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Alex Stroup and Kevin Yee
Reader reViews!
- Fastpass Station
Disney's FastPass
-
  DISNEY'S FASTPASS 
- Blessing or a Curse?

Readers React:
The reViewing continues with the readers!
 

Reader reViews for 6 /27/00

Gentlemen,

I enjoyed your debate on the merits and flaws of the Fastpass system in use at Disneyland and WDW. As you solicited feedback at the end of the article, I'd like to add my 2 or 3 cents to the mix.

Another potential downside to Fastpass is the fact that theme parks across the nation for years have been posting signs stating that "line jumping" or "cutting" is cause for removal from the park. Indeed, it infringes deeply on our sense of fairness and justice when people cut in line. We'd like to believe that somewhere is a park employee who will put a stop to that bad behavior. What kind of effect does it have on a guest's morale when the park not only endorses it, but has a "program" officially sanctioning it? Like you mentioned in the debate, the benefit is gained on the backs of the unsuspecting "honest" guest who stands in the regular line because, well, that's what you're supposed to do, right? And making a few guests happy at the expense of pissing of a few hundred that they are passing by in the standby line isn't really worth it, is it? Those hundreds of pissed off people aren't going to be eager to buy merchandise.

I'd like to suggest a way that the concept of Fastpass could be expanded so as to actually work. How? By using a little "vacation planning" methodology in the day's visit. Instead of getting your Fastpass one at a time and having to wait to ride that attraction at your designated time (not being able to participate in Fastpass again until after you've used that slot up), guests could have a kiosk or receiving area at which the Fastpass computer could generate a list of rides and times for the whole day for them. They get a printout with a barcode. It's an itinerary for their day.

Of course, anyone could skip this altogether and just stand in lines the old fashioned way. The advantage here is that the system:

a. wouldn't have to ultimately include everyone in order to operate at peak efficiency.

b. Disney could market it as a "day planning" feature of your stay at the park, rather than a "cut in line free" feature.

Thoughts, if any?

-Andy
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Dear Andy, 

You're right that "line jumping" is not something the honest Guest wants to do. It just feels wrong.

Oh, I agree that a fully-reserved system would solve most of the problems I outlined last week. But - and this is a big but - that opens up a whole new set of problems.

Most importantly, I don't *want* a fully reserved day at Disneyland. That's not fun and escapism anymore... that's darting about with a determination to have fun that actually ends up torpedoing the very idea of fun. Reminds me of Chevy Chase's original "Vacation," actually. Overplanning is no fun at all.

- Kevin
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Alex had written: ".... My fear (my only major one) is that if FastPass becomes too widespread and too popular then Disney will simply stop theming queue areas ...."

Where have you been? At Disneyland they stopped theming queue areas around 1996. Indy (1995) was the last themed queue area!

Steve
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Dear Steve,

The fear that I was speaking of (admittedly ambiguous) was that Disney would stop theming queue areas for existing rides. As for whether Disney has stopped queueing themed rides I think that is a bit of an overstatement. Very few of Disneyland's rides have extensive queue theming. 

Most of the queues with theming consists more of atmosphere building than story telling. The Splash Mountain queue, for example. Indy was also the last ride installed at DL that was worthy of full theming. As we rhapsodize over Disneyland's wonderful queues we need to remember that many attractions are queued any differently than if they were at any other park (The Matterhorn, most of the dark rides in Fantasyland).

- Alex
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Will FastPass cause chaos in the future? Undoubtedly. Should it be premium price? Oh yeah. But did it work for my on my trip (May 26,27,29)? Darn tootin' it did.

I loved FastPass. It's a blessing thus far. My family arrived at the park, and strolled through the "left" side, Adventureland, etc. After a quick ride on Indy (this was the early morning), I took my little sister through Tarzan (Robinson's were cooler, and the CM I talked with agreed) while my parents when to grab us reservations at the Blue Bayou for 3 pm. I met back up with them, and we then went to get FastPasses for Splash. 2:30 pm. Is that sweet deal or what?

