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Thread: Interesting comments on recent increase in wait times at park

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    Interesting comments on recent increase in wait times at park

    http://blog.touringplans.com/2015/10...15/#more-99543

    There are some interesting comments in the comments section of this referring to the recent uptick in wait times of attractions across the parks. It's interesting that they say attendance is up only a couple percentage points but wait times are much higher and fp+ utilization is the same percentage as in times past although they are saying 75-80% fp+ utilization for most attractions and stand by getting the rest and I believe Josh usually quotes about 70% for FP+ for ride capacity.

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    Senior Member mgarbowski's Avatar
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    That was interesting. Thanks for posting. I also found the speculation that Disney has intentionally reduced capacity interesting, as well as the theory that with FP+, standby wait times are longer even while the lines are shorter, leading to fewer people being on line at any given time even though waits are longer. It's a bit involved but go read it. It makes sense. Anway, that leads to more crowded streets, walkways, stores, etc. And I would add maybe people spending more money.
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    who gon stop me? HUH? josh's Avatar
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    I've been discussing it with Touring Plans for a couple of days now. This is my last email:



    A deliberate attempt to reduce capacity seems unlikely.

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    Senior Member BeckyW's Avatar
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    I'm so glad you posted this. I may be using your email as evidence that I'm right and "they're" wrong. I won't go into who "they" are, but I sure love being right ;)

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    who gon stop me? HUH? josh's Avatar
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    I'm not sure what the purpose of a deliberate reduction in ride capacity would be, particularly at this time of year. There's a lot of chatter about Disney moving to seasonal ticket prices, but the whole point would be to get people away from visiting over Easter and into September, so why would you bump up waits so much in September and October and make them look less desirable than July? And would we then see the complete elimination of discounts? People don't go in September because they literally can't swing it with school schedules etc. Even given free dining, people who are perfectly aware of how crowds work still visit over Easter because that's when they can travel. A $20 reduction in ticket prices in September isn't going to make the family pull Stacy and Lewis out of school four days after it starts. And making tickets more expensive over the holidays isn't going to be that big of a deterrent. How many people even know how much theme park tickets "should" cost? And then how exactly do you reduce capacity? Is Haunted Mansion twice as long now? Is some kid purposefully pausing Buzz Lightyear randomly so the ride is nine minutes instead of four? Did they slow down Peter Pan's Flight? Does Dumbo spin half as fast? Are there fewer boats at Living with the Land? Certainly some rides have variable capacity based on the number of ride vehicles in use, but a lot don't. I haven't heard from any cast members that they've been instructed to lollygag or dispatch ride vehicles less often and haven't seen a memo, email, etc. that says it's happening. I'm not saying one doesn't exist. But I think it would have come out.

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    Senior Member BeckyW's Avatar
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    Yeah, that makes total sense to me Josh. Thanks again for explaining things with reason and not just numbers.

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    Josh your email exchange with Len (at least what I can see of it lol) makes a lotta sense. Fell free to cc me on the email trail.

    I'm way out over my skis on the math here, but the inability to "recover" is particularly huge if the standard deviation of the arrival rate to the standby line has gone up, as even with the same average arrival rate, an increase in its variability will yield increased wait times.

    The standard deviation for standby arrivals MAY have gone up just because of the higher allocation of people to FP+, as the now smaller amount of people arriving at standby won't benefit so much from the law of large numbers in smoothing their variability.

    Moreover, ride breakdowns in FP+ rides (ToT, SDMT, POTC, TT) will add even more variability-- to arrival rates at standby, and also, of course, to the "service" rate for standby riders. And again, increased variability all by itself increases wait times.

    I'm wondering if Space Mountain could be a good natural experiment for what's really going on for the effects of FP+ capacity allocation on standby waits--if, as I am thinking, it still devotes half capacity to FP+ and half to standby, just as it did in paper FP days??
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    who gon stop me? HUH? josh's Avatar
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    On Space or Pirates, they don't necessarily send everyone with FP+ to the right and everyone in standby to the left. And with the way they set up the queue at Space, they can actually send FP+ through a shorter line to the left than standby would be, so there are actually three lines there.

