Planning for the Unexpected - Ride Breakdownsby Fred Hazelton, contributing writer
Theme park guests in 2015 have the priviledge of experiencing some of the most advanced and interesting feats of mechanical engineering and design over the last 50 years. However, as with any large-scale mechanical device, breakdowns are inevitable. In addition, attractions holding a few dozen of our favorite humans tend to demand a certain increased level of scrutiny.
We at TouringPlans.com help people plan, in great detail, a strategy for guests to experience the parks efficiently. But what does one do when grandma and the kids finally arrive at the entrance to Dumbo only to find devastation: "Temporarily closed"?
First, be aware that breakdowns happen—and they happen more often than you think. It is important that your travelling party knows that breakdowns are possible. Second, it is helpful to know which rides are more likely to break down. Here's a list (in order of likelihood), from Space Mountain, which breaks down about once every three days, to Haunted Mansion, which breaks down about once a week.
|Walt Disney World Resort (Florida)||Attractions Likely to Break Down (in order)|
Disney Hollywood Studios
|Disneyland Resort (California)|
Disney California Adventure
If any of these rides are on your itinerary, you can expect that one of them will be unavailable when you arrive at its entrance. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, these breakdowns are temporary. As likely as it is that one of these rides breaks down, it is equally as likely that it will be back up and running within half an hour.
So what should you do if a ride is down? The best strategy is to skip it; don't wait. Although the likelihood is for the attraction to back online within 30 minutes, you never actually know exactly how long it will take. So skip it—head to the next attraction on your touring plan. Once that is complete, take a peek to see of the broken attraction is back online. If so, go ahead and ride. The good news is that when a ride breaks down, the wait time right after it reopens is usually very short. If it is not back yet, skip it again until much later in the day.
TouringPlans users have the option of using LINES to plan for you. If a ride is broken down, skip it and re-optimize your touring plan to see when it makes sense to return.
Note: Cast members are intentionally tight-lipped about a ride breakdown. Asking "why is it offline?" and "how long until it is back online?" will likely get you nowhere. Partly because they don't want to make promises they can't keep and partly because they don't know the answers.
i dislike the term breakdown in these situations because it is misleading and implies something is broken. If they are slow dispatching rockets on Space Mtn and more are arriving than can fit in the load area, the ride stops. it is not broken, it is doing exactly what it is programmed to do. And on one shocking occasion, also at Space, the CM told me the problem and that it would be quickly fixed: Code V on the platform. But, yeah, The Tower of Terror could have flames shooting out the roof and they would say "we don't know what's gong on".
I think weather plays a big factor in attraction availability as well. While many outdoor attractions continue on if it is just raining, the moment lightening is in the area, they get shut down. Disney has protocols for this and it usually means that some attractions get put on hold for quite some time.
The biggest problem, though, is that when an attraction is temporarily down for any reason, it throws off a lot of things - especially fastpasses.
You just have to be flexible... move on, do something else, and come back later if you can.
It can be tough to "just skip it" if you've been in line for a while or your using a FP. Back in Nov, we had been in line for Radiator Springs Racers with a FP, already given up the FP tickets, and then the ride went down. There was no way we were getting out of line. We only ended up waiting about 10 minutes before it was up and running again, but it was a risk. Do we wait and possibly blow half an hour for a ride that never comes back online? Or do we immediately jump out and blow it because the ride comes back quickly. It's a decision I really hate making.
I think the "skip it" part is mainly for when you have yet to enter a ride. When you are in line at a standstill, you usually dont know the nature of the delay, etc.
We have a tradition in our family... Peter Pan's Flight is our first ride and also our last. At our most recent trip (Dec '14) it was time for that last ride after 8 more-or-less glorious days. We were all agreed that this was it, and after this we were going back to the hotel. Of course, half-way through the queue, it goes down. Hard down. We could hear the in-ride announcement about staying in the ships and not attempting to get off of them. Good times. My husband and I waited with the kids, partially because we could see 3 mechanics on the platform and MOSTLY because our son had fallen asleep in his arms (he's 8 and has Autism, and was really really needing Peter's Flight). So our dilemma was a bit more complicated than "move on". We couldn't get out of the queue carrying a sleeping 8-yr old anyway, so we waited some more. After about 20 minutes, the ships started to move sporadically and they were off-loading people, but not re-loading. And our son slept on. The queue had gradually emptied, and we had a bit more room to move. My husbands arms were near exhaustion, and I remember looking at each other with that question in our eyes... what will happen when he wakes and we've missed that last ride? The few of us that had remained in the queue heard the mechanics agree "that should do it... test the cycle"... which resulted in a very large cheer as the boats began to cycle empty, but smoothly. That cheer woke up our son, and within another 10 minutes or so, we were cozied in our ship, taking in that last gasp of wonder and love as we flew over Neverland. I felt sheer GRATITUDE for the mechanics and CM's who had gotten the ride back online so quickly (relatively speaking).