We rode Pirates, the Mansion, a couple of dark rides, and hung out at Tom Sawyer. Then we waited five minutes for Splash and ate an excellent dinner. It was one of the finest days we'd ever spent at the park. In addition, at Roger the next day (one my favorite rides - and my second favorite movie of all time), we fastpassed it, but when the time came, we decided we didn't feel like riding.

So we gave our FastPass tickets away to someone in the line (which was stretching outside). Man, you should've seen the look of sheer and utter joy on these people's faces when we gave them Willy Wonka's (Judge Doom's?) Golden Tickets. Now that's what Disneyland is all about - pure happiness. And FastPass let us experience it to the extreme.

-John
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Dear John, 

John, I'm glad that FastPass worked for you. I'll just reiterate that with proper tinkering I feel FastPass can continue to work for everybody and become part of Disneyland cutlure. As for giving your tickets away if you aren't going to use them, that is a fabulous idea. We did that with Splash Mountain on a recent trip and it made four people very happy!

- Alex
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As a former math major and WDW attractions CM / Lead, I'd say that Kevin's got this issue just about right.

Consider this mathematically:

x = people entering line in an hour
y = people riding in that hour (ride capacity)

Therefore,

x - y = excess number of people wanting to ride an attraction in that hour.

That makes:

((x-y)/y)*60 = avg. minutes of wait time for attraction (let's call that "z")

Of course, the park isn't open for just one hour a day. Therefore, we have to consider:

w = the carryover of number of people waiting who didn't get to ride in the previous hour

Which makes the wait time equation:

z = ((w+x-y)/y)*60

The only way to reduce wait time (z) is to increase (y) or reduce (x). (w is dependent on the number of people left over from the previous hour, so it can't be reduced unless you change x or y.)

This is why the line for Thunder can be longer a few minutes after opening than it is later in the morning, 'cause the operators haven't yet increased the ride's capacity by bringing all the trains on the track (which reduces wait by increasing y). It's also why the line for many attractions decrease during the parade, or at the end of the day (which reduces wait as x decreases due to people going see the parade or leaving for the day).

Getting to Fastpass, let's apply the wait time equation to the entire park, rather than a single attraction. The equation stays the same, but now we are looking at aggregate ride capacity, and aggregate average wait time across the park.

Under Fastpass: 

(y) stays the same. (I guess this could increase, if FP allowed CMs to load ride units faster, but I haven't seen that. If anything, FP might DECREASE y, if the best CMs spend less time at the load positions because of the larger FP position rotation.)

(x) decreases, as some people get their Fastpass reservation and bail out of line.

(w) increases, as FP holders now wait to ride in the next hour(s), when their FP ressie comes up.

So in aggregate, wait time (z) stays the same, as the decrease in x cancels out the increase in w.

But wait a minute (pun intended).

For people in the standby line, wait time might increase, as the capacity of the ride (y) is cut for them, due to their line being held up to let the FP holders ride. If the percentage of time in an hour that management holds the standby line is greater than the percentage of riders in that hour who request a FP, the standby guests lose. (Otherwise, the FP holders lose. Yeah, right.)

Also, FP holders don't all just wait patiently for their ressie while spending their money in Disney stores (as much as management would like them to). Many of them go on other, non-FP, rides while they wait.

So x doesn't decrease by as much as w increases, after all. In fact, if FP holders spend as much time going to attractions as they would without FP (even if they are different attractions), x stays the same.

So with x staying the same, or perhaps decreasing slightly, w increasing and y staying the same, that means FP results in MORE wait time for guests - in aggregate - than they had before. If total time spent in the park by guests stays the same, that means guests will experience FEWER attractions under FP than without. (Or, if they want to keep their attraction time constant, it means less time shopping or eating. Which won't make Michael and Paul happy.) And remember, total wait time increases DRAMATICALLY for people who don't use FP.

So where's the benefit?

For some people, FP will encourage them to stay in the park longer, to fulfill that FP ressie for later in the evening than they originally intended to stay. That means more time available for eating and shopping, as well as attractions.

And if the illusion of "saving time" attracts more people to the parks, Disney earns more money at the gate.

Of course, some FP holders will benefit, at least initially. Especially if managers hold the standby lines for an excessive period of time, in order to move large number of FP holders through the attractions so those FP holders can clear their ressies and make new ones. But the decrease in their wait times always comes at the expense of an increase in wait times in the standby lines.