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    I'm horrible at math and number crunching gives me a headache

    But I can tell you after being there last week and in August, when it was more crowded, we had longer waits last week.
    Even using our FP our waits were longer. Some horribly so.

    We took more than 45 min to complete the ST ride, with a FP. The line to enter started out on the path, before the readers and was a solid line all the way inside to the 2nd reader
    We entered at the very end of our FP and barely made it to ToT to use our next FP.

    We tried to use a FP at Safari a couple days later, again near the end of our FP time and the line was so long we couldn't even use our FP, we would have missed our dinner ADR. The line was outside the Mickey reader and doubled back on itself and you could see it was still a long line on inside past the readers. Sure, it was our mistake to go near the end but I didn't expect to see a 45+ min wait to ride with a FP

    EE was better but still a longer wait than normal.

    So something did seem to change in the way they handled things from Aug to Oct. I chalked it up to just lower volume on the rides overall, but not reducing the FP issued.

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    Senior Member TiggerGirl's Avatar
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    I think a part of what happens is people still don't know about FP+ and/or they don't understand it. I mean there was someone on here just a few days ago talking about not booking FP+ because they're going during a slow time and don't want to go thru the hassle of it. So I think some people, present company obviously excluded cause we're maniacs lol, show up and go "what's a Fast Pass?" "where are the Fastpass returns?" "What do you mean I have to return in this exact hour and not whenever I want to?" so they just grab whatever they can grab and I even think sometimes they pick what has a short wait at the moment - even so that's the biggest waste of a FP+ ever. Then while FP+ users are let thru, SB waits increase exponetially.

    And why wouldn't Disney want to lower capacity? Sending fewer cars seems that it would equal less wear and tear, less refurb, less CM's to run it etc. As long as people are still waiting in the 45+ minute lines - the only cost to them is opportunity cost.

    I like it at my local grocery store when the lines are long and the manager comes and points you to a new line that just opened! We'd call that Pixie Dust if it happened in the World.
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    I am curious what the difference could be between Aug and Oct. FP has been out long enough now that I wouldn't think you would see enough of a utilization spike in two months to cause the type of differences in waits that AngiTN is talking about. Odd. Although maybe the FP effect combined with the parties and odd park hours did it. All I know is I am getting really nervous about our trip. I pull my kids out of a few days of school where we have a 4 day weekend just to avoid the crowds and the long waits.

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    who gon stop me? HUH? josh's Avatar
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    It's not unlike the bus system. In a macro sense it's very efficient, but that doesn't mean you won't occasionally run into a 35 minute wait for a bus.

    As far as why Disney doesn't want to decrease capacity - the generally accepted principle is that someone in line can't buy anything. And someone that spends 10 hours in line over the course of the day probably isn't going to come back, not to mention the negative word of mouth. They're not spending millions to increase capacity at Toy Story Mania and Soarin' for their health.

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    I totally agree that it doesn't make sense that Disney would be causing the issue on purpose, either by reducing capacity or any other way. Especially if they plan to go to tiered pricing. To your point, they want more people to come at the lower attendance times. Intentionally increasing wait times would drive people like me, who look for those "low" times, away. Why would I pull my kids out of 3 days of school to go "off season" if the waits are just as long or longer? And also your point of people in lines aren't buying things. And I am more likely to take a mid day resort break or leave early if lines are crazy, instead is of staying in the park and spending money. I see no benefit to Disney to intentionally cause it. I just hope it is something of a "party time" phenomena and waits go back to whatever the new normal is after the holidays. Hopefully what people are seeing in Oct isn't the new normal.

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    They wouldn't intentionally increase wait times...
    They could miscalculate necessary staffing levels, causing a decrease in capacity.
    (Lower staffing can lead to longer down times, slower load times, etc).
    With summer ending, they could potentially switch to "off season" staffing levels. And with somewhat higher crowds, combined with the new math of the FP system, the staffing level hasn't been appropriate.

