June 25, 2024

Braking News: Disney World Adding 90 Buses

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Walt Disney World has announced an expansion of its bus fleet along with new character and movie wraps that'll roll out throughout 2024. This post shares photos & details of the braking bus news, along with a




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Walt Disney World has announced an expansion of its bus fleet along with new character and movie wraps that’ll roll out throughout 2024. This post shares photos & details of the braking bus news, along with a brief on-the-ground update about my good & bad WDW transportation experiences this year.

According to Walt Disney World, the buses are coming en route from California to Florida after being manufactured by Gillig. Walt Disney World began modernizing its fleet of back in Summer 2019 with the debut of “Sensational Six” buses, with the addition of approximately 75 new buses. Those were also Gillig buses, and replaced the oldest Nova buses (just under 50), bringing the total fleet size to over 400.

While new character wraps have rolled out regularly since then, this is the first mass replacement and fleet expansion since 2019. This time, Walt Disney World is adding 90 new buses to the fleet. It’s not known how many of those will replace older models that’ll be retired, so the number of net additions isn’t clear.

Some of the new fleet has already rolled out at Walt Disney World in the last month or so. Along with these 90 new buses will also come a bunch of new wraps, starting today (March 28, 2024). These new wraps will feature fan-favorite characters from Ratatouille and Zootopia.

Over the next few months, you’ll also see new wraps featuring 101 Dalmatians, Chip ‘n’ Dale, Orange Bird, Figment, and more. The designs of the wraps are being chosen based on guest response to the existing wraps and popular characters, according to Disney.

It’s nice to see both Figment and Orange Bird on a list of ‘popular characters among Walt Disney World guests.’ Personally, I hope that there are a half-dozen different Figment designs, all featuring scenes with Dreamfinder from the original Journey into Imagination. If they’re not going to reimagine the ride, it’s the least they can do. I’d also like for that Chip ‘n’ Dale bus to be Rescue Rangers. It’s time for a Disney Afternoon Renaissance!

The company also notes that this is part of a larger investment that Walt Disney World is making in its complimentary transportation offerings to further enhance the guest experience. You may have already noticed some of these buses while out and about. They’re Gillig Low Floor models that have been outfitted with updated accessibility features for guests using mobility devices, making the boarding process even smoother.

Walt Disney World looks forward to seeing guests sit back, relax and spend quality time with friends and family while being whisked away by one of over 3,000 Disney Transportation Cast Members in the brand-new buses and other exciting modes of Disney Transportation. Keep your eyes open for the new wraps and others debuting over the coming months!

Turning to quick commentary, I’ll start by addressing the dragon in the room. No, not Figment. Although he’s here too. The slightly comical way that, on the day that Universal shares a first look at the incredible How to Train Your Dragon – Isle of Berk Land at Epic Universe, Disney’s “answer” is new buses.

I’ll admit, the juxtaposition of news did give me a slight chuckle. But this isn’t actually an answer; it’s not intended to steal the thunder from Universal. That should be pretty obvious…it’s buses. For like the dozenth time, Walt Disney World isn’t going to have a direct “response” to Epic Universe. They’re perspective is quite clearly that a rising tide lifts all boats and that there’s nothing that could steal the thunder of a brand-new theme park besides a brand new theme park, so why even play that game?

Anyway. Walt Disney World expanding and modernizing the bus fleet is good news from a guest experience and efficiency perspective, even if it’s not in the same ballpark/league/sport as dragonland news. Getting the fundamentals right also matters. Anyone who has ever waited 45 minutes for a Magic Kingdom bus, while watching a half-dozen pass by for Animal Kingdom knows this. There was a time when Disney buses were coasting, and it was bad. Thankfully, that has not been the case for many years–even before 2019.

While it’s probably wishful thinking, I hope this signals that Walt Disney World plans to invest more in transportation and infrastructure. The obvious and overdue thing is a new monorail fleet, and that should absolutely happen. I’d also love to see more walkways, and even though it’s a longshot, Skyliner expansion. Reducing strain on infrastructure is really important, especially if they’re building more rides and resorts!

My personal experiences with the Walt Disney World bus fleet since last year’s holiday season have all been positive during my stays at All Star Sports, Coronado Springs (x2), and Contemporary. I’ve noticed fewer and fewer third party Academy buses over the course of the last year-plus, to the point where I’m not even sure if Disney is contracting out additional support for the buses.

Bus service for the All Stars, in particular, has been very efficient–even when there are long lines (which is often)–and that’s a big part of the reason why I don’t mind staying there. One of my bigger transportation complaints of the last couple years has been overcrowding on buses to Coronado Springs, but that was not my experience the last two stays. Buses were busy during peak hours, but never unbearably so.

