How Coronavirus Will Impact Disney Transportation
A few months ago, I wrote about the future of the Disney Skyliner. At the time, park officials already had plans in place for expansion. Then, Coronavirus shuttered every single Disney park.
This turn of events causes all of us to wonder about the future of Disney theme park transportation. Let’s evaluate the current options as well as some other potential ideas.
The serenity of a trip on a Disney boat is impossible to match. Whether you’re sitting inside or outside, you’re relaxing as you sail down the water. Plus, you get to admire all the Disney scenery along the way.
Unfortunately, everyone knows that a handful of cruises have become the modern equivalent of plague ships. Since so many guests interact in close proximity, the spread of infection is easy.
Still, a Disney boat isn’t the same as a Disney cruise ship. You’re only on the former ship for a few minutes. At that point, cast members can and will disinfect the seats before allowing others to board.
Disney might even employ long-lasting germ-killers throughout the vessels. Also, what happened with the Diamond Princess isn’t in any way applicable to a Friendship Boat. So, I’m not worried at all about the safety of this form of transportation.
Over the next few months, Disney will space guests out more, probably seating them every other row. Beyond that and cleaning, no other significant changes are necessary.
My wife and I have had an ongoing debate about which transportation system is safer right now, buses or monorails. Without giving away our positions, I’m genuinely curious whether readers worry more about sanitary conditions on one or the other.
During the pandemic and its aftermath, the concerns with the buses involve spacing. For now, I believe that the days of standing on buses are over. That doubles congestion while halving social distance. So, it’s impractical.
Beyond that, I expect Disney to take the same approach with buses as boats. Cast members must clean them after each trip. It’s also possible that Disney uses chemical treatments to kill the potential spread of germs.
One question I have is how Disney will approach the cleaning process. Would the driver do that job, too? Would a cast member ride the bus just to clean it whenever someone departs?
Presuming Disney requires the bus driver to do it, will the company run extra buses to allow for the reduction in customers serviced?
Then, we get to the monorail discussion. The running joke about Disney’s iconic vehicles is that they’re not clean enough as it is. Adding in Coronavirus makes them that much more alarming.
Some critics have suggested that Disney should close monorails until this pandemic ends. I don’t expect Disney to do this. For starters, it strikes me as a dramatic overreaction and unneeded step.
Also, Disney charges more for the monorail resorts. The company does this because customers pay more for the convenience of the monorail system. It’s an underrated amenity that we’ve grown to take for granted over the years.
Without the monorail, high-paying guests would feel like they weren’t receiving their money’s worth. So, I expect Disney to prioritize the cleanliness of monorail trams this year. Frankly, that’s a welcome turn of events and something Disney should have done long ago.
Remember when everyone berated Disney for the vents on the Disney Skyliner? People freaked out that the new form of transportation lacks air conditioning. During an airborne pandemic, Imagineers are looking pretty smart, aren’t they?
Okay, I’m joking…mostly. However, I think we all agree that the Disney Skyliner currently seems like the most pandemic-proof form of transportation. Guests can request their own trams, which guarantees that no one else will infect them during the trip.
The one drawback to the Skyliner gondolas involves their upkeep. The premise of the system requires the trams to keep moving no matter what. And that makes cleaning them incredibly difficult, at least on the fly.
The Disney Skyliner system will likely require a different cleaning strategy than the rest. However, in the wake of the pandemic, it looks like even more of a masterstroke than it did six months ago.
Still, Disney is cash-poor right now. I’ll explore this in greater detail at a later date, but I believe all Skyliner expansion plans must go on hold for a while. Disney will struggle enough with paying for everything that’s already underway.
Disney’s Magical Express service isn’t likely to change much. Guests already pick their seats, which means everyone can practice social distancing on their own.
I expect that the buses will have signs requesting guests to sit an appropriate distance apart. Beyond that, Disney doesn’t own the buses or pay for the drivers.
So, a lot of this is beyond their control anyway. All the company can do is make requests to Mears. Of course, Disney’s a powerful client. When they ask for something, businesses do what they say.
Speaking of which, a high-speed rail system is in progress in Florida. Virgin Trains USA is connecting several tourist areas across the state.
One of these stations will operate at Walt Disney World. When that happens, many guests will prefer it to Magical Express. I say this because a high-speed trip from the airport to the Disney campus will give guests more time to spend at the parks.
Are high-speed trains cleaner and more reliable during a pandemic? Well, the target date for the Walt Disney World station isn’t for a couple of years. So, it probably won’t arrive by then. This discussion is more about future-proofing the premise.
A couple of years ago, a few Disney insiders brought to life one of the company’s most carefully guarded secrets. Park officials had agreed to a deal with a startup car business.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Disney had plotted the future at Walt Disney World, and it would be a place without cast members as drivers. Yes, Disney wanted self-driving cars to transport guests around the Disney campus.
The deal imploded due to internal strife at the companies, Meridian Autonomous and Phoenix Wings. However, Disney legitimately signed an agreement in 2016 to bring autonomous vehicles to Walt Disney World.
Once Disney has a more robust economic base, executives might explore this idea again. Self-driving cars would keep guests away from one another while they’re heading to and from the parks.
Also, Disney would save on cast member expenses stemming from bus transportation. Oh, and self-driving cars don’t wreck as much as actual bus drivers.
At some point, I expect Disney to transition to self-driving cars. It’s likely at least five years away, though.