Disneyland opened the first daily operating monorail in the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and when Walt Disney World (WDW) opened in 1971, it followed suit with its own monorail system.
The original WDW track was (well, still is) a loop that featured four stations: the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC – it’s also the location of the main parking lot for WDW guests), Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the Magic Kingdom, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This loop was built as a dual beam so monorails could travel in either direction. In this case, the Resort Monorail, which stops at all 5 stops (the original 4, plus the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa when it opened in 1988), runs clockwise, and the Express Monorail, which only stops between the TTC and the Magic Kingdom, runs counterclockwise.
When Epcot opened in 1982, another single-beam monorail route was built to shuttle people between the new park and the TTC. But those are the only two monorail tracks ever built at WDW.
Ever wonder why?
Of course, most people would say, “It’s too expensive!” In fact, that’s what I’ve always said, too. And to be honest, anyone who said that would be 100% correct. But it’s really more than just cost…
Besides how much money it would be to extend the monorail further, there are lots of other (granted, smaller) reasons that mainly have to do with what WDW was planned to be in the 1970s into the 1980s, and what it actually turned into. Take a look at this video – it explains a lot of the minutiae…
Pretty cool, huh? 🙂
Over the years, Disney’s problems with congestion on the roads finally got the better of them, and they built what they call their Disney Skyliner. It’s a gondola lift system that opened in September 2019.
Each gondola can hold up to 10 guests (or up to 6 if there’s a person in the gondola who’s using a wheelchair or an Electric Convenience Vehicle/ECV/scooter).
The Disney Skyliner has 3 routes:
- The Epcot line connects Epcot, the Riviera Resort and the Caribbean Beach Resort
- The Hollywood Studios line connects Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- The Art of Animation & Pop Century line connects the Caribbean Beach Resort and an area accessible to both the Art of Animation and Pop Century Resorts
The Skyliner has 300 cars and it’s been estimated it can carry about 4,500 people per hour. However, it does close in the event of inclement weather (such as the monsoons Central Florida has nearly every day in the summertime. Sitting for an hour in a gondola. Good times. Although to Disney’s credit, they do have emergency kits stored in each gondola, so guests stuck on them have drinkable water, glow sticks, cool packs, etc.)
Disney doesn’t release financial info, but based on known costs of other gondola systems worldwide, it’s been estimated that the Skyliner cost roughly $33 million to build. Compared to the price of new monorail tracks that would cover 2 major theme parks and 4 hotels, $33M is a bargain!
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