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As the predicted queue line ever been wrong and it's taken longer than the expected time ?

God have mercy

Roller Poster
I remember getting in the line for Spinball Whizzer a while back and it had a predicted queue line of half an hour and it took around 50 minutes without it breaking down.

Same with Collosus at Thorpe Park I think that was about 45 minutes and it took well over an hour to get on the ride without it breaking down.
 
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Heth

Mega Poster
Yes, frequently, because it takes a while to update things. If loads of people join a 45 min queue at one time, then the time won't update until a bit later.
 

Eyebrows

Mega Poster
Yes, and also the other way around. It’s not uncommon to see rides posted as 20 minute waits turn out to be walk ons. I’ve found that park apps are generally to be ignored (unless they are posting massive wait times), with physical postings being slightly more accurate. The likes of Disney and Universal seem to have this wait time thing down pat though.
 

RTcmix

Mega Poster
Yes, and also the other way around. It’s not uncommon to see rides posted as 20 minute waits turn out to be walk ons. I’ve found that park apps are generally to be ignored (unless they are posting massive wait times), with physical postings being slightly more accurate. The likes of Disney and Universal seem to have this wait time thing down pat though.
Though if you believe Touring Plans, Disney deliberately exaggerates about wait times for certain things to manipulate their guests.
 

Nitefly

Hyper Poster
I’m pretty sure that the Merin parks in the UK have been overstating ride times quite dramatically for the past year or so. Chessington seems to be a particular offender for this.
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
I’ve had queues where the queue was advertised 60 minutes, and the ride was walk-on, while I’ve also had 60 minute advertised queues where it took nearly 2 hours. It drastically varies, for sure!
 

toofpikk

Mega Poster
I’m pretty sure that the Merin parks in the UK have been overstating ride times quite dramatically for the past year or so. Chessington seems to be a particular offender for this.
It’s been impossible to determine accurate queue times with social distancing and Covid cleaning measures in place. Should start to get back to normal again now.

park dependant there is different procedures in place for queue times. At merlin parks, towards the last 90 minutes of the day you can expect queue times to become less accurate as other things start to take priority over keeping the queue times updated (and on busy days it deters guests from rejoining queues towards the end of the day). Queue times are also less accurate as the rides teams often don’t have direct access to the queue time displays; it needs to go through a central control team or a manager who will often forget to update the boards. Not only this but senior teams can update queues without informing the rides team, making wild assumptions about how busy a queue may truly be!

somewhere like europa it can be done from the rides control box, and workers are encouraged to update it as frequently as possible which seems to be the most logical thing in my experience..?
 

JoshC.

Giga Poster
So I'm just going to use this thread to spend some time chatting about queue times because why not.

I used to work at a theme park where it was my job to ensure that the queue times were updated regularly and accurately. I guess you could say it was a job like no other. So it's something I was very interested, and still have a semi-active interest in.
(I'm sure I've made a post on here before which will be similar to this post, so sorry if I bore you with repeat details).

Obviously I can't speak for every park, but I know that many parks do not have any technical system for updating queue times. In other words, it's just "guess and hope for the best". Of course, one can make an educated guess, especially by speaking with guests, experiencing queue times yourself and with experience. But it's a guess all the same. Immediately, it's obvious to see why queue times are inaccurate. Educated guesses will largely be inaccurate.

As toofpikk mentioned, rides teams rarely have direct control over them. There's usually a 'middle-man' figure. One can see the temptation - it helps create a sense of accountability (make sure the queue time is updated), and takes the pressure off when someone working on rides has several other responsibilities too. But equally, it adds another person to the change, and increases the chance for a mistake. It also means that the people working on a ride aren't guaranteed to know what the displayed queue time is.

Another issue with rides teams updating queue times is being able to actually see the queue. The operator of the ride should have full CCTV coverage of the ride and ride area. But there's no need (from a H&S perspective) for the operator to have a view of the queue line if it's not near a ride area. Of course, there should be CCTV coverage for security purposes, but not for the ride operator purpose.
What that means is that a ride operator might not be able to see the full queue. Or they can see the queue in the background of CCTV for the ride. This makes it more difficult to understand how long a queue might be.

