Why Aren’t There More Monorails at Walt Disney World?
Articles, Blog

Why Aren’t There More Monorails at Walt Disney World?

September 5, 2019


The monorail is an iconic part of the Disney
experience, and for good reason. When Walt opened the Disneyland monorail in
1959 it was the very first instance of a daily running monorail in the Western Hemisphere. It evolved from a simple attraction to an
actual means of transportation and so naturally when it came time to build Walt Disney World,
it was included as a means for guests to get around. However one question I’ve gotten from subscribers
many times over the years is “Why stop at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot? Why isn’t there a monorail to Hollywood
Studios or the Animal Kingdom or more resorts? Where are all the monorails?” Now there’s probably already a bunch of
people writing up comments like “It’s too expensive! There, I saved you six minutes!” and you
know what? They’re not wrong. While a monorail extension would be financially
possible for The Walt Disney Company, it wouldn’t be very financially reasonable, and I’ll
go into why in a moment. However beyond just the fiscal considerations,
I think there’s an argument to be made that it just isn’t the right system anymore in
relation to what Walt Disney World has become. But first, the money issue. This one is a little difficult to tackle because
as they are with many details, Disney is pretty tight lipped when it comes to how much they’re
spending on specific projects. There are figures out there for other monorail
systems around the world and we can try to use those to estimate what it would cost for
Disney, but even that’s going to be a guess since there are so many different variables
to consider. Looking at more recent monorail systems, the
Mumbai Monorail in India cost an estimated $43.8 million dollars per mile. The Las Vegas Monorail cost an estimated $88
million per mile, and coming in at the top, the Palm Jumeirah Monorail in Dubai cost around
$118 million dollars per mile. That’s a pretty wide range. If we aim for the middle we would land at
$80.5 million, which isn’t far off from the Vegas estimate which, as far as supplies
and labor go, is probably the closer to Orlando than Mumbai and Dubai is. Then of course we have to consider that those
three systems were all built between 2004 and 2008, so when we adjust the estimates
for inflation, that $80.5 million becomes $100.4 million. We’ll round down to a clean hundred million
for the sake of simplicity. The next question then becomes, how long would
a new monorail extension be? Now that becomes a real wild card because
by owning the land, Disney would have a lot more freedom to build the track wherever they
want, within reason. I took a stab at a track layout that would
extend from the Epcot track, which saves us about 4 miles, and sticks towards roads much
in the same way the Epcot line does. That would put an extension to both Hollywood
Studios and the Animal Kingdom at around twelve miles of new track. At an estimation of $100 million per mile,
that’s $1.2 billion dollars. So to my earlier point, it’s financially
possible. The Walt Disney Company’s 2017 annual earnings
report showing that Parks and Resorts had operating income of $3.7 billion dollars that year. But would it make sense to spend upwards of
a third of the entire division’s profit on just two new monorail stops? Consider for a moment that it would only benefit
two groups. Those who are staying at one of the three
monorail resorts out of the over twenty resorts on property, and those looking to park hop,
which is a feature that isn’t even standard with a Disney World pass today. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be pretty cool
if the Disney World monorail went to all the parks, but even as a die-hard fan I’d admit
that the costs are just too high for benefits that are too few. Not to mention for the same amount of money,
you could buy literally thousands of buses. And this kind of leads me to my second argument,
which is that the monorail just isn’t the best method anymore. Walt Disney proposed a project that would
have, while inhabiting the same space as today’s Disney World, looked radically different. His Disney World was one that was more or
less arranged north to south. There was the airport at the south end, then
the welcome center, followed by the industrial park, followed by EPCOT, and then at the northern
tip the theme park and resorts. It was the perfect layout for a monorail system
that would run through the middle of everything and connect these different segments of the
property. Now today we have the hindsight that allows
us to realize that Walt’s dream died with him, but it’s important to note that to
the public at the time, it took much longer than that. When Walt’s brother Roy postponed his retirement
to oversee the construction of Disney World, it was with the goal of completing the first
phase of Walt’s Disney World. Years later, while the form changed quite
a bit, Disney still committed to delivering an EPCOT to the public, and like Walt’s
plan for Disney World, it was just south of the theme park area. It wasn’t until shortly after EPCOT Center
opened that the company underwent a radical change in leadership, and it was then that
we began to see Disney evolve into something else. More resorts, more theme parks, more water
parks. With the figurative change in direction Disney
World also saw a literal change in direction, with more projects springing up to the west
and east portions of the property. Without that tight layout, the idea of a monorail
system became less practical. Suddenly transportation like buses were not only the cheaper option, but they were the better option as well. Pair that with the costs needed to expand
it and the price tag of all the other projects Disney was getting involved in as a company,
and it’s no surprise that we didn’t get more monorails. Today we’re seeing transportation expansions
in the form of bigger buses and Minnie vans and even gondolas. And with automated driving becoming bigger
and bigger with each year, who knows what transportation at Disney World will look like
in the future. So while we’ll hopefully see some new monorail
vehicles at the resort in the near future, it’s pretty unlikely it’ll be making any
new stops.

