If there is one thing I love in life, it is going down a rabbit hole of information. When that collides with my love of Disney World… watch out! I recently did this with the Disney Skyliner after I saw a few tweets about the parks reopening soon. If you missed my deep dive overview of the Disney Skyliner, make sure you give it a read. I worked long and hard on it. But today we are going to focus on how much did the Disney Skyliner cost.
If you’re just looking for the meat and potatoes of the article, my estimate is that it cost Walt Disney World $33 million to build the Disney Skyliner.
But, I think I missed out on a big section that a lot of people wonder about with Disney, what are the true costs involved? When we see things like the Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster or the Ratatouille themed ride, we never truly investigate the costs involved (mainly because it is all internal and would be extremely difficult to find them).
A Recent Gondola Mass Transit System
The Skyliner project is unique to Disney projects in that it is not the only system of its kind. La Paz, Bolivia built an almost identical system as a means of public transportation 6 years ago (2014). The cost of that project was a steep $234.6 million for 10km on 3 different routes. This equates to 6.214 miles and a $37.75 million per mile cost.
There are a couple things we can take away from this:
- Gondola systems are an extremely cost efficient method of transportation
- My original guess on the Disney Skyliner cost to build is not too far off
- Disney has finally made a massive step in the right direction for crowd control outside of the parks
But wait, “your original guess for the Disney Skyliner cost was $3 million to $12 million per mile. You’re way off!”
Not necessarily! Disney has the luxury of owning all of the property needed to build their gondola system, the terrain is easily accessible and does not require special equipment to get to, and there are no additional expenditures when it comes to security of equipment or contractors.
Walt Disney World is the creme de la creme when it comes to cost efficiencies. Their in house engineering unit (Walt Disney Imagineering) is a very sought after job for both the scope of projects and level of work done. You don’t become a 100 year old conglomerate with cost overruns and inefficiencies.
Canadian Gondola Systems
We will now use a second example of Dopplemayr gondola cars, this time built in Canada. The Whistler-Blackcomb mountain 4.4 km long Peak 2 Peak Gondola was built in 2007 at a cost of $51 million CAD (the exchange rate was roughly the same at the time). This breaks down to a cost per mile of $18.65 million. This is much closer to my original estimate, and the Peak 2 Peak even included some world records for height and distance between support towers.
This plays back into the easily accessible terrain equation for Walt Disney World. If you look at the land it was built on, there are almost zero elevation changes. Going back to my original estimate of $3 million to $12 million per mile I’m probably in the right ballpark, but leaning towards the upper end of $12 million.
We do know one aspect of the cost was the $3.8 million for the power systems needed to operate the entire gondola system. While expensive, this is only one aspect and doesn’t include all of the materials, special designs from Doppelmayr, or the cost of labor for the rest of the project.
The City of Edmonton has been floating the idea of a gondola system for around 5 years now. In January 2020 they released their study on the feasibility of building a gondola system. This included costs from other systems built in the last 15 years. Based off of this chart, $12 million per mile for the Disney build system is close to being correct.
This puts the Disney Skyliner cost to build at $33 million. Again, these are only estimates and we have no access to financial data, other than what has been published about other projects over the years.
Have you ridden the Disney Skyliner? Let us know in the comments what you think of it! We loved riding it on our last trip and plan to stay at one of the Skyliner resorts next time we go. If you have insight into the costs of the Skyliner or other more recent gondola systems, let me know! I’d love to find more knowledge on the topic.