    Just a theory. It would explain a more sudden jump. Are wait times worse in October than July? What would cause such a weird and sudden jump.

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    I've read and participated in a few discussions on the "increased wait time" topic and what I've determined is that no individual's experiences over one or several trips is relevant. I am certain that AngiTN (not picking on you, just using what you posted as an example) experienced exactly what she reported and that she experienced longer waits at some attractions in October than she did in August. That, however, does not mean that "something" happened with the way Disney runs the parks between August and October and holds true for every guest that was there in each of those months. The delays on those rides on those particular days could have been attributed to any number of reasons. At ST for example, an Indy show could have just let out and a ton of people went over to ST for their next FP. At Safari, a truck could have broken down preventing them from loading for a few minutes resulting in a backup of the line. I waited longer in the FP line for TSMM on Sept 5 than I did on Sept 6 by at least 15 minutes. That doesn't mean they changed something. It just means I hit the line at the wrong time on the 5th.

    The discussion Josh seems to be having with the TP guys is on a much larger scale among folks who have a ton of actual wait time data and are comparing similar time periods such as the first weekend of Oct 2014 and the first weekend of October 2015. They are not simply comparing their MK experience in June 2015 to their last trip in 2012 like most of us non-blogging types could only do. At best, the anecdotes when detailed enough provide other individuals with helpful information to take into account when planning their day (i.e., beware that this could happen so pad your time estimates). At their worst, vague anecdotes just muddy the water. If I simply state (truthfully, by the way) that on our trip during Presidents Week/Mardi Gras 2015 in CL7-9's we did not wait more than 20 minutes for any ride, it makes it sound almost as good as our September trip where the longest we waited for any ride was 20 minutes. My individual experience is irrelelevant to the discussion. My story makes it sound like the third week in Feb (especially when Mardi Gras falls that week) is as good a time to go as the first week in September, which is utterly ridiculous. But for me there was no difference in wait times. I planned the heck out of both those trips and it paid off. Our experience in March of 2014 was very similar.

    Also, practically speaking, I'm not sure what one does with the answer to the question of what is causing an increase in wait times. I know it is important to TP as it will help them to take whatever factors are the cause into account in making their crowd predictions which are based almost entirely on expected wait times (we expect wait times on a sample of rides to be "X" so we designate this day a CL "q") If wait times are up across the board all year long, TP may have to change their whole CL scale. Josh's CLs won't be impacted because they are nothing more than a scale to indicate what day is better or worse than another (I expect January "X" to be the absolutely least crowded and bestest day of the year to go, so it is a CL 1 and every other day is some degree worse, but never more than 10 times worse). All he has to do is change the corresponding chart of expected wait times on the cheat sheets to reflect what is happening and thus what to expect.

    For the rest of us, the fact that wait times are longer is all we really need to know. As much as I hate the saying ... It is what it is. Our question should be, "How do we deal with the longer wait times?" I think the answer is, "if it ain't broke ...." Rope drop, FP+ mid day when it saves the most time, and late nights. Use morning EMH's and hop to recomended parks.

    It will be interesting to find out the answer to "why", but I'm going to focus on the answer to "OK, now what?"
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    Senior Member agentp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Havoc315 View Post
    They wouldn't intentionally increase wait times...
    They could miscalculate necessary staffing levels, causing a decrease in capacity.
    (Lower staffing can lead to longer down times, slower load times, etc).
    With summer ending, they could potentially switch to "off season" staffing levels. And with somewhat higher crowds, combined with the new math of the FP system, the staffing level hasn't been appropriate.