52 Comments

  • Reply shanejpt June 30, 2019 at 3:55 am

    Monorail should have more stops

  • Reply billy lo June 30, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    Electric buses

  • Reply clifford maxwell June 30, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    They need to turn that big Epcot globe thing into a star wars death star! Just saying!

  • Reply fall22123 June 30, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    I don't think people necessarily relate monorails to Disney. Sure you see the track on Disney property but few people that visit actually ride them. Like the guy said, they only stop at a couple of resorts and a couple of parks.

  • Reply ShowALK June 30, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    POR FAVOR MANTENGASE ALEJADO DE LAS PUERTAS

  • Reply Tim Van Schaeybroeck July 1, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Why are the monorails so expensive?

  • Reply Kaitlin X July 1, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    It’s true, buses aren’t magical. But what about streetcars? A train-like system?

  • Reply smileyeagle1021 July 1, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Something I think that you have left out of your cost consideration, the monorail can much more easily be automated than buses, so less labor costs. They also are most likely cheaper per passenger mile to operate in terms of fuel and maintenance (that I can't really back up as easily as my assumption on labor cost, but typically the more people you can fit into one vehicle, which you can fit a lot more on a monorail than a bus, the lower the cost per person). Given that the cost of purchasing a bus is a small portion of the total cost of the bus in the scheme of things (you will spend many times the purchase price of the bus paying for the driver, the fuel, and the maintenance), it might be worth it for them to pay that $1.2 billion up front to realize cost savings over the long run.

  • Reply Rudolph July 1, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    Pretty sure it costs more to dredge the swamps

  • Reply The Jyestur July 1, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    Why aren’t there more monorails? By definition there is only one rail.

  • Reply Perich29 July 1, 2019 at 10:26 pm

    Because Bombardier sold off and became airbus so it's up to Airbus industry to build new train

  • Reply Augh Bable July 2, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Woah, Disney is like pioneer for plentiful things. We got monorail here (Malaysia) only in 1995 !

  • Reply Muruyama Yukari. July 2, 2019 at 11:52 am

    The thing is that if walt disney got the monorail to work why do we still use trains on tracks then? if we alreaddy had the tecnoligy to make monorails that dosent make sense. They have talked about making monorail trains but thats like in 2018 and yet it has always ben there sense back in idk 2000 below.

  • Reply Al Sargent July 2, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    TBF, the Friendship boats do offer connection from EPCOT to Hollywood Studios. Although Animal Kingdom is still left out.

  • Reply christian DONLEY July 2, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    Buses are free when you get any pass with or through a Disney resort

  • Reply Curt S July 2, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    Monorail is too expensive… the buses suck

  • Reply Zachary Fix July 2, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    Let see ride on a bus or a monorail.
    I think I rather have the monorail going form park to park

  • Reply Ian Brown July 2, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    What I'd love to see is a combination of autonomous vehicle and electric vehicle technologies. Disney can manage exclusive-access roads that could facilitate zero emission 10-15 and 20-40 person autonomous shuttles that could ferry people around to parks and resorts on demand. Cargo transport robots already navigate HUGE warehouses and even transport cargo between buildings on the same property, so why not extend that technology to passengers like they do with the parking lot Pods at the Heathrow Airport, but massively scaled up!

    Imagine an experience of walking up to a WDW Transit Authority Terminal, scanning a Fast Pass Band, and being granted quick access to a return shuttle for you and your family back to your resort hotel, another park, or additional destinations that the current shuttle system already services.

    I'd imagine walking up to a terminal, select a destination, and then being instructed to wait at a platform, where you are quickly met by an autonomous electric vehicle pre-programmed to quickly and efficiently whisk you off to your destination! The vehicle can be sized appropriate to demand, so if you have 30 folks all wanting to zip over to Animal Kingdom, then the system will earmark and present a 40-passenger electrobus for the excursion! The roads used could be exclusive access lanes apart from normal traffic, but as autopilot technologies improve, perhaps they could eventually share the roads with normal cars.

    Because journeys are pre-calculated, management of transport vehicles would be simple and highly flexible, as every shuttle is assigned to each trip based on need. Support for high capacity battery packs could be minimized since each trip would only be for a few miles, and then the shuttle could scuttle off to a charging point for a quick top-off before the next run, or if there's enough capacity, another trip could be assigned to the shuttle that wouldn't exceed its remaining range. To make things even more efficient, a station that could auto-swap battery packs would be incredible. If a standardized pack was chosen, larger vehicles could just use multiple packs to extend range to handle the park-to-park runs. When a depleted pack is dropped off, it gets plugged into a charging point for rapid recharge, and then it gets slotted into the next "refueling" bay.

    Now THAT would be an experience worthy of the Disney name!

  • Reply RedIron Dragon July 2, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Concept: Self driving bus with an animatronic at the front to give guests entertainment while travelling (see something akin to cosmic ray)

  • Reply PartySlime76 July 2, 2019 at 11:54 pm

    Because it would anger Marge.

  • Reply Brandon N July 3, 2019 at 3:50 am

    TRAINS SUCK
    They suck almost everywhere. Busses are cheaper and more flexible. Go busses.