To go back to when I had a role updating queue times. I had access to a system which could update the queue times (a very simple interface of each ride having a drop down menu of queue times). I would also regularly walk round the park and check the length of the queues in person. My role involved being a middle man, but a two way middle man. This meant that ride operators could contact me to update queue times, but I could also contact ride operators and inform them when I had updated it as well.
This allowed consistency between different parties about what the queue times were, and meant they were regularly updated.

Systems for updating queue times automatically
There are systems out there which can predict queue times automatically. Some which I am aware of:
1. If a park has an app, and guests allow certain permissions when downloading the app, the app shows the amount of people in certain areas / queues around the park.
2. Headmapping software, which overlays CCTV cameras and counts people going in and out of a queue.
3. The good old fashioned turnstiles

Each of these all have (pretty big) problems though:
1. If people don't download the app, or only have it as 1 between a group, it's pretty damn inaccurate.
2. Such systems require cameras specifically for the software and are surprisingly expensive
3. Easily open to abuse (people spinning the turnstiles for fun)

I'd love to know how somewhere like Efteling manage their queue times. In all of my visits, the queue time estimates have been extremely accurate.

In short though, automatic systems are a good idea in theory, but from what I've heard, harder to implement in practice.


Anyway, moving away from that diversion. Probably the simplest and most cost effective way to move forward for most parks is to just get staff to update the queue times, and ensure this is done frequently and accurately.
I remember reading a research paper which analysed people's behaviour whilst queueing (this was a few years back, and to this day I still cannot find it, so you'll just have to trust me on this). In the UK, if you have groups of people forming a narrow-ish queue, then - on average - you'll find about 11 people every 3m. This is because of the way groups of acquainted people (friends, etc) group together, and then the space they left between their group and a stranger group.
Obviously, that was a study conducted pre-pandemic, so it would be interesting to see how that's changed now, and what the numbers are like in a couple of years' time, for example.

But with that knowledge, one can easily create a way for park staff to understand how long a queue should take from given points. You can measure the length of your queue, determine how many people should be in the queue at given points. Then, knowing the throughput of the ride, you can do some simple maths to calculate a more reasoned educated guess for a queue time.
One can also take that a step further, and if you're able to analyse the changes of the throughput, and even the amount of downtime a ride has on average, you can account for fluctuations too. But that's somewhat more involved.

From experience, something like this can work and can provide accurate queue times. But it requires a certain level of set up, buy in, understanding and drive from many parties, which can be difficult to achieve.

I've rambled a bit here now. And I haven't even touched upon other factors for estimating queue times such as Fast Pass users, numbers of disabled guests, etc. But needless to say, they make estimations more difficult.

A couple more final things though, which admittedly is just reiterating toof's points mostly.
-Towards the ends of shifts, ride staff may not update queue times properly. It happens.
-Covid and social distancing made to much harder to gauge queue times.
-If possible, it's always worth trying to look at a queue and try and use some common sense to see if an advertised queue time is accurate. Not easy when queues are indoors / sprawling. But if you can see a queue, it's a smart idea to exercise that common.

tl;dr
1. Estimating queue times is hard, especially if it's down to ride staff who have many other jobs to do.
1.1. BUT it is possible.
2. Automated systems exist, but your mileage may vary with success.
 

FistedColossus

Hyper Poster
Seven Dwarves Mine Train at Magic Kingdom had an advertised wait of 120 minutes, despite the external queue being completely empty. Asked the cast member if that's accurate and she insisted it was a 2 hour wait.

Went for it anyway and it was a walk on! Very weird.
 
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Ethan

Strata Poster
Yeah I did hear about parks like Alton Towers using the mobile app and "sensors around the queues" to monitor how long those in the app have been in that area or something, but that's the extent of my knowledge/what I've been told.

Obviously not a flawless system though as last month during my visit, Oblivion was advertised as 60 minutes but was actually 5! In my experience though, the parks with the most accurate were Efteling and Europa Park, at least during my visits.
 

spicy

Giga Poster
At WDW a cast member hand out to random guests a lanyard with I guess a timer inside it when you enter the queue line.

You then hand the lanyard to the cast member as you board the ride.

Seems a simple enough and fairly accurate way of doing it.
 