    Just a theory. It would explain a more sudden jump. Are wait times worse in October than July? What would cause such a weird and sudden jump.
    Unlikely. Disney spent a ridiculous amount of money on this system to be able to respond to staffing issues real time. If longer lines which leads to less revenue is because their billion dollar business intelligence system can't figure out where to put staff, then the CIO, his/her direct reports, and all the PMs on the project should be fired immediately.
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    Senior Member cdmurphy727's Avatar
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    I just read through the blog post at the top of this thread. I don't want to rehash an "us vs them" debate but I don't understand why TP relies so heavily on data from years past. Things have changed. Comparing MK last week to MK two or three years ago is not going to give you the whole picture. The week that the post specifically dealt with - they were surprised that MK crowd levels were higher than "5" on Wednesday because last year on Wednesday it was a low crowd day. But we know that Disney changed the EMH schedule for this fall. And there are more party dates. A little bit of logic tells you that Wednesday of this year is going to be very different than the Wednesday of last year.

    I don't know. once upon a time I might have been smart enough to keep up with all the number crunching but motherhood and sleep deprivation have dulled my abilities. :) thank goodness we have josh to lead us in the right direction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by agentp View Post
    Unlikely. Disney spent a ridiculous amount of money on this system to be able to respond to staffing issues real time. If longer lines which leads to less revenue is because their billion dollar business intelligence system can't figure out where to put staff, then the CIO, his/her direct reports, and all the PMs on the project should be fired immediately.
    Mistakes get made, even billion dollar mistakes. (Remember New Coke?)

    I suspect it's a FP issue, but I'm not ruling out a capacity issue. The test will be in the next few months. If this was the result largely of some staffing issues, etc (which can't always be changed on a dime), then it should get corrected. The big test will be Jan-Feb. If, after Christmas, lines come back down to 2-3, then we know the issues were more temporary. If crowds are 8-10 in middle of January, we know the issues are more fundamental.

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    Senior Member mgarbowski's Avatar
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    I think the main (and mainly only) way the lower capacity theory makes sense would be if fewer runs leads to lower down times. Then you could have lower capacity in any given hour when the ride is running, but also higher daily capacity f the ride spends less time out of commission altogether. But I also think this would apply to only a handful of rides, if any, and I would think Disney figured out where the maximal point was years ago.
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    Quote Originally Posted by josh View Post
    I'm not sure what the purpose of a deliberate reduction in ride capacity would be, particularly at this time of year. There's a lot of chatter about Disney moving to seasonal ticket prices, but the whole point would be to get people away from visiting over Easter and into September, so why would you bump up waits so much in September and October and make them look less desirable than July? And would we then see the complete elimination of discounts? People don't go in September because they literally can't swing it with school schedules etc. Even given free dining, people who are perfectly aware of how crowds work still visit over Easter because that's when they can travel. A $20 reduction in ticket prices in September isn't going to make the family pull Stacy and Lewis out of school four days after it starts. And making tickets more expensive over the holidays isn't going to be that big of a deterrent. How many people even know how much theme park tickets "should" cost? And then how exactly do you reduce capacity? Is Haunted Mansion twice as long now? Is some kid purposefully pausing Buzz Lightyear randomly so the ride is nine minutes instead of four? Did they slow down Peter Pan's Flight? Does Dumbo spin half as fast? Are there fewer boats at Living with the Land? Certainly some rides have variable capacity based on the number of ride vehicles in use, but a lot don't. I haven't heard from any cast members that they've been instructed to lollygag or dispatch ride vehicles less often and haven't seen a memo, email, etc. that says it's happening. I'm not saying one doesn't exist. But I think it would have come out.
    I completely agree with this. We plan to still pull our kids out while they are still in elementary school because it just makes that much difference in the lines. If that stopped being true, we'd just go at Spring Break like everyone else. And isn't that the opposite of what Disney would want?

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    Your tin foil hat has to be awfully thick to believe that Disney is intentionally reducing capacity to increase wait times in October---a time that has become reasonably popular between Food & Wine, MNSSHP, and the increasing number of school districts that offer a 4-5 day weekend (often around Columbus Day) as a mid-semester break. It's also a month when MK has what might be the fewest operating hours of the year thanks to all of the parties that close the park at 7PM, putting a major dent in the available FP+ slots for anyone's entire trip.