  • Reply Seminole Rick July 3, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Crowd Control… they are already packing 13 oz into a 12 oz bottle…

  • Reply D July 5, 2019 at 3:04 am

    Your cost per mile is completely off because those costs include permitting, land purchases, Right-of-way litigation, and many more costs Disney wouldn't face.

  • Reply Johan M July 5, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    What I would build if I where in charge of Orlando Transportation is a subway or commuter rail system thats connects the airport with a central WDW hub, Universal and Sea World with secondary lines to hotel area and secondary parks in faschion that you can you can reach any park with one stop and any hotel with two. That would ease the road traffic conquestion and help both tourists and workers to get to and from the different parks. Johan.

  • Reply Squibo July 6, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    MINI VANS? AS IN MINI MOUSE?

  • Reply Bill Volk July 6, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    I hear those things are awfully loud

  • Reply tiggerbell123 July 7, 2019 at 2:14 am

    the monorails are the best #monorailsforlife

  • Reply Michael Johnston July 7, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    I asked and received the answer from Dave Pool at Disney in 1982: $11 to $13 Million per mile. It was considered too expensive back then. Now, their big idea is that aerial tramway. Can't wait for the big winds … I have always loved the monorail!

  • Reply Test Fortester July 7, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    Because it costs too much money and you don’t pay to ride it and Disney would rather put money into executive pockets and not making good things like an actually good Star Wars world

  • Reply Durbikins July 7, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    0:24 sweet jump

  • Reply newb431 July 8, 2019 at 2:31 am

    Would have been a better use of money than building these lame ass Star Wars extensions

  • Reply Drews Quick Fixes Ideas And Hacks July 8, 2019 at 3:03 am

    They are building a much more efficient gondola between epcot animal kingdom and hollywood studios how can you not mention this in more detail other than 1 word. I'm surprised

  • Reply Thomas More July 9, 2019 at 1:14 am

    They could still eventually make a circular track around the parks

  • Reply Tim Mc July 9, 2019 at 8:50 am

    I loathe Disney buses.

  • Reply Golden Retriever July 13, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    There’s another method that could help make the monorail more profitable

    Though I doubt people would like it

    If Disney started charging for the monorail to pay for the extra miles

    Though that’s not exactly a good idea because the monorail is suppose to be free

    At least from my experience of it

  • Reply Scott Weinberg July 14, 2019 at 4:09 am

    Haven’t they already approved it? When they can start construction the monorail to Hollywood Studios and Animals Kingdom as well as resorts.

  • Reply edvaira6891 July 14, 2019 at 6:51 am

    The decision to build the 8-plus mile extension to EPCOT was made in 1978, and the company likely regretted it ever since, since it undoubtably significantly added up to a large chunk of the 1.4 Billion that Epcot cost

  • Reply edvaira6891 July 14, 2019 at 6:54 am

    Ironically, it probably would’ve been cheaper to build a PeopleMover between the parks than a Monorail

  • Reply July 15, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    I would totally be okay if they just discontinued the monorail all together. The one in Florida breaks down daily and constantly has to have it’s systems rebooted. It’s a terrifying pain in the butt.

  • Reply Captain Boony Hat July 18, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    I have a plan build the PRT from Morgantown to Disneyworld

  • Reply Kay Kola July 26, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    Joy six minutes

  • Reply Jacobdocker The Gamer July 29, 2019 at 3:48 am

    .-.

  • Reply Jacobdocker The Gamer July 29, 2019 at 3:48 am

    yeah ur right

  • Reply Jay Raphael Jiao Inot July 29, 2019 at 11:50 am

    Walt Disney wanted something big or something different for his park/s that's why he didn't go for the cheaper buses

  • Reply Douglas Herr August 2, 2019 at 6:14 am

    Why aren't there monorails in citys? Why isn't this mode of transportation used today?

  • Reply griplimit August 3, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Three words…

    Vacuum
    Tube
    Transportation

  • Reply riddlers91 August 4, 2019 at 11:21 pm

    "Monorail! Monorail!"…. Sing it

  • Reply Adam Putz August 16, 2019 at 4:34 am

    Your monorail estimates don’t include the price of land, and land transformation that Disney doesn’t really need to pay for.

  • Reply Nick Taylor August 17, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Fully electric 🚝 system, with automated drive systems, could in theory reduce the cost factor? Realistically the cost is based on what factors? Consumption of fuel, cost of labor etc? Or cost of building and maintaining the system?

  • Reply DL Waterloo August 20, 2019 at 4:14 am

    Even Springfield had a monorail. Just ask Homer.

  • Reply HollywoodF1 August 24, 2019 at 6:51 am

    This will be a moot point once self-driving is a viable thing. Disney will design a vehicle that is smaller, greener, quieter, and takes you point-to-point in 1/3 the time.

  • Reply Alex Baxter September 4, 2019 at 8:17 am

    Mono means one and rail means rail

  • Reply MK 1000 鉄道迷ww September 4, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    Tokyo Disneyland Monorail

  • Leave a Reply