Hixee

Flojector
Staff member
Administrator
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Seems a simple enough and fairly accurate way of doing it.
It does, but it's also got a weird latency. If you get handed the lanyard at the entrance, but not a single other person joins the queue behind you, then you get to the front of the queue and report the queue is "1 hour", however for someone joining the queue at that moment the ride is a walk on. Equally, you could cruise through the queue with only a train load of people ahead of you, but nine coach loads join after you.

I've always assumed the tokens handed out are more for their internal tracking processes (give out a token every thirty minutes across the day to monitor the overall queue profile throughout the day), rather than for updating the queue times shown publicly. Might be wrong there, though.
 

JoshC.

Giga Poster
I've always assumed the tokens handed out are more for their internal tracking processes (give out a token every thirty minutes across the day to monitor the overall queue profile throughout the day), rather than for updating the queue times shown publicly. Might be wrong there, though.

That's certainly the idea, yes.

It's another one of those 'nice ideas in theory' ideas. You can hand out a token / lanyard / slip of paper, but you can guarantee you won't get all of them back. Some people will forget, or will hand it to the wrong person. If it's a nice looking lanyard/token, some will just keep it. Sometimes members of staff won't notice it. In my experience, you usually get only 30-50% of these things back.
Maybe not a big issue, but it does mean realistically you can only expect a handful of data points a day, which isn't the most helpful thing.

Also, I don't know what WDW is like in terms of staffing levels, but it also requires a member of staff to be outside the ride entrance (or, at least, someone to go to the ride entrance and hand them out periodically). If there is a greeter at a ride entrance, then okay, gives them something else to do (though imo the idea of greeters at ride entrances feels largely pointless), but if not, it means magicking a member of staff to do a job, which probably isn't worth even their menial pay to the wider operation of a park.

So yeah, nice in theory, can certainly help give some internal insight, but it's not as useful in practice as one would hope.

Yeah I did hear about parks like Alton Towers using the mobile app and "sensors around the queues" to monitor how long those in the app have been in that area or something, but that's the extent of my knowledge/what I've been told.

Obviously not a flawless system though as last month during my visit, Oblivion was advertised as 60 minutes but was actually 5! In my experience though, the parks with the most accurate were Efteling and Europa Park, at least during my visits.

I *think* that Towers no longer totally rely on the app. At the very least, I'm sure that staff have the ability to update their queue times manually if they wish. Whether that's the only way they do it, or if it's just to override the system if the app is way off, I'm not sure.
 

toofpikk

Mega Poster
That's certainly the idea, yes.

It's another one of those 'nice ideas in theory' ideas. You can hand out a token / lanyard / slip of paper, but you can guarantee you won't get all of them back. Some people will forget, or will hand it to the wrong person. If it's a nice looking lanyard/token, some will just keep it. Sometimes members of staff won't notice it. In my experience, you usually get only 30-50% of these things back.
Maybe not a big issue, but it does mean realistically you can only expect a handful of data points a day, which isn't the most helpful thing.

Also, I don't know what WDW is like in terms of staffing levels, but it also requires a member of staff to be outside the ride entrance (or, at least, someone to go to the ride entrance and hand them out periodically). If there is a greeter at a ride entrance, then okay, gives them something else to do (though imo the idea of greeters at ride entrances feels largely pointless), but if not, it means magicking a member of staff to do a job, which probably isn't worth even their menial pay to the wider operation of a park.

So yeah, nice in theory, can certainly help give some internal insight, but it's not as useful in practice as one would hope.



I *think* that Towers no longer totally rely on the app. At the very least, I'm sure that staff have the ability to update their queue times manually if they wish. Whether that's the only way they do it, or if it's just to override the system if the app is way off, I'm not sure.

Interesting to hear how in your experience these tools are used vastly differently/have a different viewpoint on positions.

At fasttrack positions where you join the main & fast track queue together, throughout busy days those slips of paper are given to this staff member as they tend to be the only workers on attractions aside from the operator with a radio, and can update the queue times in between batches according to the slips. As has been pointed out by @Hixee, it's actually quite an unreliable system. I've never known for the queue updater person at the park I'm familiar with to ask about these slips or come and pick them up. It might take a bit too much thinking than the average minimum wage paid attendant can be asked for in the UK parks but I've always found visual cues and working out very roughly how efficient the loading team is on rides helps keep the queue times as accurate as they can be.

