The Queue: The Queue Coefficient

The queue, or the line you wait in, is a sore subject with most guests at parks.  That’s where they feel that they spend the majority of their time.  I have a lot to say about queues, and so I will spread it out over a series of shorter posts.

One of the best line-to-ride ratios. Ever.

When I was in my 20’s, I made up a very simple formula for measuring what I considered the “quality” of a ride experience at Disneyland.  It was a simple ratio of the time spent on a ride, versus the time spent waiting to get on a ride.  You can think of it as the coefficient of “worth the wait”.

Most of the popular attractions with the teen crowd, such as Space Mountain, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the new Splash Mountain, scored horribly.  Usually, something like 4 minutes of ride versus two hours of waiting.  That’s 4/120, or a 3% “worth the wait” score.  But a few attractions that are the time-honored favorites, particularly among frequent guests to the park, showed up at the top of the list.  They were:

  • The Haunted Mansion. 12 Minute ride, 30 minute wait.
  • Jungle Cruise. 15 minute ride, 40 minute wait.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean.  11 minute ride, 15 minute wait.

That’s a lot more attraction bang for your buck.

But at that time, the equation started to lose its usefulness, as definitions and experiences began to blur their borders.  The queue began to be themed to set up the story, and the ride i.e. the part where you sat on a moving vehicle, became the climax rather than the whole attraction.  And then the exit spilled into themed merchandise shops, so you could take a piece of that world with you, never completely leaving it behind you.

So, that was good.  Time spent in a line is worth half-credit, I’d say.  Some of those lines became truly awesome and memorable, too.  Star Tours, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye and Expedition Everest stand out as shining examples of artistically crafted and masterfully engineered queues, truly “pre-shows” that tell most of the story.

Attractions got longer by extending the story and world both forwards and backwards around the “ride” portion, without stretching the track a single inch.

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One response to “The Queue: The Queue Coefficient

  1. Theme parks such as those run by Disney and Universal were really turning the waiting areas into part of the show… it was an artform in itself,… and then they started coming up with resevation systems and the game changed again.

    I think some good attractions have closed down in part because there was a perception that they weren’t popular… a perception caused because their high capacity kept the line from backing up out of the front of the entrance. Some people want to try the “in” thing – when they see other people lined up, they want to join the line.

    Perhaps the trick is to use mechanisms that will keep the line moving and entertaining, while at the same time allowing it to stick out of the entry a bit? This can be done by having breaks in the line… holding people out of a certain room until the line backs up a little, then letting the people go forward.

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