And if everyone uses FP, then there's no standby line to rob from, and the number of attractions you can ride during a day decreases for everyone. Especially once you factor in the inefficiency of people missing ressie times, and their ride slots going unused.

To combat that, Disney would have to attempt to regain efficiency by overbooking, and hoping that a certain percentage of people don't show up each hour. Just like the airlines. (Gulp!)

Any way you look at it, FP promises more attractions for your time in the park, while actually delivering less. In a way, it's Disney's ultimate illusion.

Perhaps Walt really would be proud after all...

Nah.

-Robert
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Dear Robert,

I included your mail not because I understand your mathematical proof of my points, but precisely because I do not understand it. I'm not equipped, so to speak, to say whether you're right or not.

Of course, the fact that I agree with you across the board also made me happy to pass along your comment. :) 

- Kevin
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Hi Guys!

I enjoyed your "argument" over the merits of the FastPass.

I have had the opportunity in the last 7 months to visit both WDW and DL so I have experienced FastPass at both locations.

My basic reaction is that I like it. But I liked it for different reasons.

At WDW, FastPass allowed me to make sure I got a ride on a particular attraction with the added benefit of not having to spend as much time in line. This was important since I was visiting WDW from the West Coast with my family and it was probably the only trip we will make (at least for the next 10 years or so.) As such I wanted to see as much as possible and getting on all the E-ticket rides wasn't as critical as seeing and appreciating the differences from DL. As a short time visitor, the FastPass seemed to let me maximize my time and choices in the park.

At DL (where we visit as often as possible from Nor Cal) FastPass was an opportunity to get on a ride (Splash Mountain or Space Mountain) where experiencing the queue was not as important. Using FastPass allowed me and my kids to experience some attractions that we often overlook during a busy day (Mark Twain and Columbia, Walt Disney Story and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Storybook Canals.) When my kids knew that they were going to get the E-ticket ride they so desperately wanted, they were open to my suggestions for other attractions; even if that E-ticket ride was 6 hours away.

I think at DL a lot of the people in the stand-by line are teenagers who are mostly focused on thrill rides. If that's the case, let them stand in line. They aren't always there to appreciate many of the truly special attractions that make Disneyland so great.

From my point, I love lines that are well queued. I don't think I would ever give up the line for Indy just to get to the ride quicker. Many times I am disappointed when the line is moving too quickly. Experiencing Indy begins when I walk past the CM's checking children for appropriate height. I know that this opinion is not shared by everyone; many people just want to get on the ride.

The problems with FastPass are not much different than the problems that surfaced when DL went to the passport. Under the old ticket system, there was a better spreading of guests to all attractions since they had tickets to use in all categories. People rode the vehicles on Main Street because there was a ticket in the ticket book. When passports started, the lines were always longer on the big attractions because no one had to "allocate" their choice of attractions. I think FastPass will help to spread guests to all the attractions.

Thanks for all your great work. Keep it up.

C. Murray
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Dear C. Murray,

Thanks for calling attention to the similarity with the passport system. Indeed, we recognize that FastPass may revolutionize things the way the Passport system had. 

I do agree that FastPass will be spreading people out. That's part of my thesis that "total minutes in line for the whole day remains the same post-Fastpass era."

- Kevin -

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Hi Alex and Kevin,

I think that Fastpass at DL is a failure. If one wants to ride on Splash Mountain, inevitably the return time is hours and hours away. One afternoon recently, it was closed for the night as there were no more times available, which meant either skipping the ride (we did) or waiting for two hours - something that never happened pre-Fastpass.

If you get a Fastpass with a six to eight hour return time, which is very common on Splash, (get a Fastpass at 3 pm and the window is between 10:45 to 11:45) then you are blocked from any further Fastpasses for the rest of the day! What is the benefit in that?

We then wait for hours in lines much longer than pre-Fastpass for Roger Rabbit, Space Mountain, Indy, etc. I think the system was great on paper (I am an accountant and it makes sense until it is put into use by real people) but is an extreme failure in practice.

