A new bill passed by the Florida Senate and House of Representatives provides the state with the oversight and responsibility to inspect the monorails at Walt Disney World Resort. The bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, specifically targets the Walt Disney World monorail system by requiring state oversight of “any governmentally or privately owned fixed-guideway transportation systems operating in this state which are located within an independent special district created by a local act which have boundaries within two contiguous counties.” Beforehand, it was the responsibility of Disney and other theme parks in the state, which employ over a thousand individuals and have their own full-time inspectors, to conduct their own safety inspections.
The passing of the bill comes amid escalating tensions between Florida Governor DeSantis and Disney, with lawsuits from both parties being filed against each other this week. Last week, Disney initiated a legal action in Tallahassee’s federal court, accusing DeSantis and other officials of engaging in inappropriate retribution against Disney due to its opposition to the contentious education law for 2022. The Board of Supervisors for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District submitted a countersuit this week.
The bill technically covers any fixed-guideway transportation systems operating in the state within an independent special district created by a local act which has boundaries within two contiguous counties but the language of those who have put it forward has all pointed toward Disney and its monorail system. The amendment, filed by Republican Senator Nick DiCeglie, states the “department shall adopt by rule minimum safety standards for governmentally owned fixed-guideway transportation systems, privately owned or operated fixed-guideway transportation systems operating in this state which are financed wholly or partly by state funds, and any governmentally or privately owned fixed-guideway transportation systems operating in this state which are located within an independent special district created by local act which have boundaries within two contiguous counties.”
Disney’s Monorail is a popular mode of transportation within Walt Disney World Resort as it allows guests to travel between Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, and select Disney Resorts in just minutes. Within Walt Disney World Resort, there are three distinct lines that the Walt Disney World Monorail System traverses. However, there was an incident in 2009 where a death occurred, which has sparked concerns over the safety of the monorail system.
The passing of the bill means that state inspectors will have more control and responsibility for the safety of the monorail system. The move has been seen as necessary by some, with Senator DiCeglie saying, “It is my view that when we have a monorail system that carries 150,000 riders a day, I think it is appropriate for the state for the Florida Department of Transportation to oversee the safety standards for that particular mode of transportation.” However, others have criticized the move, arguing that it is unnecessary and could lead to increased costs for Disney.
The ongoing clash between DeSantis and Disney has reached a new level with this latest escalation. Last year, Disney took a stance against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which started this chain of events. Governor DeSantis spearheaded initiatives that Disney deemed as “retaliatory.” which involved the disbandment of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and the establishment of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. DeSantis personally selected the board members for this newly established district. Additionally, there have been efforts to actively terminate a development agreement which was initially made by Disney and Reedy Creek prior to its replacement by the new district. DeSantis and the board have claimed that the agreement was made in secrecy, but the evidence contradicts this, as it was documented in the minutes and publicly announced in local newspapers.
0. “Transportation bill could give FL control over Disney’s Monorail system” Islander News.com, 3 May. 2023, https://www.islandernews.com/news/florida/transportation-bill-could-give-fl-control-over-disney-s-monorail-system/article_e58df1aa-e9d0-11ed-8794-4b105a5893ba.html
1. “Vendetta off the rails? Gov. DeSantis protects Floridians from Disney monorail” Yahoo News, 7 May. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/vendetta-off-rails-gov-desantis-090748664.html
2. “Ron DeSantis Is Going After the Railroads—Well, the Disney Monorail…” The New Republic, 4 May. 2023, https://newrepublic.com/post/172448/ron-desantis-disney-monorail-bill
3. “Florida lawmakers OK Disney bills, including one targeting monorail” Tampa Bay Times, 5 May. 2023, https://www.tampabay.com/life-culture/2023/05/04/disney-desantis-agreements-special-district-monorail/
4. “Florida legislature approves bill to require state inspections of Walt Disney World monorails” wdwmagic.com, 3 May. 2023, https://www.wdwmagic.com/transportation/monorail/news/03may2023-florida-legislature-approves-bill-to-require-state-inspections-of-walt-disney-world-monorails.htm
5. “Disney World Monorail Will Soon Be Forced to Shut Down” Disney Dining, 3 May. 2023, https://www.disneydining.com/disney-monorail-could-be-forced-to-shut-down-bwb1
6. “Senate approves state safety inspections for Disney monorail” Florida’s Voice, 2 May. 2023, https://flvoicenews.com/senate-approves-state-safety-inspections-for-disney-monorail
7. “Florida Senate Approves Monorail Inspections at Walt Disney World Resort” DAPS MAGIC, 2 May. 2023, https://dapsmagic.com/2023/05/florida-senate-approves-monorail-inspections-at-walt-disney-world-resort