When Walt Disney set out to build Walt Disney World, it was with the backdrop of his planned city, EPCOT, in mind. EPCOT was not a theme park, it was an idea, a concept, for better living through better planning, better use of technology–as the song called it, a “great, big beautiful tomorrow.”
While Walt’s EPCOT was never actually built, the concepts behind his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow are beautifully played out daily at the huge resort complex he and his brother Roy launched in the late 1960’s. While Walt Disney World is an incredible vacation destination, it’s also one heck of a great picture of what a well-planned out use of public space, transportation, infrastructure, etc., can be like. An example I’d love to see played out daily in cities across America.
One of the things I loved most about Walt Disney World when I was younger, and confirmed for me on my recent trip there, is the abundant choices in transportation, the way it runs like clockwork, and how the need for a private car is made redundant. I know my local state government would love to get rid of all the individual vehicles on the road, but it takes a private enterprise to show how it can work so well.
Our hotel was serviced by busses to and from the theme parks and a water taxi running down the Sassagoula River to Disney Springs. The busses arrived promptly every morning, there was always an abundance of them, and the one time a bus wasn’t there for us (to run us back to our resort due to forgetting something), a Disney shuttle bus pulled up and took us to and from our hotel rooms. Drivers were routinely friendly, there was plenty of room for people to stand or sit. Music played as you went from location to location, matching the theme–and clear displays and announcements made clear to passengers where they were headed.
Water taxis were more leisurely than busses, but ran on a similarly-timed schedule. Following the loops of the river, with plenty to see and curmudgeonly but friendly captains, the water taxis turned travel to and from our sister resort and the Disney Springs area into an experience. Again, music played throughout the trip, fitting the New Orleans theme of our resort, and there was plenty to see and watch along the journey, even on a rainy day.
Disney’s monorail system covers 14 miles at Walt Disney World and is much more a practical means of transportation than it is at Disneyland. Serving hotels around the Magic Kingdom, it was easy to hop one and move from one resort to the next, while the boats serving the Fort Wilderness area made coming and going from the bus stops even more enjoyable. It was incredible to watch so many people moving so many places at once in such a smooth and polished fashion.
There are so many kinds of transportation at Walt Disney World they even provide collector cards for kids. While we didn’t get on all of them, we did manage to sample many and more than just the variety, it was the system that kept them moving from place to place–the way everything moved like clockwork, even at the busiest times, that impressed me the most.
Walt may not have lived to see what his World looked like, but he would be glad to see that one of his goals for better living happens every day at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and all the resorts spread across just one quarter of his property. It’s one thing that makes a trip to Walt Disney World an even better experience–ask anyone who’s been stuck in the nightmare traffic around Disneyland on a busy day.