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BLOG: Cedar Point's Fast Lane a work in progress

Tom Sherer • May 23, 2012 at 12:36 AM

Writer’s Note: Because some people will flip out before even reading through all of this particular blog entry, I’ll say this up-front: Fast Lane is a new and evolving program at Cedar Point. You can bet the park’s management has its finger on the pulse of this program and is looking for ways to improve it. If you’re unhappy about the program or its specifics, provide that feedback to the park. That’s the only way it might be changed more to your liking.

A topic people have been talking about quite a bit is Cedar Point’s new Fast Lane program, which allows guests to pay extra to bypass the general-public line on certain — typically more-popular — rides. (But Troika? Really?)

Personally, I don’t like it. But it is a good program for the park to try.

You look confused.

For someone like me, who’s at the park all the time because I live in Sandusky, I’m not going to fork over $50 per day on a regular basis. (Or $55 on Saturdays, for that matter.) Thus, I’m sure there will be times I’ll become frustrated watching other people not have to wait as long as I have to wait.

At the same time, if I were coming from farther away, I’d be thrilled to have the option to do this to help get in as many rides on some of the big boys as possible before having to return home.

It’s generally a good idea to give customers options.

At a restaurant, sometimes you actually order a paid appetizer rather than just munch on the “free” chips or bread. And sometimes you order the filet mignon instead of the hamburger. (Some people can afford to get the filet every time.)

A lot of people were unhappy about Dinosaurs Alive! because it’s not even a ride and costs an extra $5.

Then don’t do it.

The same can be said for the new Preferred Parking program, which lets you park in the “closest and most convenient location” in the main lot, for an extra $8 ($20 total with a standard vehicle). Either pay the $8 to park closer, or keep it in your pocket and walk a little farther. (There’s no way I’m ever paying that, but that’s my personal choice.)

You don’t HAVE to do it, but you at least have the OPTION to do it.

I would rather an attraction/program be added along with an optional fee than one be added along with an automatic increase in ticket prices. At least then I decide if I want to pay to be able to take part in the attraction.

But therein is the core dilemma with Fast Lane.

At the heart of this debate is how much Fast Lane degrades the park experience for general-public guests, who still are paying full price for tickets. (Fast Lane guests pay extra for the benefit, but general-public guests still pay the same price for a ticket that might not provide the same experience it once did.)

My experience at the park this year is Fast Lane hasn’t changed much when it comes to wait times, but that’s MY experience. And the summer season isn’t here full-bore yet, either.

A lot of people say only those with “more money” get to use Fast Lane.

Um, that’s life.

People with money date supermodels, drive sports cars, stay in nice hotels, eat room service and don’t care as much about fuel prices … while the rest of us are left behind. If customers are willing to part with their money, any business is going to find offerings to help them do it. (Even being the cheapskate that I am, I’m sure I’ll do Fast Lane at least once just to try it.)

I’ve heard several general-public guests say derogatory things about people in Fast Lane lines this season. And I’ve heard people say things like, “How do you explain to kids that ‘cutting’ is OK, if you have money?”

First, the park defines what is “cutting,” and paying the park for Fast Lane to use the park’s rides doesn’t make the cut for the definition. Second, explain to kids that it’s a fact of life money gets you lots of things other people might deserve just as much but have to do without.

People who say only those with “more money” get to use Fast Lane also need to realize that’s a relative statement. People who can barely afford food would say only people with “more money” get to go to Cedar Point at all. (Incidentally, almost 25 percent of children in the U.S. are experiencing food insecurity, according to Heifer International.)

It’s early in the game, but Cedar Point says Fast Lane has a limited daily availability, so once school is out and the crowd level rises, we’ll see how much effect it has on the wait times for the 20-some rides for which it’s available.

More than anything else, I just hope Cedar Point has learned some valuable lessons from other parks’ mistakes and experiences with similar programs. (Good line distribution and not allowing Fast Lane users to do the same ride consecutively — not even $375 V.I.P. tours allow back-to-back rides — come to mind.)

Only time — and I'm sure some adjustments — will tell.

And if you’re really that upset about it, your money speaks more loudly than your words.

Tom Sherer is an award-winning graphic designer with the Sandusky Register and a Cedar Point enthusiast who visited the park 53 times in 2011. He chronicles his adventures in coasterland here at "Belaboring the Point."

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