    Also, just because FP+ has been operational for almost two years, that doesn't mean that its penetration into the WDW market hasn't changed. It turns out guests who pre-plan spend significantly more money than those who don't. Explicitly supporting such pre-planning has been publicly acknowledged as a strategy from the early "Destination Disney" days when the Resort rolled out MYW, ME, and DDP. It is very reasonable to assume that the changes Disney has made in FP+/MM+ messaging over the past year have resulted in more people planning in advance, increasing the usage of FP+.

    Finally, one of the primary goals of FP+ has been to increase utilization of "secondary" attractions, thereby increasing the carrying capacity of each park. Every empty seat in every ride vehicle is attraction capacity that is lost forever. The effect Josh discusses above, getting people to pre-plan a visit to secondary attractions, is a way to help keep every seat full. In other words, the attractions in each park collectively are servicing more guests. That's the only way wait times go up disproportionally to attendance increases (assuming capacity doesn't change, and it's vastly unlikely to have changed): more people are are experiencing more attractions in the aggregate.

    Attendance is also going up, and I'm not sure its by only a few percent in 2015. I've not been paying super close attention, because I'm not an October visitor, but it seems as though many more MNSSHPs sold out this year vs. last year. I'm guessing that's not because Disney suddenly decided to sell fewer tickets to each Party. You also don't jack up your AP prices by double-digit percentage increases because your attendance growth is modest.

    The good news is that it doesn't matter. In the last year, I've spent about three weeks at WDW---Christmas, Easter, and peak summer. All of those trips were great despite being among the worst possible weeks crowd-wise. We did everything we wanted to do, and had plenty of time to relax as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bnoble View Post
    Your tin foil hat has to be awfully thick to believe that Disney is intentionally reducing capacity to increase wait times in October---a time that has become reasonably popular between Food & Wine, MNSSHP, and the increasing number of school districts that offer a 4-5 day weekend (often around Columbus Day) as a mid-semester break. It's also a month when MK has what might be the fewest operating hours of the year thanks to all of the parties that close the park at 7PM, putting a major dent in the available FP+ slots for anyone's entire trip.
    I don't think anybody suggested an intentional increase in wait times. More like a reduction in capacity that unintentionally resulted in increased wait times.

    I think it is safe to assume that staffing levels are different in July/August, than they are in September/October -- Probably dramatically different. Combined with higher attendance and fundamental changes due to greater adoption of FP+, it's possible that there was a miscalculation of the necessary staffing levels. I'm not saying this is the most likely... just saying it is not an impossibility.

    Also, just because FP+ has been operational for almost two years, that doesn't mean that its penetration into the WDW market hasn't changed. It turns out guests who pre-plan spend significantly more money than those who don't. Explicitly supporting such pre-planning has been publicly acknowledged as a strategy from the early "Destination Disney" days when the Resort rolled out MYW, ME, and DDP. It is very reasonable to assume that the changes Disney has made in FP+/MM+ messaging over the past year have resulted in more people planning in advance, increasing the usage of FP+.
    Agreed.... But then you would see a gradual change, as more people adopted FP+. This would not explain a sudden jump, if such sudden jump has actually occurred. Looking at the TP calendar -- As one would expect, early August was very very heavy. One normally expects the end of August to drop off significantly -- and indeed, late August/early September behaved as you would expect. But then it suddenly started to rise AFTER labor day. By mid September, crowds were much higher than expected on a regular basis.
    One expects October to be light, but you see massive differences from the start. For example, TP had 10/3 predicted as a "3" but it was actually a "7"

    One would need to take a much more detailed look, than I'm doing here.... but the higher adoption of FP+, alone, would not explain sudden shifts. If the shift really has been sudden that is.





