How often do you get three for the price of one these days? Especially at Walt Disney World? Well, let me introduce you to a WDW 3-for-1: The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover! It’s a ride, a travel brochure, and a transportation system all in one! Bonus fourth item: it’s fun!!
Intrigued? Keep reading – or if you’re in a hurry, skip straight to the Nuts and Bolts to get the whats, wheres, and hows of the PeopleMover.
1. It Is As Advertised
Located in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover opened in 1975. Also known as the TTAPM, or the PeopleMover, it … moves people. Surprise!
OK, I couldn’t resist. But it does a bit more than that. The 10-minute ride takes guests through a covered, aerial tour of Tomorrowland, traveling through the inside of Space Mountain, while narration points out not-to-be-missed points of interest along the way. You can think of it as the same kind of introductory tour given on double-decker buses or AquaDucks in tourist cities, except that in this case it’s using what was then groundbreaking technology: Linear Synchronous Induction motors (more on that later).
It’s leisurely, relaxing, and a great way to take in everything around you, without having to do more walking. Bonus: because it uses a continuous load system, it moves the queue along at a good clip. You’ll wait just one and a half minutes per 100 people in front of you, which is twice as fast as the next fastest-loading ride in Tomorrowland.
2. Tomorrowland Is On the Agenda
Your tram car travels in and out of some Tomorrowland attractions while providing aerial views of others. You’ll see TRON Lightcycle / Run from a new perspective, along with terrific views of Cinderella Castle, AstroOrbiter, and the Carousel of Progress. Riding the PeopleMover during the fireworks is a fun experience, although you’ll miss most of the projections on the castle.
Other highlights include peeks inside Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and Space Mountain. And if Space Mountain happens to be down for maintenance, riders may get to see the track with the lights on, as we did on our last visit. It’s really something, let me tell you!
3. It’s the Third Evolution Of its Kind
The PeopleMover is one of three Disney World attractions that has its origins at the 1964 World’s Fair. Back in 1964, Walt Disney and the Imagineers worked with the Ford Motor Company to develop the New York World’s Fair WEDway PeopleMover system. (If you’re a trivia fan, the “WED” in WEDway referred to Walter Elias Disney.) The WEDway PeopleMover was designed to provide “transportation as an attraction“.
Three years later, the Imagineers took what they learned at the Fair to develop a PeopleMover that opened at Disneyland in 1967. This version of the PeopleMover was sponsored by Goodyear, and featured more than 500 Goodyear electric drive wheels between the tracks. Goodyear also provided the conveyor belt that transferred riders to the second-story loading platform, a feature that lives on in the Magic Kingdom version.
Although Walt Disney had envisioned using a similar system to move people around his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT), that vision never materialized and the PeopleMover at Disney World is in the Magic Kingdom. In 1975, a new WEDWay PeopleMover opened in Tomorrowland. In 1994, the PeopleMover was given a refurb, new narration, and a new name: the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Then in 2010, it was renamed to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover.
Today’s PeopleMover only resembles the World’s Fair attraction in spirit, as this third version employed yet another new propulsion system: Linear Induction Motors. In this version of the PeopleMover, 629 electromagnets form the linear induction system. Through a carefully timed sequence of pulses, the electromagnets move the cars of the PeopleMover smoothly and quietly along the track, which is over a mile long. This system eliminates all moving parts except for the trams themselves!
Bonus fact: Using the same Linear Induction technology, Disney’s Imagineering built a below-ground subway system for the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. It’s still in use today.
4. It Pays Tribute to History
Over the years as Tomorrowland has changed and evolved, so has the narration for the PeopleMover. The current script contains nods to the past, mentioning attractions that no longer exist, such as If You Had Wings and The Timekeeper.
You’ll also hear the narrator say, “Paging Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow. Please contact Mr. Johnson in the control tower to confirm your flight to the moon.” Tom Morrow 2.0 was the mascot of Innoventions in EPCOT until 2007. And Mr. Johnson was the flight director of Mission to Mars which closed in 1993, and former attraction Flight to the Moon which closed in 1975.
5. The Nuts and Bolts
The entrance to Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover is next to the Lunching Pad and under the Astro Orbiter, across from the Carousel of Progress. The queue consists of a few switchbacks, a turnstile, and a steep moving walkway ramp. (The ramp is a great place to stretch your calves!)
At the top, guests are level with the continuously moving PeopleMover trams and wait for a Cast Member in order to board. Guests must be ambulatory to experience this attraction; there’s a small step up from the moving walkway into the moving vehicle.
The trams consist of four cars with two benches facing each other. The cars have no safety restraints and the seats themselves are hard benches with a high back. Each seat can accommodate 2 to 3 guests.
As for the ride experience, it’s gentle and breezy for the most part, with brief moments of acceleration and some quick turns. There are no health and safety advisories for the PeopleMover and no height restrictions to ride. Outdoor portions of the track are covered and open on either side. Interior portions of the attractions and tunnels the trams pass through are extremely dark at some points, dark enough that it’s hard to see your hand in front of your face.
Weather rarely affects the PeopleMover. But if the queue extends much beyond the moving walkway ramp, you will be exposed to the elements while you wait.
To make the attraction accessible to as wide an audience as possible, the following aids are available from Guest Services for a refundable deposit: Handheld Captioning and Audio Description.
For you early risers, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover is open for Early Theme Park Entry.
The Bottom Line
People seemed to have discovered the charm and lure of the PeopleMover. It’s a great way to get off your feet, see the sights and relax for 10 minutes. The queue can be quite long at times, but it moves quickly. We think that it’s nostalgic and forward-looking at the same time. Enjoyable, leisurely, and fun, we think everyone should make time for a ride on the PeopleMover whenever they visit Tomorrowland.
What are your thoughts about the PeopleMover? Not very exciting or not to be missed? Let us know in the comments below.