Recent construction permits for Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney's Hollywood Studios carefully avoid using the word "gondola." However, armed with rumors of a radical new transportation system coming to Walt Disney World, it's difficult to draw any other conclusions when reviewing the documents.
Walt Disney World's venture to seemingly add a new overhead transportation system to the area surrounding Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort is currently known as the "L402 Basin Update project."
The gondola path from Epcot’s International Gateway to Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort / Disney's Art of Animation Resort and Disney's Hollywood Studios traverses parking lots or parallels existing roads except in two sections: the stretch of land between the Caribbean Beach loading platform and Art of Animation; and the land between the Caribbean Beach loading platform and the Hollywood Studios loading platform. In both of these sections, permits show that Disney is constructing gravel roads along the path of the gondola. Disney may be doing this as a safety precaution or in order to have easy access to the gondola line for routine maintenance and inspection.
Below are images taken from the Project 88 Caribbean Beach permit showing the layout of the resort project. The rumored Disney Vacation Club building is in section C-204 and the gondola switching station is to the building’s left. The Caribbean Beach loading platform is in section C-206. The gravel road extends south from the Caribbean Beach platform to Century Drive (section C-207).
A closer look at the Caribbean Beach plans show that there is a proposed structure immediately adjacent to the Disney Vacation Club building. This building may be a separate gondola loading platform for the DVC building. In the plans, the DVC building, switching station (just to the left of the DVC building) and the DVC platform building all have FFE values of 95.1 or 97.0. FFE likely stands for Finished Floor Elevation, meaning that all three proposed structures have the same height.
Based upon the footprint of the DVC platform building, it appears there could be an elevated walkway between it and the DVC building; note the corresponding bump outs between the two buildings. Also note that the DVC platform building has an arm that extends west toward the switching station. Is it possible the gondola’s path will go directly from Epcot to the Caribbean Beach DVC, then continue on to the Caribbean Beach Resort (hotel) platform?
The gondola system does not appear to be designed to seamlessly transport guests between Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot theme parks. Rather, its primary focus is to move guests from resorts--Caribbean Beach and Art of Animation--to either of the two parks.
While lingering skeptism over the gondola concept is understandable, the L402 project permit perfectly fits the rumors that have been circulating regarding a new transportation concept for Walt Disney World. To put it another way, if it is not a gondola system, then what can it be? What else could Disney plan to construct in the specific areas identified by these project plans?