Monorail At Disney World

The Disney Monorail And PeopleMovers / Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) That Never Were

The Two Stars Of Today’s Disney Transportation System

The star of this system is the surely the sleek monorail.  Since the resort opening in 1971, two monorail loops have connected the Ticket And Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom.  One loop is a direct connection between the ticket hub and the theme park.  This second track, located just a few feet away from the first, stops at all three resort hotels –Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.  The second monorail loop opened in 1982, connecting the Ticket And Transportation Center and the Epcot theme park.  Monorail trains which look a bit like futuristic bullet trains transport about 50,000,000 guests every year.

Another unique transportation system is in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom.  It’s had several names at over its history, including the People Mover and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  Open cars powered by electricity and magnets take to guests on a tour of Tomorrowland.

While millions of people enjoy these transportation systems every year, original plans were to greatly expand the futuristic transportation options at the Disney World Resort.

The Disney Monorail Expansion That Never Happened

Fritz at the Imagineering Disney website has written an incredible article (Source), complete with photos and illustrations, describing a planned expansion of Disney’s transportation system that never happened.  It was focused on the Disney Village.  In something of a prototype for building transporation for Epcot (the city).  in this plan, the Disney Village (now known as Disney Springs) was to get its own network of both monorails and PeopleMovers.

Disney World's monorail approaches the Magic Kingdom Station. Disney's Contemporary Resort is in the background.
Disney World’s monorail approaches the Magic Kingdom Station. Disney’s Contemporary Resort is in the background.

What is especially interesting about the people mover system was its unique design that is quite different from the one that still operates at Tomorrowland.  The concept was based on what we know today as a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT).  Some people have called PRT’s “horizontal elevators.”  A small number of people, typically 4 to 6, select a destination and then enter into an driverless individual car.  Based on advanced computer technology, the car then moves either on a track or designated roadway directly to its intended destination.

Disney World Tomorrowland People Mover
Disney World Tomorrowland People Mover

While the technology that operates a Personal Rapid Transit system seems very futuristic, the truth is that systems like this are in operation today.  In fact, a PRT system like this operates daily in the United States.  Since the mid 1970s the Morgantown, West Virginia PRT system has linked together several university campus locations.  Here is a short YouTube video of the West Virginia System.

While the West Virginia System has changed very little over the years, another PRT project is fairly new and has impressive plans for expansion.  The Masdar City PRT in located in the futuristic Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, which is located in the United Arab Emirates.  Masdar is a master planned city designed to be carbon neutral and run on solar and other renewable energies.  A PRT is also operating there daily.  And given that the city of Masdar is backed by the UAE government – which has plenty of money – odds seem good that the system will grow and become a test bed for the use of this technology on a wide scale.

Is There A New Monorail Or A New People Mover In Store For Disney World?

So many people look forward to a day when Disney actually does move forward with expanding its futuristic transportation system.  The Disney Internet forums light up occasionally with rumors about expansion.  Is this in the works?  Only the master planners, engineers, and executives at the Disney Company can answer the question.

There would be many challenges to overcome.  Some include construction on the Florida soils around the Disney resort.  Anchoring new beams can be difficult given the geology of the area.  However, that was something that Disney overcame in the past.

The bigger challenge is probably financial.  While the Disney Company certainly has the funds to build out these new systems, they also have an obligation to return profits to their shareholders.  Would building a new monorail somehow generate enough revenue to justify its cost and provide a financial return?  Sadly, the answer is probably no.  But it is these special projects at Disney, which are hard to measure quantitatively and financially, that give Disney its magical luster and allow it to charge higher prices and in turn make good profits.

Even though I join thousands of other diehard Disney fans in wishing for expansions of Disney’s monorail systems and Disney’s People Mover systems, it’s hard to see a plausible situation where that will happen anytime soon.  But, dreams do sometimes come true.