Understanding (and reducing) waiting lines (Queues) is central to Operations Management. Waiting in line is often one of the most memorable experiences when visiting theme parks such as Disneyland. The long wait times limit the number of rides a visitor can experience per day. Disney research shows that the average visitor only can enjoy nine rides per day. From a “value-add” perspective, this is a rather poor performance. A ride might take five minutes. So we are looking at 45 minutes of value add (ride) time relative to an eight hour day. What can be done to improve this? Improvement actions in this environment can be categorized into three groups: (a) Increase capacity: in some cases, it is possible to increase capacities at the attraction. In the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, Disney is able to increase the launch frequency of boats as demand increases. (b) Make the waiting more pleasant: Disney dispatches greeters and entertainers to reduce the perceived waiting times when it is not possible to reduce the actual waiting time. Simple video games are now added to Space Mountain as a way to turn unproductive (and not amusing) wait time into something fun. (c) Divert demand to less crowded areas: if you can’t increase capacity, try to reduce demand. There are 40 rides / attractions in a typical park. But demand tends to focus on some high visibility attractions as those are perceived as being the most fun. When wait times in those areas grow long, Disney tries to create some “buzz” in other areas of the park, trying to divert demand and thus balance capacity utilization.
For a more detailed story, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/28/business/media/28disney.html?scp=1&sq=disney%20lines&st=cse