Furthermore although WDW and the likes of Europa have the budget and staffing to have a permanent greeter at ride entrances, on any day where a park is not quiet I really do see the benefits of having them. Years back they were a regularly filled position, but as staffing cuts and positions have taken place they have become a complete rarity. On many rides where the entrance to the queue is a massive snaking maze, far away from the first staffed position, which is often in the station, the lack of a greeter causes huge problems for queue jumping, fights amongst guests, communication issues in breakdowns, and underheight punters. On hot summer days, the amount of times I've seen guests rock up through fast track entrances on rides when they have been too small for another attraction, queued up anyway, complained, and been given free fast track, its honestly probably a cost saving to have the position manned to stop scenarios like this from happening so frequently.
 
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JoshC.

Giga Poster
Interesting to hear how in your experience these tools are used vastly differently/have a different viewpoint on positions.

I've never known for the queue updater person at the park I'm familiar with to ask about these slips or come and pick them up.

This is an issue I'm familiar with as well. Ultimately, rides staff are on minimum wage and have more important (ie H&S) things to worry about than pieces of paper with times written on. For it to work, you need a few staff to understand what's happening and to care about it enough to include it in their checklist of things to do. I only saw it work a handful of times admittedly, and of those handful of times, you have the problems I mentioned above.

Furthermore although WDW and the likes of Europa have the budget and staffing to have a permanent greeter at ride entrances, on any day where a park is not quiet I really do see the benefits of having them. Years back they were a regularly filled position, but as staffing cuts and positions have taken place they have become a complete rarity. On many rides where the entrance to the queue is a massive snaking maze, far away from the first staffed position, which is often in the station, the lack of a greeter causes huge problems for queue jumping, fights amongst guests, communication issues in breakdowns, and underheight punters. On hot summer days, the amount of times I've seen guests rock up through fast track entrances on rides when they have been too small for another attraction, queued up anyway, complained, and been given free fast track, its honestly probably a cost saving to have the position manned to stop scenarios like this from happening so frequently.

I can certainly see this side of it. From my experience, having a greeter position didn't really change problems that you list such as queue jumping, hostile guests and even underheight guests. It does give guests a 'port of call' person if they have a specific question about that specific attraction, and that is a good thing. But beyond that, I never saw much benefit added for attractions which did have greeters.
I'm sure cultures within parks, types of guests at a park, etc all play a part in that too tbf. So I'm sure it's park-dependent on the need and effectiveness of greeters.


but I've always found visual queues and working out very roughly how efficient the loading team is on rides helps keep the queue times as accurate as they can be.
This is an important point which I didn't mention in my original rambling. The 'have a look and make an educated guess' system is actually alright. So long as you have an engaged person at the ride who is keeping an eye on things, and receptive to the things which can affect a queue time, they'll have a pretty good idea what the queue time is. Not an easy thing to do when you have 100 other things to do, but certainly doable with experience.

The other thing as well is that these ball park estimates are usually good enough. For example, the average guest isn't going to care if a queue is going to take them 70 minutes or 80 minutes...they're going to care they're spending an hour to an hour and a half in a queue for a ride. So a better use of staff and park focus should be to make queues as short and/or quick moving as possible, than being able to give highly accurate queue times. Providing decent approximations is the secondary aim.
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
With estimating queue times, I’ve got an idea that could make the estimates more accurate; I know it would cost a lot of money, but is there a way that parks could use sensors/counters to count people into queues, and then pair that with sensors logging the average throughput of the ride in the past hour to calculate a rough estimated queue time? Parks could then account for things like Fastrack and disabled access by giving them a certain percentage of the throughput.

Of course it isn’t a perfect solution (throughput of course varies to a degree, and there might be a time where there are no disabled guests or Fastrack users), but it must surely be a less crude way of doing it than having someone simply guessing?

It would also require little to no staff to manage it.

Do you think that sounds like a good idea, or do you think I’m over complicating the concept? I think doing Computer Science naturally makes you think of technological solutions to things…
 
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