Managing Queuing and Capacity at Theme Parks

Designing rides in theme parks is about a lot more than just building something that guests will find fun.  It takes into account many aspects of operations management, including queueing, time and motion study, and capacity planning.


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This post is based on the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: Ilene MacDonald/Alamy Stock Photo

Discussion Questions:

1. What is a common measure of capacity for roller coasters, and how can capacity be increased when the ride is being designed?

Guidance: Capacity is measured in riders per hour.  There are two main ways to increase capacity during the design phase: either increase the size of the trains (adding more seats) or increase the number of trains on the track.  To do the latter requires careful planning of “block sections.”   This means that for safety reasons, only one train can be on a certain part of the track at a time, and these sections can be blocked off if needed to keep trains from colliding if something goes wrong.

2.  How does the type of restraint used affect ride capacity?

Guidance: Ride capacity will be affected by how long it takes to load and unload the trains or cars.  Some restraints are faster to use than others.  For instance, a lap bar, which is simply pulled up or down by the rider, is quick to use and relatively easy for operators to check.  On the other hand, seat belts take longer, in part because the verification process by ride operators is also more time consuming.

3. What other things can affect the speed of the loading and unloading process?

Guidance: One of the things that slows down the boarding process the most is loose articles carried on by guests.  Possible solutions include requiring guests to leave items in bins, lockers, or other storage areas before boarding the ride.

4. What is unique about the queueing process at Universal Orlando Resort’s Volcano Bay water park?  Why does the park use this process?

Guidance: The water park only uses virtual queues.  Each guest is given a device to wear on his or her wrist.  Guests use the device to enter a virtual queue and it notifies them when it is their turn for the attraction.

Parks like to use virtual queues for a couple of key reasons.  One is that it can enhance the guest experience, allowing visitors to spend less time waiting in lines.  Second, however, is that it also means guests can move through other areas of the park while waiting, where they are hopefully (from the park’s perspective) spending money on more things, such as food, beverages, or souvenirs.

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