With the addition of new forms of transportation connecting multiple resorts and theme parks in the form of the Disney Skyliner, some fans might be wondering, why hasn’t Walt Disney World expanded its preexisting monorail system? While we would love to see the Monorail expanded, too, and with the understanding that the skyline was sort of an odd choice for a new method of transportation, we have some thoughts as to why the Monorail has never been expanded beyond the EPCOT loop.
When the opened with the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971, the system only included two lines; the line, which included stops at Disney’s , Disney’s , and the Transportation and Ticket Center (Disney’s & Spa is also on the loop, however, this did not open until 1988), and an express line between and the Transportation and Ticket Center.
The is one of the most iconic images synonymous with the (and earlier Disneyland) and the idea especially for stems from ‘s interest in urban planning, particularly for the development of EPCOT, not as the , but as Walt’s “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.” In the original EPCOT model, the would have been one of the central modes of transportation for getting in and out of the city center (along with PeopleMover transportation, which Guests can experience in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.)
Walt Disney World’s Monorail system was expanded to EPCOT when the park opened in 1982, but even with this expansion the Monorail is not the easiest form of transportation for all resort Guests, and it has not been further extended beyond the opening of EPCOT. In fact, the only updates at all that Disney World Guests have seen to the Monorail system, outside of routine maintenance was the upgrade to Mark VI trains in 1989 from the original Mark IV trains.
The same year the trains were last updated, Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened, and a year, early Disney’s opened along the Magic Kingdom loop. While Hollywood Studios as we know today never received transportation, it is not outlandish to think that Guests thought it was a possibility at the time. The only track record so far of the other two theme parks seemed to indicate that the would indeed be expanded if a new park opened.
By the time Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, and the Disney resort scene expanded throughout the 1980s and ’90s, it seemed safe to assume that the Monorail would never be expanded. Then, in 2019, the opening of the Disney Skyliner rejuvenated the possibility of a Monorail expansion in the minds of Disney fans. Here’s why we think it hasn’t happened.
It isn’t cost-effective. The Monorail has a high capacity to be sure, but it likely does not compare to the Disney Skyliner, which when fully operating is continually moving. Cost-effective theme park attractions and modes of transportation basically need to have high capacities to get as many Guests through the attraction and onto other parts of the park with minimal time spent waiting.
On top of the operation of a Monorail, it takes an entirely unique staffing situation. The Disney Skyliner is operated by Attractions Cast Members, the same as any other ride or show around the Walt Disney World Resort. And buses of course, are run by bus drivers, who can be staffed relatively easily (maybe not during the current labor shortage but in general) and would come prepared with previous experience. Monorails, while Disney of course provides training, is a much more specialized operation.
There have been rumors in the past that the reason why the Monorail has not been expanded has simply been because it is too expensive, and we can see the merit in this thought, but they are always accompanied by some absurd claim that the Monorail would cost $3 million per mile of track (or some other out there figure.) That isn’t exactly the case, but on the whole, we can see how expanding the Monorail may not be the best use of funds.
Where would you put the stations? Realistically, thinking of where to put the Monorail stations (and necessary storage facilities and maintenance bays for additional lines and trains) seems like quite the challenge. Sure, the Skyliner stations were added recently, but some of them took up space that had previously been Guest parking (with the exception of Disney’s Riviera Resort which was designed with the Skyliner in mind).
In the Monorail-less parks, like Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, parking is already at a premium during busier times of the year. During busy days at Hollywood Studios, for instance, Cast Members sometimes have to park at Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park and be bussed to the park for work. Adding a monorail station to this space then seems less than ideal.
Of course, one solution to the spacing issue would be to have the stations let Guests enter into a different area of the park, similar to EPCOT’s International Gateway. The problem with this however is the immersion that Imagineers worked so hard to create. While International Gateway seems to work well to wander into World Showcase, we aren’t sure the Monorail expansion would be worth bypassing the Tree of Life or Hollywood Boulevard.
It isn’t necessary. At the end of the day, if it seemed necessary, the expansion of the Monorail would probably be considered. Disney’s bus transportation system though is one of the most successful in the country when compared to any city transit (which is a fair comparison given the size of Disney’s fleet.) If the bus system is running successfully (at least from a business standpoint, your personal mileage of taking the bus may vary) then getting shareholders and executives to want to spend money on something seemingly unnecessary would not be an easy task.
Other projects take priority. Disney is not shy about spending money on new initiatives (you can look right to the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser for evidence of this.) And while the company likely has the funds to make a Monorail expansion possible, that money is likely better spent by being invested into maintenance for existing structures and new attractions and offerings.
We w0uld certainly not complain if the Walt Disney World Monorail System were expanded, but we do not see it as a possibility, at least not in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy taking the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, and trying out the newest mode of transportation at Walt Disney World with the Disney Skyliner!