Different crowd calendar metrics?

With the general increase of crowds over the past 10 years or so (along with conflating factors of widely varying staffing/capacity levels and what looks like the much more recent smoothing out of attendance over the calendar year) it seems to many that the almighty “1 to 10” crowd level scale just doesn’t have as much value as it once did.

I appreciate the efforts to better quantify these high level numbers with average wait time metrics, but even those can be hard to really get a handle on without a tremendous amount of per-attraction wait time mapping.

Have Len and his Doughty Crew put much thought into the possibility of estimating actual attendance numbers on a daily (even hourly) basis? And perhaps also estimating staffing/capacity levels (obviously the “ride downtime” numbers are an attempt along these lines)?

When the difference between a “1” crowd level and a “6” crowd level may actually simply be an attendance of 35,000 guests for a “1” and 40,000 guests for a “6”, it would go a long way towards setting expectations on a proper footing and result in overall most satisfaction with crowd calendar predictions. I’ve gotten the strong impression over the years, despite messaging and explanations from TP about what the crowd calendar actually means, that many otherwise sophisticated subscribers still have it in the back of their heads that a crowd calendar of “1” means, or should mean, something like under 10,000 park attendees.

I’m guessing there is either a lack of data to truly generate a reliable estimate along these lines, or existing relationships prevent it from being possible. But it sure would be nice!

I can’t answer what @len may do, but, as a consumer, crowd numbers mean nothing to me. I have no metric to use to compare. How much longer will I wait in line at Splash Mountain for each additional 5,000 people in the park? Is 44,000 people really twice as bad as 22,000?

I guess without something to attach that to, it wouldn’t be as helpful to me.

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If you look on the page with the crowd levels, you will see that each attraction has a pretty wide range of possible peak wait times for each crowd level. And, they overlap quite a bit. So on a CL1 day you can have a 65 minute wait for 7DMT and on a CL6 day you can have a 65 minute wait also. You never know where the crowds will go and when.

My experience really only pertains to the lower half of the crowd spectrum, but what I have seen is that the difference in CL1 and CL4 or 5 is the wait times on the lower tier attractions. On a CL1 day, I usually find that I can walk onto IASW, Dumbo, Teacups, etc, but on a CL4 or 5 day, those will be more like 20 minute waits (maybe not teacups, because who waits 20 minutes for that?).

I completely understand what you’re saying, but if you’ve ever previously visited the parks you already have a “mental metric” to compare it to, provided you could see estimated attendance historically. Everyone knows how crowded a park “felt” during each of their visits; what I’m saying is that it would be useful to put a number on that.

For example, not each “10” crowd is alike. Some “10” days might mean 60,000 guests whereas others are actually 80,000 guests - and that certainly will mean a difference between very crowded and manageable and “don’t even bother”.

But it also speaks to the fact that rides do not solely define the theme park experience. Dining, shopping, and simply having room to walk around or find a spot to enjoy the entertainment are all integral parts of everyone’s days in the parks. Having a more understandable number that gives you a better idea of the number of people in the park would certainly help set expectations.

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Personally, I don’t like the use of “ride wait times” as a metric for crowds so much. Instead, I would prefer crowd ratings primarily based on, say, percentages the park is filled to capacity. So, for example, any day where the park gates shut down because of capacity would be a 10. If the gates don’t close for the day, then the max becomes a 9, etc. The actual values would need to be figured out.

But the ride wait times will be directly proportional to overall crowds, but the opposite isn’t necessarily true. This is because I think for most people there becomes an upper limit to what they will put up with in terms of line wait times, and more people are avoiding the lines and just doing other things. But this still means crowds are worse even if ride wait times are not.

I think having wait time numbers for individual rides is VERY IMPORTANT to planning any given day. But when choosing a day to go, I still use Undercover Tourist’s crowd calendar. So far, it hasn’t let me down.

Keeping in mind that WDW never releases the paid attendance and, therefore, those numbers would never be accurately available to TP statisticians, but (until, I suppose this new ticket system) there is no actual way for even Disney to know in advance what the crowds will be. If the point is that the difference between 60,000 and 80,000 is not the waiting time at attractions, but the feel of the parks, I don’t think last year’s attendance is even helpful, because it COULD be 60k again, but it might be 68k or 72k. In all cases the day will still be a 10.

All of this is academic to me, because I don’t rely on crowd numbers to tell me whether I should or should not go to a particular park on a particular day. My behavior does not change based on crowd numbers of 1 or 2 digits. At my last trip, some of my days were 7s, some were 8s, some were 9s. I honestly don’t feel like I could tell the difference… BUT, if I am picking a time of year, I bet a week of 3s, 4s, and 5s, is different from 8s, 9s, and 10s and that is all I need for planning purposes.

@ryan1, I have consulted UT crowd calendars too, but they use the same 1-10 crowd levels as TP. And they use wait time data to determine those crowds. They just use color bands as well to group crowd levels into low medium and High. Which is kind of how I approach the TP levels. If a crowd level is “red” or 7-10, I expect it to be busy, and make sure I have a solid plan. I don’t care how many people ultimately are in the park, because I am gonna be there at RD, with the (relatively) smaller crowds, and then I am gonna get out by lunchtime or a little after when the park is jammed.

Now, I fully get, that everybody plans differently, and everybody likes different data, so, to each their own. I just think that all crowd predictions come down to 2 essential things for every person: (1) some kind of rating or metric; and (2) some frame of reference that allows the person seeing the metric to understand what that metric means.

