By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press Writer
SANDUSKY, Ohio - Long, dreary and crowded waits can take the wind
out of even the most eager thrill seeker. So to keep guests happy,
amusement parks these days are using beepers, special tickets and
hand stamps to encourage people to cut the line.
Front of the line privileges for popular rides cost extra at some
parks and are free at others. Parks benefit because less time
standing means visitors can spend money in shops and restaurants
"No matter where you are people are generally impatient," said
Chris Knauf, assistant manager of ride operations at Cedar Point
amusement park, which gives out hand stamps that allow visitors to
skip ahead later.
The trend began five years ago with the FastPass reservation
system at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom, and has trickled
down to regional theme parks. Long waits had topped the list of
complaints, said parks spokesman Dave Herbst.
So the park came up with a solution. Visitors can avoid standing
in packed queues for the top 26 attractions, including The
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Space Mountain.
Guest surveys show that those who use FastPass, which tells guests
when to show up for the ride, have a better experience and are
able to see 25 percent more attractions and shows.
"We're hitting at the one thing they dislike," said Todd Evans,
manager for attractions at the Florida parks.
While the Disney system is free, Six Flags parks charge a fee for
getting to the front.
Six Flags, with 28 theme and water parks nationwide, sells front
of the line tickets at most of its parks. Five parks rent an
electronic device that works like a pager.
The costs vary at each park. At Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags
Over Georgia it costs $10 to rent the device and another $10 for
each person using it.
Guests insert the palm-sized device at a sign near the ride and
reserve their time to come back and get on a roller coaster with
little or no wait. The device, called a Q-Bot, vibrates and beeps
when it's time to ride.
The system was developed by an English company, Lo-Q, and is used
at Six Flags parks in New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts, Missouri
Leah Moss, director of Lo-Q's U.S. operation near Atlanta, said
more people would visit amusement parks if they knew they could
"We're looking at people who work really long hours and don't have
much leisure time," she said. "People have more money than time
Not everyone thinks it's fair for some guests to buy their way to
Sean Flaharty, a roller coaster enthusiast from Columbus, said the
system can produce longer lines. Some parks reserve coaster seats
for people who have front of the line passes, and those seats
sometimes go unfilled.
"I can see why people get angry because that makes the line
actually go slower," said Flaharty.
To make sure there aren't problems, some Six Flags parks have put
employees in the lines to explain how Q-Bot works.
"The program is fair because people are still waiting for rides,"
said Kristin Siebeneicher, a spokeswoman for Six Flags Great
Adventure in New Jersey. "They just can do other things while they
The park typically rents 250 of the devices on an average day.
Amusement park operators say the front of the line systems are
popular. At Disney, at least half of all visitors use FastPass on
a typical day. The number of Q-Bot users at Six Flags doubled last
year to about 750,000.
Cedar Point has a more low-tech solution to long waits. Its hand
stamps allows guests to bypass the lines on six of the park's 16
The stamps are free and available to anyone willing to wait from a
few minutes to a half-hour. Lines start forming early, and a day's
supply of stamps for the two top coasters can be gone in half an
Greg McNeely, of Lafayette, Ind., who was waiting to get a hand
stamp at Cedar Point, said his family can't wait in long lines
because their son has diabetes and needs regular snacks and two
insulin shots each day.
"This allows us to plan our day and make sure he has everything he
needs," McNeely said.