Roller Coaster Line Tactics

For this trick to work, you must be traveling alone. [Oh, suck it up; if you have a date you've got someone to talk to in line and you can bloody well stand in the cattle herd with everyone else.] If you're by yourself, on the other hand, you've got a much better chance of getting a seat in the front car without having to stand in the front car line (which will be, on average, three times longer than the lines for the other cars).

This trick has a much higher success ratio on the newer coasters that are four seats wide. It can still work on cars that are only two seats across, but it requires a defter hand and a bit more patience.

Note: some of the newer coasters (Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg comes to mind) have actually constructed a Single Riders Line separate from the rest of the station's queues. This is fine, when it's open (which is usually only in the early part of the day before the true crunch happens, I've noticed) but it usually isn't. And besides, standing in that line has two liabilities. First of all, you've got to take whatever empty single seat is available when you reach the front, be it in the first car or the last. Secondly, there are always "clever" groups in front of you who are "shrewdly" standing in the single rider line in spite of the fact that they're wearing matching t-shirts and have the same hair color. When they actually get to the front of the line, they'll invariably whine that they want to ride together, in spite of the fact that they're in the wrong line for camaraderie. The strategy described below will get you on the front car about 2/3 of the time, without having to deal with such as these.

There's nothing you can do about moving faster through the line outside of the station itself: these tactics only speed up your time in getting from the turnstile at the mouth of the station to a seat on the coaster as soon as possible.

The trick is simple. Get in line for the second car.

Inevitably, the geometry of the line queues will make the first car line so utterly long that people will generally move towards the middle or the end of the coaster, unless they're steadfastly devout and committed for the front car. A lot of people like the last car too, so that line can also be long. The people who aren't therefore definitely going for the first or last car are going to spend a few minutes trying to decide which of the remaining lines is the shortest. But very few people beeline for the second car as their definite choice, and so that line is often quite short. If nothing else, you can usually cut through the mass of people milling around the back of the lines trying to decide where to stand, and so you'll get placed in line that much faster.

That's it, really. The rest is simple mathematics. Count up the groups in front of you and count up the groups in line for the front car, and go from there.

In coasters with cars which are four seats wide, only groups of four (or two groups of two) can ride without overlap. Typically, groups of three and groups of five are legion, resulting in a great many empty seats in these cars.

What you're looking for is a group of three people, or a group of five people with a pair of people in front of them, in line for the front car (this shouldn't be hard to spot). Next you want to place yourself in the line for the second car so that you're going to reach the gate for the second car at the same time as the empty seat in the front car.

To move forward, look for groups of six or seven who have doubled up in line for the second and third car and are trying to engineer it so they can ride on the same train. These groups are usually your friends. Keep your eyes open and stay alert, and jump forward when they offer to let you in front of them so they can ride with their friends in the third car.

Also, don't be shy when it comes to asking to be let in front of a number of groups of people so that you can take the fourth seat once a group of three is ready to go. Generally speaking, even if you forget about trying for the front car, you can ride twice as much as most people if you simply target the second car and nudge your way forward to the first available empty single seat in that line. You might have to wait for the third or fourth train, but usually not longer than that, even on massively crowded days.

In the example pictured, there are a number of groups of people in line for the front row, but you (green) have been able to see that the group in line for the front car of the next train is a group of three(red). The four people behind them seem to be two couples (grey and purple) so they're all going to wait until the second train. There's two groups of two people in line for the second car of the next train (orange and blue) and a group of four behind them ready to ride the second car of the second train (yellow). It looks like you'll need to wait for the third train.

But wait -- the second pair in line for the second car is actually part of a group of five who have split up (blue), and they want to ride together. In order to do that, they have to wait for the second train. So the first pair (orange) will be riding alone, unless you ask to be let in front of the blue pair, which they'll likely be willing to do, since they're waiting for the second train anyway. The yellow four in front of you shouldn't mind, because it won't make their ride happen any later.

So, walking up to join the orange pair, wait until the gates open and walk forward and join the red three on the front car.

Congratulations. Instead of having to wait for the second row on the third or fourth train to come, you're now sitting in the front row on the very next train to pull into the station.

For coasters that are two seats wide, the same principles apply, but it's a good bit slower because the groups of three and groups of five will each take two and three cars to get through, respectively. There may be an empty seat in there somewhere, but it's not as obvious where it will be. On the other hand, in those lines you're even likelier to find large groups who have spread across multiple lanes, so you can often move up fairly quickly even if targeting the front car may be more than you can hope for.

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© 2001 Kevin M. Hollenbeck. All Rights Reserved.