If people like quantitative assessments like attraction waiting times or actual attendance numbers, that’s fine (but as I mentioned, I think attendance numbers will always be unobtainable); if people like qualitative assessments of “crowdedness” or “elbow room” on Main Street, that is also fine. Both can be valid. Ultimately, I think quantitative numbers are easier for TP to use, but every user of the numbers will have to establish their own frame of reference for what the data mean.

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I can’t compare UT’s to TP’s for Disney. But for Universal, UT’s was clearly more accurate to what we experienced. I know that UT uses wait times as part of their calculation as well. Since I’ve not done a trip to Disney before where I had access to TP’s numbers, I can’t speak to those…but in every case I’ve used UT’s numbers for planning a trip, our experience matched pretty accurately what the numbers said. I’ve used OTHER crowd calendars which give slightly different numbers, and found UT to be the most accurate to our experience.

Admittedly, there really is no good scientific way to determine one way or the other.

But, for example, let’s say you go during a “low week” in terms of attendance numbers. If Disney decides to have fewer employees and longer lines as a result (reducing capacity) the truth is, the overall “feel” of the crowd is still lower, regardless.

As I said, the usefulness of TP, to me, isn’t the Crowd levels predictions for any given day, but in planning out a day itself once you are there. I’ll use UT for choosing which days (well…I’ll use UT in conjunction with circumstances/desires/etc!) to go.

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Absolutely agree… and don’t really know how this can be worked around. Given that the attendance is a variable, the staffing is a variable, and the level of operational efficiency is a variable…

But I think exactly because of this attraction wait times, are the best data to account for all those variables. Ideally, regardless of the number of actual humans in the park, how many employees are working, or how many rockets are in operation on SM, if the wait time at 11 am on Space Mountain is 63 minutes, that should have the same crowd number. Admittedly the park may feel less crowded on Main street, with only 53k than 71k.

Again, I suppose it is what you want out of the experience, if you prefer to people watch, shop, dine, and meander around the park, with no intention of riding SM, then who cares what the wait times are, the crowdedness feel is more important. I totally get that.

I think most experienced liners do what you say anyway, we use crowd numbers as a high level guide, and the plan the heck out of the day! Which , I think, usually results in the most positive experience possible.


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That’s where we disagree. Because once I’m IN line, the feel of the crowd doesn’t matter. It is just a wait with a bunch of people. But it is my experience OUTSIDE the lines that plays a role.

So, hypothetically, if Disney does their magic and is able to manipulate wait times on a lowly attended day to match the wait times on a highly attended day, pretty soon you’ll have a crowd calendar where every day looks almost exactly the same. It loses any meaning. Yet, when you actually GO, you’ll feel a HUGE difference being there. Perhaps I’m still waiting 65 minutes on a CL 2 and a CL 7 day, but I will have a MUCH better time on a CL 2 day than a CL 7 day. It will feel more relaxed, etc. That is what I count on the crowd calendars differentiating for me.

Personally, I sit on the beach and listen to the waves when I want to relax. A Disney trip is not designed to be relaxing for me. I wouldn’t mind one bit if the walkways were crowded if the lines were still short. So, I guess I’m the opposite of you. I care everything about how long I have to wait to ride an attraction and almost nothing about how many people are walking around.

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These days, I’ll even pick the times I go to the grocery store based on how many people are the aisles. Lines are about the same, no matter which time I go…but the people. Oy! The people! Get out of my way, people! :smiley:

Oh. Wait. We were talking about Disney, weren’t we? :wink:


Yeah, but the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon… its absolute torture. PLUS, WHY are they stocking when the store is SOOO crowded… wait, are we still talking about grocery stores?


The “how many people will I bump into just trying to walk from x to y” factor definitely matters. There are things you can do to pass the time in line, but navigating crowded paths is always stressful for me and there’s little to do to lessen the stress.

Wait times matter too, for obvious reasons.

I’d almost prefer two separate indicators, but maybe that’s just me.

But if Disney is trying to adjust staffing to “level out” the wait times and make them fairly static regardless of attendance, then crowd level becomes the only thing that really matters.

I don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t you rope drop the grocery store? Always hit the deli first, that’s where the lines build fastest!


Used to be true, but Publix has now introduced mobile ordering, and it is so much faster (but doesn’t work with dining plan yet) :rofl:

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We can definitely generate an estimate of daily park attendance. Disney’s given us a couple of pieces of information that help correlate wait times to crowds. Also, the Buzz Price Archives at the University of Central Florida have notes on how the # of people in the park are distributed between attractions, dining, shopping, walking around, etc.

I’d probably use the TEA park attendance estimates as a baseline, and work back from that, to verify the calculations,

As you note, there are things like staffing and ride capacity (and intentionally wrong wait times) that would affect accuracy there.


Is there a way to track that one annoying family that always slow-walks, zig zags, and then stops in the path right in front of me so I practically fall down trying not to step on them? That would be awesome!


Disney charges extra for that. $50 per person per day.


and you are limited to selecting, in advance, only 3 families to track… however, on the day you are in the park, you can add additional families to your tracking AFTER you drop your first 3

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$50 seems fair, if it is per person in my family and my MDE map has big red dots wherever the slow walkers are.

If that doesn’t work, I guess I’ll just go back to being the guy with 2 strollers standing in the middle of tomorrowland staring at my phone trying to figure out where space mountain is