Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Walt Disney World is cutting operating hours for its monorail

Walt Disney World is cutting operating hours for its monorail, a move designed to give maintenance crews more time to work on the aging transportation system.

Disney plans to begin shutting down monorail service one hour after regularly scheduled park closings in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, the two theme parks served by the resort's trains. In addition, Disney will no longer run the trains during evening "Extra Magic Hours," the late-night period during which only guests staying in Disney hotels are allowed in the parks.

 Monorails Face to Face inside Contemporary Resort

Disney had previously kept its trains running until at least one-and-a-half hours after park closing or through any extended hours. The changes are effective beginning today at Epcot and Aug. 1 for the Magic Kingdom.

"There are definitely more monorails going down" because of service interruptions, said John Frost, publisher of the Disney Blog, a popular website. "I think it's been pretty obvious that [transportation maintenance] is one of the areas they cut back on during the recession."

In addition, Disney World's monorail fleet has been operating shorthanded — with 11 trains instead of 12 —since a July 5, 2009, train collision that killed a 21-year-old monorail driver. Disney salvaged one train using cars from each of the two involved in the crash, but it has not replaced the second train.

Frost predicted Disney will face a backlash from guests staying at the three Disney hotels on the monorail route: Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Polynesian Resort and Disney's Contemporary Resort.

"Those are the most-expensive hotels on the property, and those are your clientele who expect the most preferred treatment," Frost said.

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