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A Vacation to the Magical Kingdom of Capitalism, Part 1
On a recent trip to Florida I had the chance to see a good contrast between public works projects and private enterprises. This consisted of traveling through two public airports, Boston Logan and Orlando International and visiting two private entertainment parks, Walt Disney World and Sea World. I could linger long on the deficiencies of the public airports and rail against various aspects of their design, but instead Iíd rather focus on the positive aspects of what I saw in the private capitalist dream that is Walt Disney World.
I confess that I approached my visit to Disney World with a lot of trepidation. Iíd never been to Disney, and would be going with my wife and five year old daughter, so I had more to worry about than myself. With our tickets purchased in advance we set out for Disney which was about twenty minutes from where we were staying. For those of you who havenít been, there are five major Disney theme parks, and the target for our first day was The Magic Kingdom, which is home to many of the rides and attractions aimed at children my daughterís age. With lunch, snacks, and plenty of water packed, we set out on our journey.
The first nightmare I anticipated was parking the car. After purchasing our parking pass at the drive up booth we traveled on down the road following the line of cars in front of us. As we rounded a corner I realized that there were people directing the cars down each successive row, filling up the lot from those spaces closest to the park on outward. More directors were moving along each row directing drivers to fill in each and every space down a row. Each space was laid out in such a way that you pulled in and parked at an angle rather than perpendicular to the row. This, I noticed, meant that when you left you would simply have to drive forward to exit the space, and the exits were at the opposite ends of the rows from the entrance. How well thought out! With this system, every spot is filled in succession and people are quickly and safely parked and on their way into the attractions rather than tooling around in the lot running people over looking for that open space up front.
When you exit your car the directors ask you to walk up the row in front of your car. Since the rows are filled in an orderly fashion from nearest to furthest, you are now walking up a row which people arenít driving down to park. How smart I thought. Our parking lot was about two lots away from the entrance to the park itself. Large diesel tractors pulled up towing covered cars which people began to rush onto. Being on vacation, I wasnít going to rush, push, and shove my way forward trying to grab a seat, especially when I noticed that each trolley was immediately followed by another. No need to fuss.
Each lot was named after a Disney character and each row was numbered. When we had gotten onto the trolley an announcer came on and reminded us that we were parked in lot Pluto rows thirty-three to thirty-six. It would be hard to forget that, even after a long day of amusements, especially with the huge picture of Pluto hanging on each light post. After a short trolley ride we were let off at the ticketing and travel center. Here people can buy tickets or board various transports to resorts and any of the other theme parks in Disney. We had our tickets already, so we passed around the ticket lines and up to the travel center. At this point we still havenít been through any ticket checking. Disney has placed the ticket checking area away from this location, thus preventing any choke points forming where ticket checking and security may overflow out into the ticket sales areas causing confusion and frustration.
We were now offered the choice of way to travel to the Magic Kingdom. We could ride the monorail over or we could take the ferryboat across the huge man-made lagoon. We opted for the ferry ride. We boarded the ferry for the three minute crossing and climbed to the second level. The ferry was laid out, as most are, so that people can embark and disembark from the ramps on either end, meaning the ferry doesnít need to turn around mid journey to dock nose in. As we docked, people again began to push and rush to disembark, as if the park were going to vanish, or as if they were going to run out of something you wanted. On the upper-level people were crowding into the stair-case that faced the docked end of the ferry, and it was quickly clogged with a shuffling line of people. We chose to descend the opposite and identical staircase at the ďrearĒ of the boat some thirty feet out of the way. It was empty of course, and we easily disembarked leaving the mad dashers stuck upon the other stairs. So far this was the biggest back-up Iíd seen at Disney, but it was easily walked around, if you just took your time and didnít rush the crowd.
The walk from the ferry towards the actual entrance of the Magic Kingdom is a long enough that I could tell it was designed with the distance of the ferry trip and the time it takes to clear security kept in mind. The ferry can only carry so many people, but there are two of them making constant trips in opposite directions across the lagoon, there are also the monorails dropping people off as well. Again there are a fixed maximum number of people arriving on timed intervals. By separating the tickets sales and parking from the ticket checking and security at the entrance to the park, Disney has ensured that it has a good idea of how many people at most can be arriving at security each minute. Crowd control like this is not accidental. In this case it is so subtle though, as to be almost miraculous.
Security was quick and efficient, searching each and every bag for bombs, guns, or what-not. We passed easily through the ticket scanner and entered into the Magic Kingdom. I was now ready to put into practice a piece of advice given to me by a friend who visited Disney many time before; Go left. The reasoning was, most people follow the crowd, and for some reason, most people tend to go right once they get into Disney World. The stairs on the ferry illustrated the crowd principle quite well. It reminds me of my daily hour-and-a-half commute to work at home. By and large the same people drive the same route each day. There are several places on the highway where a lane ends and merges into another. Invariably you get a line of people in that lane trying to beat the rush. Traffic backs up as people are forced to slow down at the lane end to allow others to merge in. Rushers see the openings in the lane that is ending and try to zoom down it to get ahead, but this only succeeds in making the delay worse. Iím sure this is indicative of the idea that there is only so much of everything to go around in the world, and that getting ahead by a few car lengths is seen to be worth something.
So here we were, finally at the park. The parking, ticketing, and getting to here I had been viewing as a nightmare turned out to be a delight. Yep. I was delighted after the experience. So thoughtful and intelligent was the design of the park entrance that I just stood there grinning from ear to ear. This article was already beginning to grow in my head, I was having a great time, and I hadnít even gotten to the amusement part of the day yet.
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