We all knew it was coming, but we didn’t want to believe it. Recently the scanners for the forthcoming Fastpass+ system were installed at Epcot’s iconic Spaceship earth attraction.
The new system allows guests to reserve ride-times at various attractions prior to arriving at the Walt Disney World resort. The complexities of the system and the apparent anticipated demand has caused Disney to add the Fastpass+ system to many attractions that previously were never even considered candidates for the original Fastpass program. Spaceship Earth, being a quick loading omnimover, was one such case. Also, the complex geometric queue that zigzag around the base of the sphere lends its own problems in preventing one line bypassing the other.
Spaceship Earth was designed to load two queues at once – that’s not the problem. The left and right queues could be originally employed to send guests up the dual ramps toward the loading area that haven’t been used in years and all would be fine. However, that would mean only half of the queue would be used or that Fastpass+ guests would have to wait in what is essentially half of the hard geometric zigzag queue – about 30 minutes.
As with all new Fastpass+ installations there are two pairs of scanners installed now at Spaceship Earth. We don’t know their finale design aesthetic, but we expect them to match the stylistic look of the icon as the ones recently tested in the Magic Kingdom have favorably supported their surroundings. At the same time, the placement of the scanners leaves us baffled. Guests move from one pair to the next in the Fastpass+ queue, the exact purpose of this movement not quite explained yet – we assume it to be akin to the initial Fastpass “time check” and and final “merge and ticket take” that occurs in current Fastpass queues. Since Fastpass+ has no paper tickets and relies on the RFID scanners, we assume the second set of scanners is the intended merge point where they can re-verify the validity of the Fastpass+ pass and merge the Fastpass+ and standby line.
This is why we’re baffled. First off, Spaceship Earth has two ramps so that it can do dual-channel loading. One line of guests canload into lead vehicles from one “Grouper” on the load platform while the second line can load into follow vehicles from the second Grouper. That’s how it should work, in theory, with the Grouper’s alternating the guest queues to fill all the available spots and readying the parties before they set foot on the platform. It’s labor intensive but can get Spaceship Earth up to its 2400 guest per hour operating capacity. There is a reason Spaceship Earth was the reigning “most ridden attraction in the World” for years.
So as you can see, the placement has Fastpass+ guests enter from what is roughly what is the front and center of the queue and then follow some unknown route to then return to the central point at the base of the ramp apparently from the eastern side of the queue. This suggests they intend to merge the lines before they go up the ramp into a single line. This is understandable, though not really the best use of Spaceship Earth’s unique loading area. More baffling though is how they intend to get Fastpass+ guests through the eastern half of the queue and to the merge point. Perhaps more extensive reworking of the entire eastern queue remains to be seen. Having the the two queue lines cross each other’s path with a cast member function as a traffic cop doesn’t seem at all reasonable, but perhaps it’s a solution Disney finally accepted as having to occur in this instance.