To queue or be queued?

screwbot_1.gifOne day at Six Flags Great Adventure, we waited in line to ride one of the wooden roller coasters. The wait up until this point was about 35 minutes. We were just about to smush through the turnstile when the attendant stopped us. Just then, two dozen kids appeared in the exit lane. Holding up a little electronic contraption they were all let through, filling up the next car and adding another 10 minutes to our wait. My first experience with the new park queuing system.

Mouth open, shocked. My first thought was anger. Who do you think you people are?! My second thought: Where do I get one and how much?

On our next trip to Great Adventure I inquired as to the price. With 4 of us it breaks down to about $12 per person. Okay, what does $12 get you… exactly.

First they will tell you some crap that it doesn’t wait in line for you. I think this is some sort of mis-information to make the people not paying $12 feel better. If you are clever and plan your queuing like a general going to war, you can ride every coaster in the park on a busy Saturday – twice. Yes – we did it all, again.

You must realize that in a park of this scale it takes you 20 minutes to walk from one section to the other and 30 minutes (or more) to walk all the way across the park. The idea is to have the system wait for you while you walk.

For example: The first ride you will have to wait for. This isn’t too bad as the wait times in the morning are low. When you walk to a ride and queue it – we’ll call that “beeping the ride.” You can queue an unlimited number of rides, but the counter for the next ride won’t start until you finish the previous one. So you beep Batman and it says wait time 35min. Then beep The Chiller. Okay, now go ride Skull Mountain as a warm-up. Buzz, buzz. What’s that? Batman is ready! Okay get off Skull Mountain and ride Batman. On the way over, beep Nitro. Off Batman onto The Chiller. You get there 5 minutes early, but it lets you on anyway. Hop off the chiller and head towards Nitro. Nitro is a big ride so the wait time is still at 40 minutes. That’s okay you have time to ride The Mine Train on your way to beeping Medusa / Viper / etc. and then back to ride Nitro in the nick of time.

So, the guide is this: Always beep (queue) a ride while walking to another one. You may have to backtrack a couple of times (based on the park layout), but your wait time for ride B will be eaten up by you walking to ride A, getting on, riding it, walking back and beeping ride C. Walk to ride B, get on, ride, beep ride D and then ride C. etc. etc. This is much more efficient then: Walk to ride A, wait an hour, ride. Walk to B, wait 45 min, ride. etc. In the same amount of time you went on 3 rides I did 5. The more you keep the ball rolling, the more this time adds up.

Queuing coming to a park near you? Based on the new system they implemented this year at Six Flags New England, I’d say YES. The new system not only does ride queuing, but knows where you are in the park (with a form of RFID – Radio Frequency Ident) and will spam you with “deals” for park food and promotions. They are tracking where (exactly) you go, how much time you spend there and what you ride.

Counterpoint: Cedar Point had implemented a rider queuing system and later pulled it because of complaints and problems. They seem reluctant to implement a full park system. The medieval “hand stamp” system is just not going to cut it in the 21st century. Don’t expect them to adopt any system that Six Flags uses.

Do I like queuing systems? Yes and no. On a busy Saturday when you want to ride EVERYTHING it’s a must. It’s worth the extra $12 per person. I dislike the spam systems they use now. I don’t like that they track you around the park. Should they spend the money on a queuing system instead of training the operators to make the rides queue quicker? Probably.

About The Author


Hardware hacker, technology integrator, and maker. He enjoys staring blankly at code, voiding the warranty, and touching things in the back. When not doing that he is building and racing a rally car.

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10 2004

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