My general perspective on Walt Disney World buses is that the service is far better than it was a decade ago, and a lot of longtime fans have now-outdated perceptions based on horror stories from back in the day. This isn’t to say bus service is perfect now and no one ever waits over 20 minutes–that does happen–but it’s kind of the nature of the beast. Buses will never be as efficient and predictable as the Skyliner, walking, boats, or the monorail (assuming no breakdowns–not always a safe assumption).

I did encounter the occasional long lines for the monorail from the resorts, but this was also during the heart of the holiday season when lots of fans are resort-hopping to check out all of the edible displays. From photos I saw on social media, this got even worse closer to Christmas.

I haven’t encountered any such issues since the start of 2024, which is likely due to lower occupancy and fewer visitors to the monorail loop hotels. With the Poly tower debuting in late 2024, I really wonder whether there’s a plan for this holiday season. The gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian is big business, but adding further strain on the monorail may not be the best idea ever.

I wonder if it’s realistic to restrict the monorail to resort guests and encourage everyone else to walk to the Grand Floridian. Or just encourage more use of that walking path, in general, and hope demand sorts itself out. I truly believe more people would use the walking path if they knew about it, especially in November and December when the weather is usually nicer. (I recently spotted a raccoon near the path–you don’t see that on the monorail…hopefully.)

No issues to report whatsoever with watercraft or Skyliner gondolas, both of which are excellent as ever. (But keep in mind that all of these stays occurred outside storm season, which is when Skyliner downtime is a real issue.)

Finally, an update on Orlando International Airport stats as reported by the airport itself. For the month of February, Orlando International Airport (MCO) saw overall passenger traffic increase by 8.5% for the month, with domestic passenger traffic up 7.3% and international traffic up 17.4%.

The increase in passenger traffic in February increased the rolling 12-month total to 58.4 million annual passengers. The continued strong growth in international traffic increased the rolling 12-month international traffic total to 7,199,261 which is just 35,423 below MCO’s all-time record.

These numbers are only going to continue increasing for March and April 2024 thanks to Spring Break season. Already, Orlando International Airport hit a new passenger record on March 16, 2024 with 102,064 departing passengers. That does not include arrivals, which would logically double that number to 204,128 total passengers – the most the airport has ever seen in a single day.

Spring Break 2024 was projected to post an 11% increase in passengers over last year. The prior MCO daily passenger record was set last year on December 30, with 98,521 going through security at Florida’s busiest airport. That number was surpassed on Friday, March 15, 2024 – one day before the new record was set.

Actually, it’s possible the new record set on March 16 has already been broken. That was #3 on MCO’s list of projected 10 busiest dates during Spring Break, behind March 23 at #1. Every single day on the list is a weekend–Friday through Sunday–and 5 of the days occur during the week-plus around Easter.

It’s also worth noting that MCO set new records last year over Spring Break, so 11% higher than that means it’ll be insanely busy. Part of this is undoubtedly the new terminal increasing the overall capacity of the airport. But that’s not all of it. Almost every time I’ve departed MCO in the last year, it’s felt busier than I’ve ever seen it. There’s more and more seating in what used to be empty walkways, and the line/wait time for TSA gets longer/higher.

A lot of frequent travelers think arriving 2 hours before a flight is overkill. Not at MCO. Even with TSA Precheck, that’s (at least) how early I aim to arrive. Without it, I’d recommend showing up 3 hours before your flight. I like Orlando International Airport and think they’re doing the best they can under the high-demand circumstances, but I’d honestly rather fly out of LAX than MCO at this point…and that’s saying something!

Speaking of the airport and buses, I’ve also used Mears Connect Driven by Sunshine several times since it debuted–including every single time going to and from MCO in 2024. I’ve already covered the good and bad of this in the recent Mears Connect Driven by Sunshine Review: Is Walt Disney World’s Airport Shuttle Still Good?

All in all, my personal experiences with Mears Connect have been mostly positive, but I also know what to expect and don’t mind a “leisurely” drive to my final destination. To the contrary, I prefer it to Uber or Lyft a lot of the time–and certainly prefer the price as a solo traveler. It’s worth keeping in mind that Mears Connect is going to be hit or miss: some okay-to-good experiences, and some horror stories.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Thoughts on WDW adding 90 new buses to the fleet? Any character wraps you’d like to see? Have you used transportation at Walt Disney World recently? What has been the good, bad, or ugly for you? Traveled through MCO at all in 2024? Have you used Walt Disney World buses between the parks and resorts the last several months? Any experiences of your own to share with regard to Walt Disney World transportation? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!




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