I would like to see them abandon the system, but I doubt they will. At the very least, they need a very major overhaul of the system. Perhaps they should allow multiple Fastpasses? I have read that many of the attractions at DCA will have Fastpass, so I think they are fairly committed to using this system.

Just my two cents on the subject. Thanks for your reviews. I really enjoy them and appreciate the time you spend writing them.

Janice
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Dear Janice,

You've expressed an idea here that I've received from several other people, and frankly I don't really understand it. You don't seem to think that a FastPass has any value unless you can get one for several rides simultaneouly. This strikes me as saying, in a way, that if you can't have all the candy in the store you don't want any. That only makes sense if the only thing you are going to do all day is ride FastPass rides.

If, however, you like to do all of the smaller attractions as well, you get to spend the eight hours doing less used attractions while, in a manner, standing in line at the e-ticket attraction. Seems like a good bargain to me, but then I don't place as much focus on the e-tickets as many do.
- Alex

Hi Janice,

Well, Alex may disagree, but I agree entirely with your points. There might be a benefit to some of the people some of the time, but on the whole FastPass is just as fair as waiting in line, when you look at the macro picture. Only FP claims to make things better, so that's misleading.

- Kevin
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I also think that the fastpass system is flawed in its current state. As a former cast member, the best example of this is when backdoor passes are issued after a ride breakdown. I'm using splash as an example (this is circa 96, the rules have undoubtedly changed):

When a ride goes down, everyone on the ride is given a pass to come back later. This sometimes is expanded to the people in the queue, although you end up having to write an extreme amount of passes to each group. What now happens is that when the ride reopens, a rush of people flood the exit, which creates a second line (in addition to the regular one). So now you have to accommodate the readmission pass people (who were told they would be able to return without waiting), in addition to the regular line (not to mention wheelchairs and special assistant passes). So you slow down the regular line, but even then, you have to be fair to the people who were fortunate to sneak up right at the reopening. Basically, chaos ensues, as you try to get rid of all the backdoors and still not anger the regulars in line.

The worst case of this would be when there was a park wide power outage that effectively shut down every ride, if only for a few minutes. Suddenly everything has to be evacuated, and people given passes. But if everyone is given a pass, those passes are suddenly rendered worthless. We used the analogy of printing up more money to deal with economic problems. Once it becomes commonplace, it is no longer "special" or helpful. Your passes are devalued, and your supposed advantage is erased. This wil be the legacy of fastpass if it is shoehorned into every existing attraction.

I am not totally against it. I'm all for it when it is designed into new and upcoming rides (as i have heard will happen in DCA). But to taint such beautiful queues such as Indy, which is an attraction in itself, destroys the sense of a "theme" park. Why settle for exploring an ancient Indian temple when you can wait in an African boathouse (oops, don't worry about theming there) for your ticket to waltz past the setup for the story? True, most people won't really care about missing it, but it's just one more example of shortchanging the regular tourist (they won't notice, so we can cut corners)...

Michael
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Dear Michael,

I love the analogy of "printing money to fix the economy." Anyone with a portfolio will tell you that inflation renders the otherwise impressive gains useless. And Fastpass, once everyone has it, really is just the same thing! Beautiful metaphor, thank you kindly for it. 

- Kevin
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Awesome article!! I feel Fast Pass is both a blessing and a curse. Indy getting Fast Pass, though, is one of the worst ideas ever. Half the fun of the ride was the awesome queue area and I really didn't mind waiting in, and that was when it first opened. For FP to be there is horrible, ruining 1/2 the experience.

Now I've only been to DL once in 95' but I've been to WDW 9 times and FP had its flaws and plusses there too. Rock and Roller Coaster, I never waited in the "Cattle" outdoor queue, I'd get my FP, go for a short wait for Tower of Terror come out and It would usually be right in time to walk on. And every time it was not over a 5 min wait. FP on Test Track was a waste the one time I used it because 5 times I waited, 5 times it broke down for over 10 mins. FP for shows like "Honey..." is good so you kind of have a ticket for the show and won't get cut off in line to wait thru a whole other one.

