Note: This article was written in December, 2018. Here are some pertinent updates since it was originally posted:
April 5, 2019 UPDATE
August 9, 2019 UPDATE: A look at MCO’s new train terminal
April 5, 2019 UPDATE: More info on the possibility of Virgin Trains connecting MCO and WDW
Disney’s Magical Express (DME) was founded in 2005 and is a private ground transportation and luggage service delivery for Walt Disney World Resort (WDW) operated by Mears Transportation Group. The service is complimentary and is only available to guests with reservations at one of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels.
It’s also, I think, one of the most ingenious ideas a Disney “think tank” person ever came up with. Prior to 2005, travelers arriving in Central FL had a choice of shuttle, taxi, car service or rental car to get to WDW – and when you factor in the cost, especially of that a shuttle or private car for multiple people in their party vs. the cost of a rental car, many opted for a rental car because it was about the same price and gave you more freedom to come and go as you pleased. But however they got to Disney back then, guests still had to pay for that transportation and, of course, transport their own luggage. DME, meanwhile, is a free service and they’re able to take your bags and deliver them to your room. Overall, DME has become a very popular mode of transportation to millions of people every year.
Of course, although it’s a free service to guests, DME obviously costs Disney a LOT of money – besides whoever/whatever they have to pay to do all that the logistical stuff, they also have to pay MCO a certain amount per person for allowing the service at the airport, Mears for transporting guests back and forth, and extra people to transport the bags to and from Disney’s resort hotels, as well. However offering a free service like that encourages people to not pay the expense of renting a car while in Central FL, which, in turn, quietly encourages them to not leave Disney property (beginning to charge for overnight parking in 2018 has been another way to encourage guests to not rent a car, as they now incur a fee to park it). Guests staying at Disney property means more money for Disney in terms of food, park tickets, souvenirs, etc. that might otherwise go to other theme parks, off-property restaurants and shopping areas, etc.
But what if a new mode of transportation was coming down the pike that could be cheaper for Disney than DME, and still encouraged guests to stay on property? Well, it could eventually be happening…
Discussion of a high speed rail system that connects the greater Orlando area to other cities in Florida have been going on for years. It’s stalled a bajillion times. However in the past couple of years, a newbie entered the playing field, and it’s an express intercity high-speed rail system called Brightline (although not for long because Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has recently bought it out and it’ll soon be called Virgin Trains USA). Here are a few things that have happened:
- Brightline now connects Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
- Brightline has been approved to start negotiations with FDOT (Florida Department of Traffic) and CFX (they own the rail lines) to connect that route with Orlando, at the currently-being-built Terminal C of Orlando International Airport.
- Further down the line (you see what I did there?), they are considering adding a stop in Tampa, as well.
- If that were to happen, a stop at Walt Disney World could potentially be in the works, as well, since it’s on the way, anyway.
Here’s a map of some of the proposed locations, from the SEC website:
Obviously, since it would be a “Phase 2” and “Phase 1” is still being planned and negotiated, we’re talking about something that is potentially years and years away. But I’d suspect a high speed rail between MCO and WDW would be faster (for guests) and cheaper (for WDW) than the current DME system of transporting guests and their luggage.
Of course should it come to pass, how to make this system seamless, especially in terms of transporting luggage and then how to get guests to their respective hotels once they get to WDW would need to be worked out. But I’d think those would be relatively small details, especially for a company like Disney.
Still and all, I think a rail system might be a viable alternative to, if not an outright replacement of DME, don’t you think?
Time will tell…
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary