Did you know that you can use the Disney Bus system even if you’re not staying at a Disney Resort? You can. Disney provides this service for free, along with monorails and ferries across the resort. The only place they have tried to discourage it’s use has been at Downtown Disney, where they don’t run buses from the parks. You can still hop to a resort and get there but just not directly. The primary reason for this is Downtown Disney, now Disney Springs needs it’s parking for it’s own shops, entertainment venues, and restaurants. Diseny lets resort guests park at the resort or the parks for free and offsite guests only have to pay to park once per day. They can then utilize the assorted Disney Transportation options and leave their vehicle at one park or show the other park where they paid for the day. If you’re a Passholder or DVC Member, you also can park for free whether you are staying on property or not.
The most prominent means of transportation you’ll see going everywhere is the buses. In general for the parks the buses run 45 minutes before opening till an hour after. Though that’s a bit misleading, as it can take an hour to filter down to the bus stop some nights and you’ll find several bus loads i front of you. Also keep in mind those hours are extended for Extra Magic Hours. Further out at each park you will als see buses coming from some of the non-Disney Downtown Resort area Hotels. These are usually operated by MEARS, the people that run Disney’s Magical Express. Interesting tidbit in an emergency, the Disney Cast Member over the buses as a whole can tell even the MEARS drivers to take other guests and get them on their way safely. I saw this a few years ago, staying at the then Regal Sun, now the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista. It was the end of the night heading out of Epcot, hiking way out to the bus when they started rounding folks up and overriding bus routes. The reason was a storm was beelining towards the parking lot with strong rotation showing a potential for a tornado. Anyway, Disney Buses will go to Downtown Disney/Disney Springs from the resorts til 1 AM, and will bring guests back till 2 AM. Disney Buses also run between parks, allowing for park hopping or leaving your vehicle at one park. Currently this works pretty good, except sometimes if you park hopped from Animal Kingdom since it closes so early. Once Avatarland Opens and the night show is going full swing it’s predicted the park will remain open later and this wont be a problem. But currently it is possible for you to park hop and then find no buses going there. If you run into that, go find a Cast Member and tell them what happened.
The most famous form of transportation is of course the monorails. Running on three beams (tracks), you can take the Monorail from the Ticket and Transportation Center to and from the Magic Kingdom, from the Ticket and Transpeortaion Center To and from Epcot, and looping around the lake stopping at the Polynessian, The Grand Floridian, the Contemporary, the Magic Kingdom, and of course the Ticket and Transportation Center. At one point the idea was to have them go everywhere at the Walt Disney World Resort, however, as fun and cool as they are to ride, the buses are cheaper to operate. The monorails also have a fourth beam that runs out over behind Space Mountain to a maintenence bay. There’s also a few tractors as they call them to go out down the loop and retrieve them if they break down. Occasionally at the Ticket and Transportation Center you’ll get to see them switch loops, which is pretty neat to watch, though it does pretty much halt everything while that is being done.
The Walt Disney World Resort has 12 monorails (Mark VI) and over 150,000 daily riders. Each monorail is identified by the colored stripe, and yes sometimes they paint one up for the current big movie release that’s coming out. Once upon a time, upto four people could ride up front on a first-come, first-serve basis with the pilot, and be dubbed co-pilots at the end. However, an incident on July 5, 2009 ended the practice. The incident is also the one and only time a fatal accident occured. The Pink and Purple trains collided killing one of the pilots. There is currently an ongoing move to automate the monorails and have the pilots merely there as backup, but it’s not quite there yet.
You have probably heard several times riding the resort or express routes that the monorail is stopping for traffic. What’s going on is the moving blocklight system, MAPO. Basically it’s a safety system presented to the pilots akin to traffic stoplight: red, yellow, and green lights. Also a button labeled Override. What the lights means is how man blocks up the track the next train is. Green is three or more, yellow is two, and red is one. A block is somewhere between 500 and 100 feet. The start of each block is a hold point that’s flagged for pilots to stop the monorail and wait for the one in front to get further ahead. Disney rules indicate for safety, the monorails should be no closer than two blocks apart at which point the pilot should put the monorail on hold before crossing into the one block apart red MAPO. If they do the autopilot locks them out unless the press and hold the override. It also counts as a demerit, and if they get 3 demerits in a two-year period, they are transferred to another role at Disney out of Monorails. MAPO is actually a Walt Disney term, stemming from making a seperate company to deal with the Disneyland Transportation System from the proffits made from Mary Poppins.
The other system in use around Disney World are the boats and ferries. The don’t quite get the notice of their counterparts on land usually, but there are a lot more of them than you might think. The most notible are the couple of ferries going from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom and back. These carry a lot of guests and are probably what most people think of when boat transportation at Disney is mentioned. However, there are lots of smaller boats (water launches/taxis) that go from various resorts to some of the parks or between a few parks.
While not operated by Disney, the Resorts will help you get a taxi, and there are taxis usually waiting around the Parks and Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. These aren’t free, however, they might be worth the extra cost sometimes to get an early morning ADR.
MEARS operates Disney’s Magical Express that goes to and from the Orlando International Airport (MCO). Tip Day Thursday – Disney’s Magical Express | Stitch’s Home
Disney Cruise Line also has a bus going to and from Port Canaveral and MCO, as well as running from the Walt Disney World Resort to and from Port Canaveral. These, however, are not free. It’s $69 per person for roundtrip from MCO and $35 per person to go from Disney World to the Port or the Port to MCO. Disney’s Magical Express handles transportation from MCO to the Resorts and Resorts to MCO for Cruise Guests like they do for other Guests at no extra charge. In fact, while I’m not 100% sure, I believe MEARS runs both as I’ve seen Disney Cruise Line schemed buses running Magical Express routes.