But for Space Mtn. in WDW is horrible!!! I loved the awesome cheezy 70's-esque queue, but now you only line up in standby up to the "Cattle" queues inside and miss pretty much all the new-ish video preshow and can't see the coaster in motion up there. That was my biggest complaint.

But all in all, FP should be reserved for new rides only and shouldn't mess with the classics. Waiting is 1/2 the fun (afterwards I always think so). You lose a lot of spontaneity by being on Disney's schedule not your own. I liked not having to think about checking my watch and having to get back to the ride on the other side of the park. And you loose the "bonding" you get while in line of simple chat.

Thanks,

Kurt
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Dear Kurt, 

Where would the teens be without lines for the flirting? Hehe, but I do agree with you for the most part. As for breakdowns, the jury is still out whether FastPass can deal effectively with such situations. That, at least, is something I think they can fix operationally rather than needing a theoretical re-thinking.

- Kevin
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I LOVE Fastpass. Let me explain. Before Fastpass, I would almost never ride Splash in the summer, lines were too long. Now, I just grab a Fastpass in the morning and I'm set. Instead of waiting over an hour in line at Splash, I'm off to the Mansion or Pirates (Yo ho).

Let me also say that this is a VERY good deal for Disney as well. Guests do spend more time shopping, eating, and visiting the previously less popular attractions when they have an open Fastpass. Take a look at the shops in Bear Country on a busy day or the Star Trader in Tommorowland.

I certainly hope that all major attractions get Fastpass soon. And thank god DCA will have it from the start. May be the only way to ride the big ticket attractions there. Thanks guys, nice to read a good argument once in a while.

-Dusty
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Dear Dusty, 

There were a lot of emails like this. Both Alex and I agree that Fastpass, the way things are working right now, is a great deal. Our problem with it is that the system is being expanded (which alters the way things would work) and that the system works now by being unfair to others who are not using it.

- Kevin
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FastPass is absolutely flawed in its current state. The problems we're identifying now will only worsen as FastPass grows in popularity.

You mentioned the lengthy Standby lines, which is one problem. I'm amazed at the number of guests willing to wait 90 minutes for an attraction. I'm certainly not one of them.

I'm also receiving reports from guests who aren't happy that their FastPass return times are 5 hours later in the day (bearing in mind that without cheating the system, guests can't hold more than one FP at a time). Similarly, there have been times when Test Track FPs have been "sold out" by noon or even earlier. Guests who aren't fortunate enough to get there in time have two choices -- skip the attraction altogether, or spend two hours in the Standby line. Would either choice make YOU a happy guest?

Something else you touched on but didn't go into detail about was the total length of time one might actually spend using the FP system from start to finish. I've been in situations where the line just to pick up a FastPass was 15-20 minutes long. Then you wait another 15-20 minutes in line upon returning. So in the end, you've spend 30-40 minutes in line -- which is often what you would've spent in line anyway in the days before FP!

These problems will continue to grow as more people figure out how to use FastPass. Gone are the days of FP saving us "insiders" lots of time. Here in Florida, Disney is heavily advertising the system -- which I think is a mistake. Considering the current flaws, they need to back off the marketing for a while and figure out some solutions.

Personally, I'm in favor of limiting FastPass usage to Annual Passholders and Disney resort guests. I recognize that this will be unpopular since the system has been free for everyone to use since day one, but Disney has to do SOMETHING to cut back on the number of people using it. I'm not keen on them charging extra for it -- park admission is expensive enough already, and has steadily increased in price over the years at a rate well above inflation. But making it a benefit of buying an AP or staying on-site (like Early Entry and the use of Disney transportation are supposed to be) seems fair.

ParrotHead
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Dear ParrotHead,

You bring up a couple of good points that need to be considered. You are correct, in that during peak summer days people who arrive at the park much after opening may have no opportunity at FastPass.

I don't know if there are an easy way to fix this. The most obvious means would be to put a limit on how advanced the return times can get (say, four hour return time, max). But this would just lead to people lurking around the machines waiting for them to turn back on. Which brings us to your second important point, waiting in line to get a FastPass. This is unbearable. Any wait over two minutes is unacceptable. 

