Niles: Here’s what’s missing from DisneylandForward

The Disneyland Resort has been putting out an impressive case for new rules to govern its development through its DisneylandForward proposal. Disneyland President Ken Potrock detailed the resort’s plan to OC Forum last week, highlighting the economic benefit to Anaheim and the region if Disneyland gets the OK to build hotel and attractions on space that has been reserved for parking lots.

But watching Disneyland’s presentations and talking with resort representatives over the past year, I can’t shake the thought that something is missing from DisneylandForward.

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I understand why Disneyland has been evasive in detailing just what attractions and hotels it will build should Anaheim approve the proposal. Why risk offending neighbors by rolling out a completed design for which the resort has no legal approval? Better to work with the community to establish the ground rules that will govern the resort for the next several decades. But as a Southern California native, resident and advocate, there is an element that I wish that Disneyland would have been able to include in at least its top-level vision for the resort.

Disney’s theme park resorts in Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Paris all feature train connections to their local mass transit networks, including local airports. On the best of these, Disneyland Paris lies just 10 minutes from Charles de Gaulle airport via France’s high-speed TGV network. Even Florida is developing a high-speed rail system, though Walt Disney World declined to have a station on its property after developers included a stop at the Universal Orlando Resort.

There is no regional transit train station envisioned in DisneylandForward, however. Blame for that must spread beyond Disney. Where is the robust mass transit system to which a Disneyland station would connect? Despite continued development on many important components of such a system, including Metrolink and Los Angeles’ Metro, there is no route on the drawing board that would get a Disneyland visitor to the resort from any local airport faster than driving a car.

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Perhaps more than any other Disney resort, Disneyland is a locals’ resort. Most of its visitors are driving from home and not looking for a ride from the airport. To that end, Disneyland wants to build another parking garage east of Harbor Boulevard, both to replace the Toy Story and Simba lots and to accommodate the additional visitors the expanded parks are expected to attract.

But Disney-loving futurists like me can’t help but imagine a real land of tomorrow where people movers and monorails are not just theme park attractions. Many Californians — and many Disneyland fans — want additional transportation options.

Last week’s corporate decision to abandon plans to move thousands of jobs to Florida reaffirms that Southern California will continue to be Disney’s creative home. It should be a welcoming home, too. Part of being a welcoming community is making it easy for everyone, including visitors, to get around to where they need and want to go. Perhaps a mix of Disney and California creativity could show us the way forward toward that.


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