Walt Disney World to Begin Charging Hotel Guests for Overnight Parking

On Wednesday Walt Disney World announced that with all reservations made starting March 21 they will begin charging guests for standard overnight parking at their resorts. This charge will vary depending on the resort category and will be applied to guests’ hotel folio upon check-out.

The Standard Overnight Parking charges per resort category will be:

Value Resorts: $13 per night

Moderate Resorts: $19 per night

Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $24 per night

Disney Vacation Club Members will not be charged for parking when they are staying at a DVC Deluxe Villa regardless of whether they are using points at paying cash for their stay.  Members also will not be charged for overnight parking if they are using points to stay at any Walt Disney World Resort hotel.

As you can imagine this is raising quite a stir in the Disney fan community.

Why is Walt Disney World doing this? No one really knows for sure, but Disney has publicly stated that charging for overnight parking is becoming an industry standard and they are just falling in line.

This could be true and if it is it could be another indication that Disney is caring less about the total guest experience and leading the industry. Back in the late 1950’s having pay stalls in bathrooms was the “industry standard” yet, as the story goes, Walt Disney saw that no one was using them at Disneyland and guests were standing in line to use the free stalls. Walt had the pay stalls all converted to free ones. Guest experience mattered…at least it did then.

Some people have speculated that Disney is doing this to reduce the number of cars at the hotels and on property. Others have speculated that its because Disney doesn’t want you wandering off property for food or visiting Universal.

There have been dozens of other guesses as to why Disney is doing this.

In my mind I think the explanation is much more simple…its a cash grab that they feel that they can get away with.

Face it…the fees that they are planning on charging aren’t ridiculous or insane. I’m sure Disney has done their research and looked at the industry and figured what they can charge and not have major objections.

Also, think about who visits Walt Disney World and has a car.

There are the people who live close enough to Walt Disney World that driving is practical and flying isn’t worth the little bit of time saved. These people will still bring their car.

There are those where driving (even if it’s 12-20 hour drive) is significantly cheaper than flying. This is my family when everyone is going along and we have the luxury of time for the trip. This parking charge isn’t going to push anyone over the edge towards flying. It just isn’t.

Then there are those (me included when we don’t drive) who fly but rent a car because they like the convenience and flexibility and don’t want to hassle with the Disney busses. My guess is a huge majority of these people will still rent a car and bring it onto property.

I have no data, but I’ve talked to people…people who have had a car on property and even though inconvenient, this charge is not going to keep many people from still having their own car or renting a car while staying at a Disney Resort.

And this is the key..I think Disney knows this. They know the vast majority of people who are inclined to have a car on property will continue to do so and just pay the fee. They will just build the charge into the price of their vacation.

Now…in full disclosure, we’re DVC members and for most of our trips we’ll be exempt from the charge. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it or agree with it.  Honestly even if I’m paying for at hotel room I’m still going to want a car and I’ll end up paying the charge. This isn’t going to keep me from taking a car on property. I’m being honest….it’s just not.

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Walt Disney World May be Planning to Use Driverless Shuttles

Walt Disney World in Florida appears poised to launch the highest-profile commercial deployment of driverless passenger vehicles to date, testing a fleet of driverless shuttles that could cart passengers through parking lots and around its theme parks.

According to sources with direct knowledge of Disney’s plans, the company is in late-stage negotiation with at least two manufacturers of autonomous shuttles – Local Motors, based in Phoenix, and Navya, based in Paris. It’s unclear whether contracts would go to both or just one of the companies.

The sources, who asked not be identified to avoid offending Disney, said the company plans a pilot program later this year to transport employees in the electric-drive robot vehicles. If that goes well, they said, the shuttles would begin transporting park visitors sometime next year.

Currently, there are no plans for driverless shuttles at Disneyland in Anaheim, according to the sources. The reason is unclear, but Florida puts few restrictions on driverless vehicle deployment, while California is overhauling regulations that have been criticized by industry as unnecessarily heavy handed.

Disney did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment. Navya and Local Motors declined to discuss Disney.

A barrage of media coverage on driverless cars over the last year or so has primed the public for their appearance on public roads. Although vehicle manufacturers say individuals won’t be able to buy driverless cars for several years, vehicles are being gradually introduced to the public in limited areas.

Waymo, the driverless arm of Alphabet-Google, has begun offering rides in driverless cars in Phoenix.

Last year, several driverless shuttle companies started testing the vehicles with public passengers in business parks and college campuses in Finland, Singapore, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and other locations.

Autonomous shuttles are bound to be “the first exposure most people have to driverless technology,” said Ben Stinnet, chief operating officer at Auro Robotics, a start-up in Santa Clara, Calif. The company, which is not involved in the Disney deal, is testing small shuttles at Santa Clara University.

Other shuttle start-ups include EasyMile of Toulouse, France, and SB Drive of Tokyo.

Most of the vehicles are shaped like tall bricks on wheels. With plenty of headroom, the shuttles typically can carry up to 12 to 15 passengers. Equipped with cameras, radar and laser sensors, they’re limited in “geofenced” areas – zones where the environment is well-mapped and understood by the vehicles’ artificial intelligence software and hardware.

Though the shuttles are capable of driving 25 mph or more, their speed is usually limited in initial deployments to 5 to 10 mph.

“They should be boring,” said Alain Kornhauser, an autonomous vehicle expert at Princeton University. “Riding in an elevator is boring. It takes you where you want to go.”

