03 September 2012

Approaching the Transportation and Ticket Center

There was once a central hub to Walt Disney World. Guests visiting resorts, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, or many of the Vacation Kingdom’s recreation areas crossed through this one spot. Yet, over time, the Transportation and Ticket Center has lost some of its connectivity to the rest of the resort area and is not a required destination for many guests. It is still utilized by thousands of guests every day, however, which means it is still important.
First off, let’s just be clear with one another, I don’t believe that the Transportation and Ticket Center, known to many as the TTC, will ever be the center of the Walt Disney World universe that it once was. There are too many resorts, parks, and entertainment districts spread across an area twice the size of Manhattan, and I don’t believe Disney will ever connect all of these locations to one spot, whether by monorail, peoplemover, or other means of transportation. Just taking a look at how much the TTC would have to expand to enable such a massive influx of guests and vehicles is enough to know that this will never happen.

On the flip side of the argument, the Transportation and Ticket Center isn’t going anywhere. The Seven Seas Lagoon isn’t going to magically be filled in and become the Magic Kingdom’s parking lot, Disney does believe in aesthetics after all, so the park will always be in need of parking for guests not staying on property. The Magic Kingdom monorail loop and ferries to and from the park require a home port for the same section of outside guests, or guests who like to use their personal vehicles to get around, which adds to the need for the TTC.

Walt Disney World hasn’t totally abandoned the place as a transportation limbo. Sure, guests aren’t lining up here to get their photos taken for their annual passes, in part because photos are no longer required on annual passes, but there are plenty of signs that Disney is trying to keep the TTC relevant. A coffee and pastry stand was added several years back, the parking lot received new section names for the first time in forty years (I’m not thrilled with this, but it does show that Walt Disney World is paying attention), and even the Cast Members who reside here place out games and activities to make the passage of time guests are waiting for the ferry or monorail a bit more bearable. Which begs the question, why does it still feel like a no man’s land?

You can’t force every guest to pass through this central point in Walt Disney World, as the logistics discussion above pointed out, and why would you want to? But shouldn’t it still have a feel of some place that guests want to be? For me, I believe, it comes back down to those early aesthetics that Disney was so prone to utilizing. The monorail beams don’t look as spic and span clean as they once did. The design of the buildings once felt like the buildings of tomorrow, but the cotton-candy color scheme of the structures does do anything to add emotion to the space. And all the spaces in between, once filled with charming topiaries, are now just vacant lots of land.

I don’t know what can be done to wipe forty years of usage off of the monorail beams, short of replacing them, which I would never ask Disney to do, but giving the area a strong identity is simple. Bing back the topiaries, with a view of the Magic Kingdom in the distance, these whimsical sculptures are just as much a part of the coming attractions experience as the posters in the Walt Disney World Railroad, Main Street, U.S.A. Station tunnels. The hard angles of the monorail stations create some perfect plant beds, take on some of the greenery and add in some plants with varied textures and colors. As for the monorail stations themselves, maybe it’s time for a fresh coat of paint, something with pizazz, not sickly-sweet violets and blues. While we’re at it, let’s remove buildings that aren’t being used by guests, like that empty covered area near the entrance to the ferries, once used for photographs, now just an empty cavern or some of the never used ticket booths. Once these areas are opened up, they would be the perfect place for a small garden with benches or a preview center, anything is better than empty, under-utilized buildings that guests have to work their way around for no apparent reason.

I don’t have all the answers for the Transportation and Ticket Center. I’ll be honest, I probably don’t understand most of the problems with this area well enough to know what needs to change. What I do know is that I have loved this hub for ferries, monorails, trams, tickets, and busses since I was a little boy, and I just want to see it shine again. If that means making some educated guesses into what could sparkle it up again, then I’ll take my best shots. It may be just a pass-through for most guests, but shouldn’t the most insignificant corners of Walt Disney World be where the talents of the resort burn brightest?


Rich T. said...

You've got this West Coaster very curious, now: Which names were added to the parking lot sections?

prttynpnk said...

Ok, this is ugly- I totally associate TTC with offsite stays. In feb we stayed at a condo and had to move thru the TTC and felt sooo depressed- it was like some bad sci-fi movie clearinghouse for displaced persons. I wasn't sure if we were going to MK or a Soylent Green factory. They need to make it look more friendly!

Jess said...

I disagree...when I was young my parents ALWAYS drove to the TTC whether we were on property or not. I never found it to be odd or unwelcoming. Even when I went through those gates earlier this year there was still the same buzz of excitement among the crowd...no no-man's land!

Unknown said...

First of all, thank you for calling it by its proper name as opposed to "Ticket and Transportation Center" which I have seen on numerous blogs and other websites. Speaking as a former monorail host from the mid-seventies, the TTC was considered "monorail base", and was the central transportation hub since EPCOT and the studios did not even exist. The only hotels back then were the Contemporary, Polynesian Village, and the Golf Resort Hotel. TTC was my favorite station to work, especially in the evenings as guests were coming out of the park and was much less hectic than in the mornings. It was also where all of us had to gather to log in and "punch in". It was also often the only time you would see friends who were going off the morning shift if you were coming on in the afternoon. So, not only for guests, but for cast members as well, it played a very important role. But, that was a long time ago, and now that things have changed, it is probably time for the bigwigs at WDW to revamp the TTC and give it a new look.

Idylatoo said...

I'd imagine that sandblasting would work to a certain extent - it's what they do to clean pollution off of old buildings.

The real topiaries are something that I really miss all over WDW. Before 2010, the last time I had been to WDW was in 1995. The whimsical topiaries to me are as iconic as hoping to see a character when you turn a corner. The fact that they've been mostly relegated to the odd versions during the Flower and Garden festival bums me out just as much as the current incarnation of the Imagination Pavilion.

And while they're improving the TTC, they can fix it so wheelchairs don't have to go up and down the ramps to get to EPCOT. =D