Unfortunately many people seem to find the operation of the FastPass machines incomprehensible. Then, if anything goes wrong with the machine you have to wait until the - usually - solitary CM comes to the rescue. I must admit that I have, on occasion solved the problem through cheating. I'm not proud of it, and now, by admitting it here, I will never be on the Supreme Court.

- Alex
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Duelers,

I enjoyed your debate on Fastpass. It's nice to see a rational argument without a lot of emotional antics.

Of course, I can only speak from my own experience, but my last two trips to WDW, both which involved Fastpass, were the two best trips I've had over the past 14 years. FP was a direct catalyst for this increased enjoyment. My overall wait time for the week was far, far less, and I was able to see many more attractions than I normally would.

As for the spontaneity issue, FP freed me up to do things I wouldn't normally do. For example. Normally upon hitting Frontierland, I would head to Splash, and line up for, say 60 minutes. Then I'd take 2 hours to do other things before heading off to another land. However, last time, I got a FP with a 3 hour return time. So I had 3 hours to spend in FL, on Tom Sawyer, Big Thunder, keel boats, leisurely lunch, and just looking around more, etc. Then I returned to Splash and was on in about five minutes. So I gained about 40 minutes of touring time in that 3 hours and 20 minutes (15 for the ride), and didn't have to shuffle through a boring line feeling my back stiffen up from all the slow walking. I was so much happier, and more importantly, less cranky from not waiting in line.

When I grab a FP I feel emancipated, as if I have this free time with which I can now explore, and don't have to run off to other attractions.

As for the awful stand-by queues. At WDW, the Splash queue is just the normal one, as is Jungle, Space, TZTOT, RnR, Countdown, Star Tours and Test Track. Most of these are split lines anyway. When you're talking about awful stand-by lines, I guess you are referring to DL, which I can't speak to.

At one point, one of you said something to the effect that if "all those people had taken reservations, (the line) would have been even worse." (which line?) But I thought there was only a finite number of FPs, so all those people could not have taken FP.

As for the number of rides in a day dropping, I'm sorry but I don't see that. At WDW, I got to ride just as many rides as a normally would. I could still go stand-by if I wanted, and ride the same number of times. I don't see why the number would drop from 10 to 6. If anything, it increased the number. Normally, for example, I would have to line up 30 minutes each for RnR and TZTOT. This time, I grabbed a RnR FP with a 30 minutes return time. I lined up for TZTOT and was off the ride in 30 minutes (the stand-by line seemed a bit shorter than normal), and was on RnR very quickly. So, instead of 60 minutes of wait time, I had 35 minutes of wait time. And as my opening window time for my RnR FP hit, I could grab another FP to RnR or TZTOT if I wanted.

Instead of lining up ad naseum for WDW Space, I grabbed an FP, rode Alien, Timekeeper, Buzz, and returned for Space and walked right on. The wait times for the other rides were not any longer than other years when I've been there the same week. In fact, they seemed to be a bit shorter.

As for the debate on whether FP increases the stand-by time, a CM at WDW Space told me it has actually decreased stand-by time, while a CM at RnR told me it had increased stand-by time (although his logic seemed flawed since he insisted that every single person who got a FP are people who would never, ever have ridden the ride without it. Thus, on a ride with a 1,600 person per hour capacity, and an 80/20 percent FP/stand-by load split, you still have those 1,600 people per hour trying to get on without FP, whereas the 1,300 FP people are completely new people.) So who knows.

Again, thanks for the debate. I enjoy your column.

Wayne
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Dear Wayne, 

There were also plenty of emails saying similar things to you; that FastPass actually increases spontaneous action. In retrospect, I'm willing to concede that point.

Not that I'm suddenly the biggest FastPass cheerleader mind you. I'm conceding the battle in order to win the war. :)
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We want your feedback! Mail us both by clicking here .

Note: We're always happy to read your further comments, but our next mail column will center around the subsequent reView topic, and not any longer on this one.

 
Dual Reviews

Alex and Kevin debate current events and review Disney books.

This column is about opinions; unfortunately, we don't know any important Disney insiders so they are just our opinions. We are bringing this column to you as two ordinary Disney fans, much like yourself. We hope you enjoy and respond .

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