    Attendance is also going up, and I'm not sure its by only a few percent in 2015. I've not been paying super close attention, because I'm not an October visitor, but it seems as though many more MNSSHPs sold out this year vs. last year. I'm guessing that's not because Disney suddenly decided to sell fewer tickets to each Party. You also don't jack up your AP prices by double-digit percentage increases because your attendance growth is modest.
    Actually.... there are indeed reports that Disney did greatly cut back on the party tickets. According to Len Testa: "We’ve heard that Disney has reduced the number of MNSSHP tickets available from 25,000 to 20,000."
    (see TP blog)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Havoc315 View Post



    Agreed.... But then you would see a gradual change, as more people adopted FP+. This would not explain a sudden jump, if such sudden jump has actually occurred. Looking at the TP calendar -- As one would expect, early August was very very heavy. One normally expects the end of August to drop off significantly -- and indeed, late August/early September behaved as you would expect. But then it suddenly started to rise AFTER labor day. By mid September, crowds were much higher than expected on a regular basis.
    One expects October to be light, but you see massive differences from the start. For example, TP had 10/3 predicted as a "3" but it was actually a "7"

    The increased wait times have not been sudden. Josh has been reporting about them since shortly after FP+ was fully rolled out, and if I recall correctly, he has adjusted the wait times charts a couple of times over the past year or so. Also, TP had 10/3 as a CL 3 because they were flat out wrong. All the information was there to make a higher CL prediction. Although Josh's CL scale is a different concept than TP's, he in fact had 10/3 as a CL 7. To be more accurate and helpful TP needs to change something about their CL prediction scale or calculation.
    As for "higher crowds than expected" after Labor Day, some things need clarification. How is a crowd measured? They were higher than expected by whom? How was the original expectation derived? If you are taking about TP and their definition and determination of crowds, it is solely based on wait times and their method of calculation has not taken into account the increased wait times since the advent of FP+. When they look at actual vs. predicted on their scale, they will usually be wrong because wait times are generally up as compared to years past. Their prediction error for 10/3 was not because there were 2 1/2 times more people at WDW on that day making the crowd a 7 rather than a 3. It was due to their method. I guess if I make such a big error in my job, my first reaction would be to say that something "suddenly" happened, too.

    If the discussion is about wait times, we need to stick to "wait times." Interjecting discussion of crowd levels confuses the issue since different sites use vastly different methods to predict crowd levels.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member cdmurphy727's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Havoc315 View Post
    I don't think anybody suggested an intentional increase in wait times. More like a reduction in capacity that unintentionally resulted in increased wait times.

    I think it is safe to assume that staffing levels are different in July/August, than they are in September/October -- Probably dramatically different. Combined with higher attendance and fundamental changes due to greater adoption of FP+, it's possible that there was a miscalculation of the necessary staffing levels. I'm not saying this is the most likely... just saying it is not an impossibility.



    Agreed.... But then you would see a gradual change, as more people adopted FP+. This would not explain a sudden jump, if such sudden jump has actually occurred. Looking at the TP calendar -- As one would expect, early August was very very heavy. One normally expects the end of August to drop off significantly -- and indeed, late August/early September behaved as you would expect. But then it suddenly started to rise AFTER labor day. By mid September, crowds were much higher than expected on a regular basis.
    One expects October to be light, but you see massive differences from the start. For example, TP had 10/3 predicted as a "3" but it was actually a "7"

    One would need to take a much more detailed look, than I'm doing here.... but the higher adoption of FP+, alone, would not explain sudden shifts. If the shift really has been sudden that is.







    Actually.... there are indeed reports that Disney did greatly cut back on the party tickets. According to Len Testa: "We’ve heard that Disney has reduced the number of MNSSHP tickets available from 25,000 to 20,000."
    (see TP blog)
    The problem is that you're assuming TPs original estimations were right. A prediction of a 3 which turned out to be a 7 is indeed drastic. But I'm guessing that 3 was wrong.

  25. #25
    who gon stop me? HUH? josh's Avatar
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    A Saturday in October with a crowd level of 4 at Magic Kingdom and 3 at Epcot? http://blog.touringplans.com/2015/10...ctober-3-2015/

    That's an insane prediction. There is no precedent whatsoever for crowds being that low in the middle of Mickey's Party Season and the first Saturday of the Food/Wine Festival in October. Saturdays at Magic Kingdom have been terrible for years in September-December and I don't think a busy Saturday at Epcot during Food/Wine is particularly surprising. I don't know how anybody can look at that and not throw the whole thing out the window.

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