The Monorail’s Uncertain Future

When Monorail Red travelled from Magic Kingdom to Epcot with a door open, there was horror both within and outside of the Disney community.

Ask anyone who has been to Walt Disney World with me and they will confirm my love for the ‘highway in the sky’.

But let’s be honest; the monorail system is in dire need of an upgrade. Anyone who has travelled on the monorail in recent years can tell you that. On my last trip, the monorail managed to overshoot the station every single time I rode it. That’s ridiculous.

There were also issues with the doors not closing correctly. At one point we waited for a full 5 minutes at a station, with the doors opening and closing constantly. That was clearly not part of the plan, but the announcement was a vague “we’ll be on our way soon.”

When I saw the rumour that Walt Disney World may discontinue the monorail, I was unsurprised. I was, however, very upset and – dare I say it – a little angry.

Given how much traffic the monorails can move, it seems very unlikely that WDW would be able to cope without any of the monorail lines at all. Magic Kingdom park closing is chaos as it is, without the removal of, essentially, two methods of leaving (the Resort and the Express monorails). The ferry and the buses would not be able to cope.

The difficulty is that these monorails are old. Some of them are approaching 30 years old (the current Mark VI model were first introduced in 1989). Based on the past monorails used by the Disney parks, this is 10-15 years past their life expectancy. It’s a testament to both their original manufacturer and Disney’s maintenance team that these monorails have lasted as long as they have.

There have been somee upgrades along the way. The most notable one came as a result of the tragic 2009 crash that resulted in the death of one of the monorail drivers. Since then, Monorail Teal (formed of the undamaged parts of Monorails Pink and Purple) and Monorail Peach have been introduced to the fleet.

The other 10 monorails, however, are ageing rapidly. Disney responded to the Monorail Red door incident by putting up signs advising guests not to lean on the doors. I’m not sure that’s quite going to cut it. For a sensor to fail on that level, something needs to be fixed – and fast. But what is the solution?

According to various sources, Siemens offered Disney free monorails and they turned them down. I understand that they want monorails that look like the Mark models. I do. They are an iconic part of the Walt Disney World brand. But if they won’t take free monorails, they don’t seem to want to pay for them either. If they were purchasing new monorails I am sure we would have heard rumours of that by now.

I sincerely hope that the monorail is not discontinued or even reduced. Even with the introduction of the Skyliner (which, as a Disney transportation nerd, I am more excited for than most), the roads would simply not be able to cope with the increase in bus traffic. Not to mention the extra time it would take to transport guests away from Magic Kingdom and Epcot at park closing.

Disney may be thinking with the company purse, but they’re not stupid. Something has to be done with the ageing monorail fleet. I hope that it doesn’t spell the end of everyone’s favourite highway in the sky.