Saturday, October 31, 2015

The WEDway PeopleMover and the Community Transportation Services Division

By EPCOT Explorer

The mid 1970s were marked with a flurry of creativity and activity for Walt Disney Productions. Main efforts centered on expanding their existing two theme parks, and looking to finally act upon Walt Disney’s plans for EPCOT in some regard. Simultaneously, Disney was broaching the subject of an Asian Disneyland in Tokyo. Despite all of these far flung and grandiose ideas, concentration settled on developing a “ride” system for a public works project. Let's examine the WEDway PeopleMover and the Community Transportation Services Division in today's new article by EPCOT Explorer...

Initiated in 1974, the Community Transportation Services Division (CTSD) was an arm of WED dedicated to building and designing a mass transit system for public use. Their concepts and ideas dwelled in earlier efforts to build a transportation venue in the parks, the first PeopleMover in Disneyland and the WEDway PeopleMover in the Magic Kingdom, a re-design of the first concept.

The second iteration of the PeopleMover system, the Walt Disney World line differed from the Disneyland model of using moving tires, and instead moved vehicles along a track by using an induction linear model. This system utilizes electric magnets to activate in sequence and “pull” trains of PeopleMover cars down the tracks.

This second version was instrumental in the formation of the CTSD and WED Imagineers were tasked with applying the technology on a larger scale for “short-range, intra-city transportation needs of airports, shopping centers, communities and even governmental projects”.  These systems were to be licensed and sold by Disney to whatever industry that wished to apply them. Further, it was a goal and hope of the division that the solutions found in designing a wider transportation system could be applied to the master planning and design of related Disney projects. EPCOT’s Theme Center and World Showcase were prime candidates for this type of project and in their formative stages were often “packaged” with these transportation systems, as seen in the rendering above. Further, Disney associated their transportation work as a sort of extension of EPCOT’s logos and pathos in the sense that transportation solutions were part of a pressing need in cities and urban environments that Disney hoped to solve. EPCOT, of course would have been the “solution center” for exhibiting the answers to those problems by showcasing and using a new WEDway line and a possibly linear induction powered redesign of the Walt Disney World Monorail System.

By 1979, though, the Disney developed WEDway PeopleMover would only have one real application outside of Walt Disney World. Planned to make a debut in 1981, the Tuner Construction Company had won a bid to install a WEDway in Houston International Airport. Costing $13 million, the PeopleMover model would have featured the unique linear induction motors, to propel six three-car trains over a 7500-foot route between the airport’s three terminals, hotels, and parking area.

This system, although not widely used as originally hoped, was only one of 10 people-moving systems evaluated by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration to achieve total operating and maintenance cost of only nine cents per passenger mile. The UMTA also certified the CTSD’s WEDway system for use in federally funded urban transit programs, a honor that Disney and WDI still holds to this day.


EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer's first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM

You can find all of EPCOT Explorer's articles here.

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