Anyway, long story, but one that will always stick in my memories. Been on Pirates several times when it's gone down ... and HM once, and RSR once (still in queue), so I guess we've been pretty lucky over all the trips!
My family figures that it is going to happen. We just leave and do something else, then check back later. No biggie for us.
I knew Space goes down if they aren't quick enough to load and move. I recently learned RSR has the same 30 second window. My friends' son exited towards the load side and shut the ride down. (Aspie, with bad vision.)
We've had good luck and haven't really had to deal with too many rides going down while we were en route to them or in line for them. On our most recent trip to Florida, something went down while we were in line -- the FastPass line, no less -- and we told that we could come back later in the day and use our FastPass+ at any time up until closing. It worked, too. Tapped our MagicBands and walked right in.
I've always wanted to be evacuated from Spaceship Earth when we're at the very top. Have all the lights come on, and get directed to the emergency exit stairs. Other than the upper parts of the roller coasters, I think it would be fun to be evacuated from almost any of the rides. Alas, the only ride we were ever evacuated from was it's a small world, and we were almost back to the loading platform when they evacuated us, so we only had to walk a short distance along a walkway next to the water to get out.
I am a weird one. I hope for rides to go down and require me to be evacuated off the ride. Not because it causes problems but it gives me a chance to see behind the scenes. I wish that they would offer a behind the scenes tour for those of us that want to see all the inner workings of the beast and not just the showy behind the scenes. Had a great experience on the people mover many years ago for this.
That's my philosophy too! We always say that anyone can go on a ride when it's working, but only a small number get to see it behind the scenes. We've been evacuated from Splash Mountain and Big Thunder (on the same day, about 15 min apart), and also Alice a loooong time ago. We've also been on Indy when it went down briefly, then they ran us through with the lights on and offered to let us stay on again so we could go through with all of the effect working. But really, that's not a lot given the number of visits we've made.
Having worked both Rides and Maintenance combined for 20 plus years (for a different theme park company) I have experienced my fair share of downtime. So here is the "general rule" of advise I give the "Coaster Enthusiast" community when experiencing a technical difficulty while waiting in line.
The 20 minute rule of theme park downtime.
There is a certain "sunk cost" to waiting in line and it best not to waste it needlessly.
If the total queue length is less than 20 minutes (example January at WDW) and the ride goes down, then bail out and go hit some other ride. Don't waste any more time.
If the line is longer than 20 minutes and the ride goes down then hang out for another 20 minutes and reassess the situation. You will be amazed at how many people will bail out of the line and you will move closer to the loading area. If they start to cycle empty vehicles within the 20 minute time frame then that's a great sign.
The majority of downtime is caused by minor nuisance issues.
Some common examples
Guests pushing their way thru a closed entrance gate
Accidental E-Stop (or ride stop, lift stop, station stop, or ride lock-out switch) because they dropped the clipboard (or park phone, or microphone etc) on the control panel.
Intentional ride stoppage due to Guest behavior (think California Screamin + selfie stick a few weeks back) or Guest tries to retrieve their lost article a from danger zone via climbing the fence.
Operator claims to hear an "unusual noise" and ever since the Big Thunder Mountain incident you better investigate.
Guest takes too long to board the ride vehicle, or asks to get off right before dispatching
Projectile vomit cleanup, FYI more people vomit on hot days then cold days (just one more reason to visit during the off season)
Earlier this spring, we were in line for Casey Jr. Circus Train at Disneyland when the ride stopped trying to climb up the hill. So much for "I think I can ..."
There are quite a few with this. Something as simple as a family arguing over who is going to sit where has caused Matterhorn to go down. Rides I know have a limited load time are: Matterhorn, Space, BTMRR, Screamin', RSR, Goofy's Sky Skool, and I believe Indy.
We got walked off Buzz yesterday because some woman climbed out and wouldn't follow direstions, she stepped on a sensor. Re-admit actually had Buzz written in on it, and was only good for Buzz. (Paper ticket)
Peter Pan went down while we were in line yesterday, waited just a little while and moved on Outer part of queue.
Peter Pan went down today, we were way inside the inner queue, kind of stuck and really wanting to ride. They spent at least 30 minutes trying to get it back online. Then they cleared the queue. Some of the CMs were giving paper re-admits to the outside queue. We ended up with one scanned to my AP for all 3 of us. She said good for anything. We were a bit confused, so asked a second CM for clarification, she directed us to a lead who had a scanner in his hand, as he could see what the first CM loaded to my card. He loaded a second, good for ANYTHING. We headed for RSR. Quick stop at Soarin' for a regular FP. We asked the girl at RSR, she said I had one good for the whole resort, and one good only for DL. Interestingly, at RSR they scanned it at the entrance and again at the umbrella. We used the second at Space, scanned at the entrance, and handed a laminated card with party size written on it, that was given at the podium.
New experience, thought I would share, as it really threw us.