It's no fairy tale. Your coach -- or monorail or boat or bus -- will whisk you to the ball -- or theme park -- and it won't turn into a pumpkin at midnight. The ride is convenient, clean and friendly. Talk about a magic kingdom.
This transit utopia, of course, is Walt Disney World, where, for 25 years, more than 100 million people have come to find the extraordinary is routine and the fantastic is to be expected.
"I love this job," says John, the monorail driver. "Everywhere I look I see a picture postcard scene."
A large part of Disney World's charm and appeal is that it's designed to make guests' travels as painless as possible.
With a color-coordinated mass transit network of buses, monorails and ferries linking theme parks and hotels, guests don't need a car after they check in. And, in a place that is twice the size of Manhattan, this is no small feat.
Numerous detailed, color maps clearly show the way to the attractions, restaurants, shopping and automated teller machines. Road signs, painted in bright purple, green, blue, red, and yellow, are also clear and informative.
Dwight Dorr, Disney World's director of transportation since 1979, oversees more than 1,000 employees whose goal is to make in-park travel comfortable and problem-free.
Dorr estimated that the system "delivers more than 80 million 'guest carries' per year," a guest carry being the transporting of one guest from one place to another.
The wait for transportation usually is no longer than 20 minutes. In-park transportation is free to all guests.
For many guests, the most thrilling way to get around is by monorail.
The sleek 312-passenger trains scoot along a single "beamway" of concrete, steel and polystyrene 25 feet above ground. It rises to 65 feet at the station in the Contemporary Resort.
It resembles an elevated train but has less noise and more comfort. The interior has smooth seats and tinted windows. There's an intelligible voice on the intercom.
Guests enter one side of the monorail and exit the other with relative ease. And the best seats are in the front in the driver's compartment, where you have a panoramic view of the park.
Twelve trains link the ticket center to the Magic Kingdom and three of its resorts: the Contemporary, the Polynesian Resort and the Grand Floridian.
In 1980, a 7.6-mile loop between the EPCOT and Magic Kingdom theme parks was installed. Early plans to develop a five-mile loop between Lake Buena Vista and EPCOT were scuttled. Dorr said the monorail requires a "huge capital investment to build stations, trains, maintenance facilities and beamways (the concrete rails and posts along with the electronics and power-delivery systems)."
"Because a monorail can carry more than 300 people per trip, the cost per guest carried is actually cheaper than operating a bus. But the monorail is a long-haul piece of equipment and as such it was not designed for short runs with several stops."
Dorr said no further expansion of the monorail system is planned. "If I can get you where you want to go hassle-free, in a timely and acceptable fashion, then I don't think it matters if it's by bus, boat or monorail."
To make the buses appealing, many of the Disney drivers double as tour guides. They answer questions and even help guests load their packages.
"We need to continually exceed people's expectations and find new ways to wow [them]," Dorr said. To achieve this, employees are trained in safety, courtesy, appearance, hospitality and efficiency.
Dorr's favorite example of courtesy is the story of a kid who lost his balloon when boarding a bus and found a new one waiting in his hotel room when he got back; the bus driver had radioed ahead for a replacement.
The buses are clean, and, of course, the overhead advertisements promote Disney attractions. The drivers seem to have super-human patience, routinely meeting their toughest customers -- tired, angry or rude passengers -- with compassion, consideration -- and a silly song.
Pub Date: 10/27/96