Did you know that Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in lines? From standing in line to buy groceries and waiting in lines at the post office, to queuing for a roller coaster ride at your favorite theme parks and waiting for your baggage at the airport, everyone at one point or another has experienced the anxiety of waiting in lines.
Queue management can be a tough task to tackle, especially in theme parks where it’s one of the worst annoyances that a guest can experience during their vacation. Often times you feel as if you have been waiting longer than you actually have, with waiting in queues being an inevitable expectation when you consider attending a theme park. Dr. Richard Larson, a professor at MIT, has been studying the psychology of waiting in lines for over 30 years, earning him the nickname “Dr. Queue.” He estimates that an American spends at least two years in their lifetime standing in line!
So what exactly is the benefit of studying the theory of queuing and how do theme parks create the most efficient process of getting people through lines? Believe it or not, Walt Disney World provides wait times thanks to a computer which can provide a wait time estimation as it inputs data of guests passing through a turnstile in a given amount of time with queuing equations designed by a queue engineer. The engineer designs the line in a way that keeps the wait time as low as possible. When you think about visiting a popular theme park like Disney, you probably start thinking about which attractions to ride first, simply to avoid the long lines later in the day. With Walt Disney World’s four key values – Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency – you can expect those values to be applied to the way they handle long lines. Disney cast members put safety first, are always being courteous and going above and beyond guest expectations, stay in character, and help give guests the most out of their visit while using time and resources wisely. While Disney offers you the option to spend less time in lines with their FastPass+ application, theme parks in general have spent more time incorporating show and efficiency into designing engaging queue lines in an attempt to “suspend reality” and extend the attraction experience.
Did you know that Disney actually overestimates wait times for rides so that guests are pleased when they realize they’ve spent less time queued than expected? Often times guest satisfaction at a theme park relies on the estimated wait time vs actual wait time, but more modern parks have incorporated a sense of suspended reality through design, from lights and sounds to architecture and props, which create excitement about what is happening around them, and stimulating the senses to feel like they are occupied while waiting. With the right design principles, customer expectations and emotions can be managed.
With the FastPass+ program, guests can make line reservations via mobile device on the My Disney Experience app (or an in-park kiosk) which allows guests to set up line reservations to skip lines while also providing information about current wait times, which helps reduce the crowding issues that lead to displeasure among theme park guests. Another influence on our emotions about waiting in lines is the perception of fairness, and the standard of “first-come, first-served.” Though innovative technology like the FastPass+ helps reduce lines and the possibility of cutting and skipping lines, a guests’ overall experience depended on their queuing environment and fair treatment.
The efficiency of queues and queue theory are becoming such a prominent aspect simply in response to the ever-growing need to be provided with something instantly. With patience dwindling in a world where packages are shipped and received in the same day, or where information is available at your literal fingertips, it’s no surprise that the topic of long lines and queue efficiency is growing.