Shuttles like those planned at Walt Disney World “are in a sense going to demonstrate to the public that (robot vehicles) really work.”

Walt Disney World is comprised of several theme parks covering vast territory near Orlando. Hundreds of buses, boats and parking lot trams transport park guests and employees. There are also three monorails.

Some Disney watchers see driverless shuttles recapturing the futuristic vision set when monorails were introduced at Disneyland in the early 1960s and Walt Disney World in the early 1970s.

Driverless vehicles “would make transportation at Disney World cool again,” columnist John Frost wrote on the Disney Blog in 2013.

No one’s sure how big the market for autonomous shuttles might be. Driverless technology and app-based on-demand transportation are expected to transform public transportation. But huge questions remain unanswered. Will cities go driverless with their big buses? Or will those be gradually replaced by smaller shuttles driving dynamic custom routes, based on demand?

Kornhauser said transit officials are just beginning to come to grips with such questions.

In the meantime, companies are out to grab a big piece of whatever market does emerge.

Local Motors is building its Olli driverless shuttle on 3-D printers at a factory in National Harbor, Md. It has shuttles running in Berlin and the Washington, D.C., area.

In January, the company demonstrated the Olli on the Las Vegas Strip during the Consumer Electronics Show, and it plans a more permanent deployment.

From The Los Angeles Times

Disney Springs to Get Third Parking Structure in 2019

Reedy Creek Improvement District has confirmed that they plan to build a third parking structure at Disney Springs.

The  new structure will be the smallest of the three garages at Disney Springs.  The plans call for a 2000 parking space garage which will be located across Buena Vista Drive behind the Speedway and Casting Center alongside I-4. Access to Disney Springs will be via the recently opened pedestrian bridges.

The garage will be used by guests and cast members, adding more capacity to the current parking at Disney Springs. Like the Orange and Lime garages, the new structure will feature the smart parking system, which indicates empty spaces and capacity on each level and row.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2017, with an opening expected sometime in 2019.

Water Parks at Walt Disney World Getting Preferred Parking

Walt Disney World has just completed the roll-out of preferred parking to all four of their theme parks, and will be adding the option to the water parks.

Beginning on June 5th, preferred parking will be available at Disney’s Blizzard Beach, and at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon beginning June 19th.

Like at the main parks, a $15 fee in addition to existing parking fees will get you a parking spot close to the main entrance, and for the water parks, will also include a bottle of water for each guest.

Preferred Parking Available at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now offering preferred parking.  This makes the service available at all four theme parks at Walt Disney World.

Guests will have to pay $15 in addition to the regular $20 parking fees.  The preferred parking area is located near the front of each parking lot.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, preferred parking is located in the Stage lot.  At Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the Peacock lot, at Epcot in the Amaze lot, and at Magic Kingdom in the Jafar lot.

Preferred parking is also available for $15 for guests who current receive free parking, such as resort hotel guests or Annual Passholders.

Disney first began offering preferred parking at the Magic Kingdom in March of this year.

Walt Disney World Testing Premium Parking

It looks like guests might soon be able to pay a premium to park their car in special lots.

These parking spaces will be located at the front of the parking lot closest to the main entrances.  Disney will apparently be testing the premium parking soon. It is speculated that the cost to park in a premium lot will be $15, in addition to the existing $20 parking fee.

Although all parking lots are within walking distance to the main entrances, some can be a 15 minute walk, and many guests prefer to use the tram service. The new premium locations put the walking time within just a few minutes.

In the past Disney had offered premium parking for AAA members and Disney Dining Experience members. Both were eventually discontinued.

MagicBands to be Used in Place of Parking Permit for Resort Guests

Magic-Kingdom Parking Plaza

The traditional parking permits that have been issued for Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests for years are being discontinued.

Disney is beginning the roll-out today with guests staying at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort.  The parking permits will no longer be handed out at check-in, with guests now being asked to use their MagicBand for parking access.

At the theme parks, guests will present their MagicBand at the auto plaza booth to validate free parking permission. When returning to the resort hotel, guests can enter the dedicated guest lane and use the MagicBand for access through the barrier.

Those guests that do not have a MagicBand can use their RFID Key to the World cards instead.

The change to a paperless parking system is especially important following the recent introduction of the direct to room capability that allows guests to bypass traditional check in.

Following the initial introduction of the new system at Yacht and Beach Club, expect the roll out to continue to the other resorts over the next few months.

Disney Springs Parking Garage Gets Opening Date

Disney Springs Concept Art

If you are planning of visiting Downtown Disney, or soon-to-be-called Disney Springs, it will get a little bit easier after November 20th.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Disney’s new five-level parking garage near Downtown Disney will partially open November 20th with about 1,700 available parking spaces. For cast members, using the garage will come sooner as a trial run will be open for them on Sunday.

Walt Disney World Increases Parking and Valet Fees

Parking-Marker-Disney-World-Lot

As of March 30, 2014 the following new parking fees have been instituted:

  • Automobile, taxi, limo or motorcycle: $17
  • Camper, trailer or RV: $18
  • Bus or tractor trailer: $21

The last parking fee increase was in June of 2013, which saw a $1 increase for a car to $15. Offsite guests with single or multi-day tickets will mostly be impacted by the increase since guests staying at Walt Disney World resorts get complimentary parking and Annual Passholders also receive free parking as part of their pass benefits. Valet parking at Walt Disney World Resort hotels has increased from $15 to $20.  Self parking at resort hotels remains free.