Now you’ve got two problems (Part III)

Amusement parks, crowd control and load-balancing

Cory Doctorow
10 min readJul 25, 2021


Jeremy Thomson, CC BY

This is Part III in this series. In Part I, I opened the with news that Disneyland Paris is getting rid of its Fastpasses in favor of a per-ride, per-person premium to skip the line, and explored the history of Disney themeparks and what they meant to Walt Disney. In Part II, I explored Disneyland’s changing business-model and the pressures that shifted it from selling ticket-books to selling all-you-can-eat passes, and the resulting queuing problems.

Getting your money’s worth

The all-you-can-eat Disneyland admission introduced in 1981 dramatically shifted the character of a day at Disneyland. Under the A-E Ticket regime, the victory condition for a day at Disneyland was to exhaust your ticket book, save for the odd A- or B-Ticket. With most visitors riding ten or fewer rides in a day (and with some of those being less thrilling, more contemplative attractions and shows), the lines were shorter.

Under the one-price regime, a visitor’s victory condition became “Ride all the rides I like, as many times as possible.” The prix-fixe menu had become a buffet. Lines snaked to infinity. Regular visitors felt ripped off by all the dead time spent in line on the way to “getting their money’s worth” (say, by riding Space Mountain four times). First-timers felt ripped off because riding Space Mountain just once meant an hour or more in line .

But once Disneyland abandoned ticket-books, there was no going back. People like all-you-can-eat, feels-like-free offers. Ticket-books forced visitors to explicitly ration their experiences, trading off among the eleven E-Ticket rides to decide how to spend the three E-Tickets that came in a ticket-book. Doing away with tickets replaced the intentional active dilemma of choosing three rides out of eleven with a kind of lottery, where luck, timing and experience might get you on eight E-Ticket rides in one day. Or one. Or none.

Disney needed to do something.

Enter the Fastpass

In 1999, Disney introduced the “Fastpass,” billed as a “virtual queue.” Fastpass was a bid to restore some of the traffic-shaping the parks lost when then ticket books were abolished. A limited…



Cory Doctorow

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