Yesterday my family and I went to SeaWorld as it is now an annual thing for us to visit a theme park (last 2 years was LEGOland). I expected there to be some people (tourists and others that don’t celebrate Christmas), but thought it would be a breeze to get into the park. We left our house around 9:40 for a 10 am opening of the park. We live less than 10 minutes away, so 10 minutes to get in, get parked and get to the gate did not seem unreasonable to me as we’ve done it before.
We get to the parking lot and had to wait in a line. That’s the first problem. The way SeaWorld does parking is they have multiple gate houses (that’s what I call them) with 1 car lane on each side. Each gate house can accommodate 2 people, one person on each side. Well, SeaWorld decided to staff each gate house with 1 person meaning that instead of 2 cars going in at a time, only 1 went in at a time. You would think that this was done to slow down traffic in the parking lot, but there was practically no moving cars in the parking lot. I also noticed that one gate house was empty, so there were no cars at it.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the 1 person has to take your money or pass, go inside, ring it up on the computer and print out a receipt before returning. So with the great invention called mobile terminals, they should be able to collect money/credit cards/passes without having to go inside. Combine this with 1 person per lane and more cars could get in faster. If you were unlucky and pulled your car on the left hand side of the gate house, your passenger (or you if you don’t have a passenger) has to hand everything through the passenger window. Putting a person on each driver’s side window would make it easier.
After we made it through that line, we had to park. At DisneyLand, there are people directing you to empty spots and basically don’t let you park wherever you want. SeaWorld kind of makes it a free for all which causes empty spaces. So people cruise up and down the aisles looking for empty spots (we did that and found one pretty quickly).
We thought we were home free and the long lines were people buying tickets. We were wrong; the long lines were to get in. They had 2 entrances open which meant that 4 people at a time could get in. Then when we got to the front of the line, the same problem they’ve had for ages showed itself again. That was their horrible ticket scanning machines. These machines require you to put your ticket on a platform and line up the X to read the barcode. They are slow and problematic. Then for pass holders (and presumably multi day ticket holders), you have to put your finger on the biometric scanner which seems to be flakey as well. Yesterday, the machines flat out didn’t work, so the people at the entrance had to use handheld devices and scan the barcodes. While barcode scanning is a fairly fast process, lining up the barcode takes time especially if you’re trying to hold the device and the ticket. Using a magnetic stripe on the ticket like they do on many transit systems would speed up the process. The downside is that people that printed tickets at home would have to exchange them for encoded tickets. Since there were a number of unused automated kiosks, this doesn’t seem unreasonable. While this does shift the line, it only shifts the line for those that printed tickets at home.
While this may sound like I’m complaining, a trip to a Disney theme part shows that these problems have been thought out and solved a long time ago. I’m not sure if the current owners of SeaWorld don’t want to invest the time or just don’t care. It could be the latter because people still come to the park and are just grumpy until they get inside and forget about the 40 minutes to actually get there.
Suggestions on busy days
- Staff each parking gate house with 2 people.
- Open all parking gate houses.
- Use mobile terminals for parking payment collection.
- Put people on driver’s side of each lane and not stay in gate houses.
- Have people directing cars to fill in every spot.
- Open more entrances to let people in.
- Get more reliable ticket reading machines.
- Use magnetic stripe tickets instead of barcodes.