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Cinderella's Castle Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

There is a reason you love Disney so much; because it’s awesome. Certainly, you are aware you are not alone in making this determination. It is why pretty much every Disney Park is crowded every time you visit. Yet, no matter how amazing something is, if attempting to enjoy it is inconvenient, even overwhelming, the experience can pale, and some will give up on it. From the Eiffel Tower to Las Vegas to Waikiki disgruntled travelers declare, “Never again!” An extreme few have sworn off Disney. A few of them will even stick to it. In general and with consistency, though, Disney earns and retains your faith, devotion and patronage.

Fantasmic Maleficent

Though other tourist destinations suffer when crowds rise, Disney parks seem immune to this issue. But how is this possible? Put simply, Disney tricks their guests into thinking their parks are not all that crowded, even when they are at their busiest.  Unbeknownst to guests, there are layers of Disney design elements that absorb, mask and disperse the masses that invariably fill their parks. 

1. Hub and spoke engineering

Disneyland vintage guide map

Disney Crowd Management could very well be an advanced MIT degree program, and you could do your doctoral thesis on their walkways alone. Disney did not invent the Hub and Spoke, of course, they’ve just perfected it. Early Italian architects made Hub and Spoke cosmopolitan, and years later the Atlanta airport made it unavoidable. As the geographic center piece of the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and a number of their other parks to varying degrees, Disney has turned the complex system of spatial navigation into an art and science.

In the map above, and in an aerial view of most any of the Disney Parks, the layout resembles that of a wheel; with a hub at the center and walkways branching out as spokes into neighboring sections of the property. The beauty of the Hub and Spoke is how it keeps the traffic moving. The system is designed with few major intersections, thus fewer opportunities for traffic interruption or congestion.

The best examples of this design, and the Disney Resorts are riddled with them, allow you to walk off in any direction and be able to reach any other portion of the park without having to backtrack. In the Magic Kingdom, you can head right at the hub, which is the massive circular courtyard and esplanade at the castle-end of Main Street, entering Tomorrowland, and continue on through Fantasyland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, Adventureland and back to Main Street all without retracing your steps. That's not to say you won't want to revisit sections of the park, but the fact there is no need to helps reduce an eminent log jam like those that form on the way to, from, and through Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.

Yes, you will ocassionally, even often if you frequent particular Disney Parks at particularly festive times, find yourself imobile between the Tomorrowland Speedway and the PeopleMover, or the Matterhorn and Alice in Wonderland. For moving major masses of people throughout such a finite amount of real estate, though, there is no system better than Disney's.

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Comments

Disneyland Paris has a covered walkway on both sides of Main Street. While stil having access to the shops through backdoord you are able to pass by busy MainStreet.

Disney is far better at moving foot traffic, than Universal. However it never fails to have several groups of people that decide to stop and figure out where they are going or wait for another member of their party, right in the middle of the walkway, like they are they only people there. I frequent Universal and Disney often, it is the most aggravating thing. Islands of Adventure I find, is the hardest to get around be because there is no way to cut across to another land, and they don't always open the bridge from Jurassic Park to Lost Continent forcing you through the traffic jam of hogsmead. I thoroughly enjoy all the articles posted I'm an avid reader great tips!

I'm actually an MIT advanced degree candidate looking at pedestrian movement (and a Disney geek), and I have to question your assessment of point #1. By having fewer path choices vis a vis the hub and spoke system you actually create more congestion. You merely pass the crowds from, in network science parlance, the nodes to the edges. That's why Main Street is always crowded. At closing, everyone has only one choice to leave the park, therefore putting all the congestion at the central Hub and Main Street. To reduce the crowding, you actually want to diffuse the number of people across the entire network. That's the reason why Disneyland and Disneyland Paris have bypasses adjacent to Main Street. It's great for retail and theatrics, but you actually have a greater sense of congestion as a result.

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