Chocolate and Gold Coins

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Queuing Up For The Roller Coaster

We took our son to an amusement park on Saturday and he greater enjoyed riding on the roller coasters. I didn’t mind so much, and it is always fun to see him so excited, but I did think the queues were too long. Obviously, most people who go to amusement parks want to ride roller coasters, and since they are free to ride (once inside the park) the quantity demanded exceeds the quantity the market can supply without waiting. In effect, the queue is a form of rationing.

The curious thing about the queue at the roller coaster is that it is an additional cost of riding the roller coaster that provides no benefit to the owners of the amusement park. People who are waiting in the queue are not being entertained, and they aren’t spending money on any of the video games or any of the various stores or eateries, so the time in the queue is a pure waste.

Some parks charge a separate fee if you want to ride the most popular roller coaster. You will get a ticket with a time and this allows you to avoid waiting in a long line for that one roller coaster. However, you will still waste time at the other two or three roller coasters that the park might offer.

Walt Disney World has a clever system. It is called FastPass and it allows you to schedule your ride. You go to ride and enter your tickets and it will give you a little ticket with a time on it. You come back at that time and your wait is only 15 minutes, which is acceptable. It gives you time to shop and rest and do other fun things while you wait for your ride time. But as the day progresses, the time you need to wait until you can return to the ride gets longer and longer.

Some restaurants in malls give you a pager that allow you to shop around the mall while you wait for your table and then they just page you went it is time.

I like the idea of combining these ideas. Maybe the amusement park could give the visitors a pager/computer that allows the visitors the ability to schedule their rides remotely. When it gets close to the time of the ride, you pager will alert you and even offer directions to the ride from wherever you are (this would be a nice feature at Disney World).


  • I have been to Disneyworld (the one near Hollywood), and the FastPass seemed a great idea to me as well. Probably there could be a mechanism to register your cell phone number so that you could be SMS'ed a reminder.

    (You mentioned a computer. There is a computer in a cell phone too!)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:08 AM  

  • I like the pager idea, although it's debatable with the number of people involved how practical it could be. One reason why I stopped going to theme parks is because of the long lines involved. Its just a waste of time.

    By Blogger gawker, at 7:49 AM  

  • The idea seems interesting.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:42 AM  

  • not really connected to this post.....but the post reminded me of the popular temple at Tirupathi, where a couple of hundred thousand visit in a single day, and lines are very, very long.

    now, they've come up with some kind of tag system (especially if you stay at the TTD guesthouses or travel in a prearraged trip). They give you a tag with a time-stamp on it, and you enter the queue only at that time. I believe this has shaved the waiting times by 50% or more.......:-)

    By Blogger Sunil, at 3:33 PM  

  • Hi Srikanth, Gawker, Anirudh, and Sunil

    Srikanth: I was to Disneyland 40 years ago and two years ago. Fast pass was just getting going and it did help in some cases. Yes, I was thinking or something like a cell phone with maybe the ability to get maps (that is no small thing in a really big park like Disney world).

    Gawker: Yes, the long lines (queues - I've studied a lot of queuing theory - it shows) are a big turnoff. Queues are always a waste of time (well, a short queue can prevent gaps in service, but longer queues are a pure waste).

    Anirudh: Hi, I haven't seen you before. I hope you come back.

    Sunil: Actually, this is a very similar situation. Basically, anywhere queues form, it would be wise to think of a "FastPass" solution so that people don't waste time waiting in the queue. They still have to wait and be reasonably close by, but they can be more comfortable and even do fun things.

    Examples could be shopping in the mall while waiting for a table at a popular mall restaurant. Who wouldn't rather window shop than sit in a noisy restaurant while others eat? Another application is letting cab drivers spend time in a break room near the airport while they wait to go to the front of the cab queue.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 10:51 PM  

  • How about a RFID tag on which you have 2 way communication, you list your top choices in the park and the system automatically sees where you are and guides you to your top choices depending on the expected wait times ?


    By Blogger Ujval Gandhi, at 9:10 AM  

  • Hi GreatHokie
    I think that sounds feasible.

    I guess that I'm surprise that the theme park industry has not studied these options more thoroughly. There must be some good options out there.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 8:36 AM  

  • Hi
    Thanks for putting such a nice blog out here for all of us to read.

    lincoln cents

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:26 PM  

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