I can't speak about Disney from personal experience, although I have anecdotally heard similar sentiments about how everyone loves Main Street, USA, because of its car-free walkability and nostalgia and whatnot. If only they'd all go home committed to asking their city council to make their own main street more like that one, eh?I’m convinced that the typical American’s experience with transit starts and ends in airports or at Disney theme parks.— Yonah Freemark (@yfreemark) February 6, 2017
Airport transportation, however, is another thing. I use it almost every time I travel, usually to transfer between terminals, although during my layover at DFW on Monday afternoon I absolutely took Scott's excellent suggestion to ride around on the Skylink to combat boredom. (It's possible he was joking. I did it anyway, mostly in search of better food than what was on offer at my gate.)
So, here's my extremely unscientific observation: yes, airport transportation is a microcosm of our greater public transportation, in many ways. (Click through and read the whole thread above, by the way; it's great.) Folks stand anxiously in front of the doors staring up at the sign, then back at their ticket, then back at the sign again, before finally stepping aboard hoping they've made the right choice. They aren't certain what to do once inside--crowd by the door? (No.) Move further in and grab a rail to hang on? (Yes.) They're equally timid about stepping off again, in case they got the wrong exit. (Actual conversation I overheard in Houston on Friday: "This is our stop." "Are you sure?" "Yes, I'm sure." "How do you know?" "It's on the board right there, and there was just an announcement." "There was an announcement??" In fact, there were at least three.) And that's in an airport filled with employees who are literally paid to get you where you need to go. No wonder folks are so shy about using transit in places where mistakes in navigation take a lot longer to adjust, if the airport train causes that much anxiety.
But I don't think that's a good enough excuse. The things that make airport trains useful and attractive--frequency, reliability, safety, easy-to-understand wayfinding, speed--are the same ones that make all transit user-friendly and successful. Or the opposite, when those factors are missing. What if cities approached all public transit with the idea of moving a bunch of people in a hurry for low cost while minimizing their inconvenience?
That would be a great step toward making all our Main Streets the happiest place on earth.