A recent article posted by Disney expert Jim Hill shares the real reason that Walt Disney World is revitalizing the Downtown Disney (DTD) entertainment complex.
DTD is a shopping, dining and nightclub complex at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista Florida. The complex includes the Disney Village Marketplace, The West side and the shuttered Pleasure Island.
Jim Hill shares the information that the main reason for the revitalization is not to create a better pedestrian flow through the complex, to revitalize the now closed Pleasure Island or to update the facilities.
Rather Hill reports that the real reason for the revitalization is traffic. It seems that Disney guest surveys have discovered that former DTD patrons, especially locals, have stopped visiting the complex because of the horrible traffic tie-ups that exist at the I4 exit ramps, on Hotel Plaza Boulevard and while trying to find a parking space at DTD.
This Examiner, while working 25 years for the Walt Disney World Company, experienced, was not surprised that traffic itself is the issue. Disney has, due to an unwillingness to spend the necessary money on infrastructure has brought this problem on itself.
Walt and his designers’ original plans for Walt Disney World included a very bold statement that there would be no traffic lights on Disney property. The thinking was that effective urban planning—and that was, to Walt, the whole point for building Walt Disney World—would eliminate the need for traffic lights. Additionally, the whole would be planned in such a way to encourage people to park their cars and use Disney transport instead.
When Disney World opened, it included major commitments to boat and monorail transportation. It also included a minor commitment to bus transportation. Accordingly, Disney monorails linked the Magic Kingdom with the resort hotels. Only one resort, the Golf Resort, was not connected to the monorail beam.
When Epcot opened, likewise, the monorail was extended out to it. Footers were designed and built to next extend the monorail to the then Disney Village Marketplace.
The intersection between Hotel Boulevard Plaza and Lake Buena Vista Drive had a four way stop sign. Lake Buena Vista Drive itself ended at Epcot.
During the Disney Decade of the 1990s, a mammoth building spree took place. Lake Buena Vista Drive was extended to World Drive. Hotels were built off the monorail line, two theme parks and two water parks were added and the quaint Disney Village Marketplace was extended to include Pleasure Island and The West Side.
Follow this link for a current map of Walt Disney World.
All this development was essential to keep corporate raiders it bay. It was also built under a new assumption. Disney would no longer build monorails to support these new facilities. Ground busses would be used. Guests would also be encouraged to drive their own vehicles. The long-term result was the gridlock guests experience today and the declining revenues from Downtown Disney.
In fairness to the Disney leaders, plans were twice put in place fix the chaotic transportation system. Although top secret at the time, this Examiner had heard of a trolley system to be built in the center medians of the main roads. A family would enter a trolley, push a button to indicate their destination and the trolley would—ala George Jetson—transport them to their destination.
Both of the transportation fixes were, unfortunately, cancelled due to the economic downturns that followed the build up to the first Gulf War and the collapse in travel after the 911 terrorist attacks.
Readers should not be surprised to learn that the major impetus for a redesign of Downtown Disney is transportation. Disney leaders should not be surprised either. Every time Walt’s successors have forgotten his wisdom, they have erred, including the Downtown Disney traffic mess.
What about your company? Have you made any decisions that will, over the long term, damage your guiding principles? If so, tread cautiously. There is a reason you were successful and it’s not because you created gridlock.