This past weekend, Disney World dealt with what’s becoming a familiar problem: technical problems on its world-famous monorail, all caught on video by guests.
A video posted Saturday on the YouTube account Monorail Yellow shows guests unable to leave a Disney monorail car when the doors fail to open. According to the video’s description, Disney employees did not notice the issue when the train stopped at the Transportation and Ticket Center or the Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and when one rider tried to use the monorail car’s emergency phone, they got no response.
The guests appear to take their predicament in stride, jokingly yelling “Help us!” and banging on the windows to get someone’s attention, then laughing at their failure to do so.
“How easy is it to remove that window?” one guest is heard asking. “This is a sociology experiment,” joked another.
The short ordeal ended at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, where guests on the car continued to bang on the glass for over one minute. This time, a Disney cast member appears to have noticed and the doors open, at which point the video cuts off.
The video’s description said the malfunction was reported to the Grand Floridian’s front desk. Rather than being told to contact the park’s transportation or public safety departments, the guest who uploaded the video said they were directed to post about on it on social media.
Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the incident or answer questions about whether cast members handled the situation appropriately.
It’s just the latest in a series of safety hazards reported on the Disney World monorail in 2018. In January, one set of doors popped open in the middle of the route from the Transportation and Ticket Center to Epcot. In June, guests had to be evacuated when the monorail broke down near Epcot, with one guest reporting a piece of metal falling off the train.
There was another door issue in November, with Disney saying a guest in a motorized scooter ran into a door, causing it to come unhinged and fall off, with guests snapping photos of it dangling from the tracks at the Grand Floridian.
While no guests were hurt in these incidents, Disney’s response has not involved any major improvements. In the case of the January door malfunction, the only discernible change was adding signs warning guests not to lean against the doors.
Bill Zanetti, a founding member of the University of Central Florida’s Entertainment Management Advisory Board, told Orlando Rising that Disney has, in fact, made major investments on the monorail system after a July 2009 accident led to two monorail trains colliding, killing one of the cast member “pilots” in the train’s cab. Guests may have only noticed the incident ended the practice of allowing passengers riding in the monorail’s cab, but Disney upgraded traffic control and signaling systems and automated driving functions to reduce the pilot’s role.
“They are basically there just to monitor the system and be there in the event of an evacuation,” Zanetti said. “The new system upgrades were also designed to make the system more efficient. However, Disney has so far refused to install the proper gates and update the trains to really get to the point they need to be at.”
Many of the problems can be traced to the advanced age of the park’s monorail fleet. The current cars, called the Mark VI trains, came online between 1989 and 1991. Former Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr, who helped design the original Disneyland Monorail and Disney World’s original Mark IV cars, has said that’s well past their intended lifespan.
“Machines do not last forever,” he said during an April 28 question-and-answer session in Celebration “You typically design them in the transportation industries for 20-year service. We’re close to 30 years of service here.”
Zanetti echoed Gurr’s sentiments, saying the current Mark VI fleet is on “life support.”
Disney has said nothing official about the monorail’s future and even theme park rumor sites are in disagreement on the topic. WDW News Today, which frequently reports on rumors at Disney parks, said in April that Disney had ordered a new fleet of monorail cars using funds from the canceled Magic Kingdom Main Street Theater project. But last month, the site reported Disney may not place any order and has no immediate plans to replace the current fleet.
While Disney has more recently focused cheaper transportation options, such as the upcoming Disney Skyliner, Zanetti doesn’t think the monorail is going anywhere — even if saving it means buying an expensive new fleet.
“The monorail is too much a part of Disney’s brand at this point for me to think they would get rid of it permanently,” he said.