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Disneyland Article
Do Single Rider Lines Help Shorten Lines At Disneyland And Other Theme Parks

Splash Mountain
Orange County Register
Robert Niles
June 23, 2016
June 27, 2016
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When "Soarin' Around the World" replaced the original Soarin' Over California at Disney California Adventure last week, the new destinations on screen weren't the only thing getting the attention of Disneyland fans. Disney also eliminated the single rider line that solo visitors long had used to shorten their wait times for this always-popular attraction.

Not all theme park visitors know about single rider lines, and not every park offers them. But single rider lines provide one of the great "win-win" opportunities in the theme park business. When operated properly, they enable shorter waits for everyone - while offering much shorter waits for a few visitors.

How can they do that? Two things affect how long people have to wait for a theme park ride: How many people are in line waiting to ride, and how many people that ride can accommodate in any given hour. Let's say 2,000 people get in line for a ride that can handle 1,000 riders per hour. Basic math says that the people waiting at the end of the line for that ride are going to face a two-hour wait.

But what if the ride's capacity could be increased? The trouble is, increasing a ride's capacity isn't easy. Each ride vehicle has a fixed number of seats that can't be expanded without redesigning the ride, and they are dispatched on a fixed schedule.

So a simple trick behind increasing capacity is to make sure every one of those seats leaves the loading station with a person in it. Loading a theme park ride is like playing a giant game of human Tetris. You're trying to fit groups of people into ride vehicles in ways that don't split parties but also don't leave any seats empty, either. The more empty seats that leave the station, the lower the ride's effective capacity becomes, which means longer waits for everyone.

Really great loaders have learned how to play the human Tetris game well, and wait times drop when they're on the job. But even experienced loaders can't fill an empty seat when a series of parties of five are in line for a six-seat ride vehicle. That's where the single rider line helps out.

A single rider line is a separate queue of people who have volunteered to ride alone. When a loader ends up with a single empty seat to fill, he or she can pull someone from the single rider line to fill it, ensuring the ride vehicle leaves filled to capacity.

Loaders could ask for single riders out of the regular queue, but that takes time. The longer it takes to load a ride vehicle, the fewer vehicles that can move through in a given hour, meaning lower capacity and longer wait times for everyone. A single rider line gives loaders the ability to fill an empty seat instantly, without having to take extra time to ask for volunteers.

At Disneyland, you'll find single rider lines at Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Matterhorn Bobsleds and Splash Mountain. At Disney California Adventure, they're at California Screamin', Goofy's Sky School, Grizzly River Run and Radiator Springs Racers. Universal Studios Hollywood offers single rider on Jurassic Park: The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy and Transformers: The Ride 3D.

So why don't all rides have single rider queues? Single rider lines aren't needed on attractions that don't often need to run at full capacity. That's why some parks close their single rider lines on slow days, or early or late in the day when the regular queue empties. Nor do the single rider lines work on attractions aimed primarily at small children, who wouldn't be allowed to ride alone anyway.

Single rider lines work great on popular rides that have an odd number of seats in each row or ride vehicle, such as Radiator Springs Racers, which seats three riders across in two rows on each car. But they don't offer much advantage on rides with even numbers of seats in each row, given that the most popular party sizes in theme parks are couples of two and families of four. If a single rider line doesn't offer a solo visitor a shorter wait than the regular queue, there's no incentive to use it. And it doesn't help reduce the overall wait time for everyone, there's no incentive for the park to use it, either.

Whatever the reason Disney eliminated single rider on Soarin', the option remains a great time-saver on other attractions for people visiting the park alone, or who are willing to split up to save some time in line.
Attractions Referenced

Indiana Jones Adventure, Temple Of The Forbidden Eye

Matterhorn Bobsleds

Splash Mountain

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