Why, you ask? Well, here's my reasoning: with the exception of Disney (who does not own any of my particularly favorite theme parks), single rider lines are not often utilized. In high-traffic parks with large coasters that draw people like myself, you can find a single rider line only once in a blue moon. Sometimes you'll see one at an older coaster, or maybe at a random newer coaster once in a while. But the parks don't seem to make them a priority.
And I'm having an issue with that.
First, let me identify what single rider lines actually are, and what they actually do. When people are visiting a park by themselves (because they're hopeless roller coaster addicts, haha), or if a group of people choose to ride individually, these people can enter a ride through the exit and experience a much shorter wait than they would in the general queue. They wait for a single space to be available (you know, during those times when you've got a row of four seats and only three people in a group, so there's one extra seat available), and are able to get on the ride by filling in the extra seat. This system is actually useful to all people involved, but because some people feel that shorter wait times for others are "unfair," many parks have cut back on the single rider lines.
I recently visited Six Flags Discovery Kingdom for a quick run on some of my favorite coasters there. Earlier this summer, they utilized single rider lines (especially for Superman: Ultimate Flight, where park owners feared capacity issues). I loved it -- as a person visiting my myself, these lines offered me a chance to hop from ride to ride, have a good time, get my adrenaline fill, and leave the park within a few hours. That one experience made me a loyal Six Flags fan, and I couldn't wait to return.
On my recent visit, however, the park owners had decided to do away with single rider lines. Because school is now back in session, the park is only open on weekends, and it seems as though every single weekend is jam-packed full of people (and I can imagine it will only get worse when Fright Fest starts). So this meant that I either had to leave the park, or consign myself to hours of waiting for only a few rides. And I had an issue with that.
Some of you are probably thinking that my thought process is rather entitled, and that I should take a few steps back. Why, you may ask, should I have the privilege of not waiting in line when everyone else has to? Why shouldn't I have to get in line, like everybody else?
Good questions -- and while I don't think there are simple, black and white answers to that, I'll share with you my thoughts. To me, single rider lines are very important, for a few reasons.
First, single rider lines help everybody. Believe it or not, having a single rider line keeps the wait shorter for everyone, even those in the stand-by line. When every seat in a car is full, customers are shuffled through the queue area and the ride itself much faster than if every car has empty seats. Think about it this way -- if only one person got to ride per car, how long do you think it would take to get a whole queue of people on the ride? When I go through the single rider entrance, and can be placed in a seat that would have otherwise been empty, I will not be taking up an entire row later on (again, with an empty seat beside me) when someone else might have been able to use it. Single rider lines save time for everyone.
But beyond this, I have personal feelings about single rider lines. I know that some people question whether or not single rider lines are fair, and believe that we should all wait in the same line, regardless of how many are in our party. That's fine -- I respect that opinion. However, I will venture to say that when I choose to attend a theme park by myself, my experience (and my expectations) is vastly different than people who arrive in large groups. When I go by myself, my expectation is that I'll ride as many thrill rides as I can in a given time, and then leave. With groups, however, the expectation is a bit different.
When families or groups of friends attend a theme park together, they expect to move a bit more slowly. They'll be riding the rides, of course, but they'll also probably be seeing the shows. They'll be sitting down to dine together. They might take pictures with characters, or stop for a photo in a scenic area. And while they're waiting in those long lines, they'll be talking, laughing, and visiting together.
Now don't get me wrong -- being a single rider has given me the opportunity to meet lots of great people (on my last visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain, my two very long waits for Tatsu both resulted in some extremely wonderful conversations with people I didn't even know). But that is not why I am there. That is not why I have purchased a season pass to the park. I bought a season pass, and am there by myself, solely so that I can experience roller coasters -- quickly, and in large amounts.
When I visit theme parks with groups of people, I don't usually mind waiting in the long lines. It's part of the experience. But when you're there on your own, with a very specific agenda in mind, it becomes tedious.
And it's even more tedious when you take into account the fact that, in my experience, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom had single rider lines! They just chose to eliminate the entire system. And when I asked why, I was told that it was because other people couldn't behave themselves.
Yes, you read that correctly -- the single rider lines were eliminated because too many people were "abusing" the system. They'd get in the single rider line as groups, I was told. Or, one person would ride as a single rider and then rush to get in line with his or her group, who was now halfway through the queue. For the sake of fairness, I was told, the entire system had to be eliminated.
Not even taking into account the fact that the system was eliminated at the expense of people like me (who were, of course, not abusing the system), there are multiple issues that I have with this. First of all, I don't see a problem with groups of people using the single rider line. Part of the deal is that you will be split up, and will likely take multiple cars. If you don't mind your group being split up so that you can get on faster, then so what? Have at it. (Disney already allows this kind of behavior, and haven't had any issues with it.) Secondly, the latter scenario wouldn't be an issue if only the parks would enforce the "no line cutting" policy, which includes saving a place for someone else in line. This is supposedly grounds for being ejected from the park, but I've never seen it enforced (though I see people saving spots for others multiple times each time I visit a park).
But even if people have an issue with large groups using the single rider line, isn't there a way to deal with that without having to toss the system altogether?
I am one who believes that single rider lines should be available at all rides as well, not only a select few. As I said, it helps everyone out, and it also makes those of us who make a habit of visiting the parks by ourselves feel like we and our situations are valued.