Oct 10, 2011

No Monorail for California Adventure

A frequent question I see around the internet is, "Why don't they put a monorail stop in Disney California Adventure?" Responses to this question are almost always exclusively aimed at the ticketing/park entry issues this would cause. However, there is a much simpler, more practical reason. Space.

Not space in the park, though that is an issue, as is theme. No, space on the monorail beam itself is the issue.

The monorail has a collision avoidance system called MAPO (short for MAry POppins, the film that provided the funding for it). It is what is known as a Moving Block System. In other words there are safe zones (blocks) around each monorail train. These blocks move with the trains. A console in the cab of each monorail shows the safety zones. The entire monorail beam is divided into 18 sections called zones. Zone 1 begins immediately after the Tomorrowland station. The Downtown Disney station is in Zone 7. You can see all of the zones on this image:

Courtesy The Monorail Society {link}
When the monorail opened in 1959, Zone 1 was a hard left turn that joined Zone 13 and the entire track was the curvy sections over Tomorrowland. With the addition of the Disneyland Hotel stop and multiple trains came the collision avoidance system, patented in 1976. View the patent {here}.

The MAPO system requires 3 blocks (zones) of space between any two monorails.  This gives the pilot a green light on their console. If there are only 2 zones, the light turns yellow and the pilot must stop before the next hold point. Hold points are the lines between zones on the track. If they pass this hold point there will be only a single zone between the trains and the emergency brakes immediately activate, stopping the train. Pilots are allowed only three of these overruns before being fired. These signals are shown on the left console in the photo below. In the center of that screen you will see a three light system that looks like traffic signals do.
Courtesy The Monorail Society {link}
Now, looking back at the zone map, the Downtown Disney station is in zone 7 and Tomorrowland station is zone 18. To be 3 zones away from Downtown Disney, a stop would have to be located in zone 3. This is the graceful right turn from Harbor into California Adventure. However, this is one zone too close to Tomorrowland station (only 2 zones between here and Tomorrowland). This means that there is no viable zone in the California Adventure segment of beam on which to construct a stop.

The only way to add a monorail stop for DCA would be to extend the monorail track around the park. Monorail beam is very expensive to build because of the type of concrete that must be used and the reinforcing as well as the power systems that have to go in. Looking at Google Earth we can see that any addition that went around DCA (only viable way to do this) would be pretty close to 1 mile or over.
Red = current track, Yellow = outline of park
It is mainly for these reasons that a monorail stop in DCA will not happen. Ticketing is an issue, but much more easily overcome than the safety/space issues and their associated costs.

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