson. I was referring to when DCA opened as a half day park for many many years. Obviously, not today. Not sure why I need to explain it to you. When they open a third park, they should not open it as a half finished park. The visitors will revolt and expect to park hop, which will worsen traffic in Anaheim.

June 28, 2012 at 1:28 PM

The monorail, PeopleMover and Anaheim streetcar are all great proposals - but insanely expensive ones that will take a decade or more to implement, slowing development of a third park. Ultimately, I'd love to see Disney work with Anaheim and Orange County on getting a street car line into the Disneyland Resort, then supplementing with a monorail/PeopleMover system to bring people in from parking garages to the parks.

But short-term moves, such as the two I described, could buy Disney some time and make these long-term fixes even more effective. (Interesting that Disney this morning posted a message to its AP Facebook page, encouraging annual passholders to carpool to the park.) Disneyland needs multiple solutions to solve this problem.

June 28, 2012 at 3:21 PM

Disney can build the third park in the current CM parking lot off Katella, across the street from Garden Walk (north) and the Convention Center (west).

They can build two new parking structures in the short term. At the existing Mickey and Friends parking structure, add a second structure across from the tram loading area. Build the second parking structure off of Disney Way, across the street from Garden Walk, which will directly serve the third park or be the new CM parking lot.

If these parking structures are still not enough, many new parking structures can be built at the Downtown Disney short term lots.

To get people to their destinations, Disney should look into building automated electric trains on Disney property. A train route can leave from Mickey and Friends, through the Disneyland Resort Esplanade (over or under ground) (first stop at Disneyland/DCA), and along the east side of DCA (second stop at south/east of DCA). To save on cost by not having the train cross the intersection of Katella and Harbor Blvd, the city of Anaheim can contruct a pedestrian overpass to the third park. The train can climb to a second floor level so the guests can easily walk to the third park.

Guests who park at the Disney Way parking lot can walk directly to Disneyland or the Third Park. Perhaps additional overpasses should be contructed to ease the commute.

Guests who park at the Downtown Disney parking lots can walk to the esplanade to board the train to reach the third park. Or the train route can be extended from DCA to the south lot as the third stop.

This is my suggestion. Enjoy!!!

June 28, 2012 at 5:26 PM

I'm no engineer but looking at the bird's eye, they should have bought the land that that failing Gardenwalk sits on and built new parking structures and worked with the city/state to use Disney Way as a dedicated exit off the 5 that feeds directly into the lot across Disney Way (in and out) as a feed to the new structures across the street (up and over).

They could have easily run an additional monorail line (not connected to the current route) down that strip of land across Disney Way and feed it right up the side of DCA into the esplanade. Anyone wanting to walk to the resort still can, but I'd recommend a pedestrian bridge over Harbor Blvd. And the other side could have had a tram system that feeds right into the third park. Just a thought.

June 28, 2012 at 8:05 PM

I know that the monorail system costs around a million per mile to construct, but what does the people mover system cost?

What's the length of track at WDW for peoplemover and how many can it accommodate per hour? That would be an interesting use of that attraction. Continuous loading, but I can see breakdown being an issue with multiple trains stopped on the raised track.

June 29, 2012 at 11:34 AM

It's a shame that Disney didn't fight for some of the old El Toro Base/New OC Great Park property. To me it seemed like an absolutely perfect place to put one or even possibly 2 Disney parks comfortably with space to park as well. Perhaps even another hotel to accommodate the area. If it was linked via monorail or bus it would be a short 10-15 minute ride to the Disneyland area proper.

As for current options, the best option for a whole new park would seem to be the Toy Story parking lot, but we've already been through the logistical and spatial problems arising from that scenario. Perhaps not a full theme park but a lesser sized water park would be better suited for expansion? I've always been curious as to why Disney has never put a water park in the So Cal area seeing as their is very little competition in the market. Especially with Wild Rivers closing down recently.

I've never been a fan of Toon Town and I've always thought that if Disneyland was to ever do a major renovation the best option would be to get rid of toon town and do a major expansion of Fantasyland. Similar to what Magic Kingdom in Orlando is currently doing.

Frontierland always seemed a little small and odd to me. There is really only the shooting gallery, The Golden Horseshoe, and BTM to offer any kind of "theme" to the whole land in general. It never felt like a whole cohesive land to me. I know there is the petting zoo in the back but, seriously, who has actually spent any extended amount of time there? Getting rid of it and doing a major expansion of the land seems like a good idea. They may even be able to alter the river a bit and expand to the west. But what other major attractions could go into Frontierland?

Anyways, I'm ranting now but just wanted to give my input.

June 29, 2012 at 4:03 PM

Intersting commentary on the tansportation issue; from my point of view the idea of a rail way type of transport would be great except by the time I ride the trains and buses I've taken 3.5 hours to get to Disneyland and spent 35.00 with all of those "station passes" that Metrolink can charge (can being the operative word the "station" charges are rarely inforced). I do like the idea of the free parking for APs with packed cars (4+) since I have only gone to DLR by myself only once and that was for a conference at the hotel; it ended early enough for me to enjoy some time in the park. I've always gone with friends, family or just my husband; its not as fun by myself and I have a terrible time finding folks I intend to meet there anyway.

June 29, 2012 at 9:00 PM

The subject of transportation is an interesting one. In fact, there was an artical in the OC Register about a proposed street car line that would link the Anaheim Metrolink station to the Disneyland Resort and beyond.

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