Disney’s newest roller coaster, Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs, is also one of Disney’s shortest, which made me wonder: Are roller coasters getting shorter?
Luckily, with RCDB’s excellent search function we can easily look at the data to find an answer to this question. I did a year-by-year search and recorded the data of the ten longest roller coasters worldwide (excluding alpine coasters) from 2000 to 2024. I chose to go with the ten longest to focus on the largest coaster investments, otherwise the data would be skewed by whichever year the most SPF Visa coasters opened.
The graph of the ten longest roller coasters opening each year since 2000 looks like a roller coaster with peaks and valleys. The average roller coaster length appears to be around 3,700 feet. However, if we add a trendline to the data we can see it is sloped downwards. Each year since 2021 has seen a decrease as well which would lead you to think the answer is yes, roller coasters are getting shorter (track length wise).
This might not tell the full story.
For one, maybe not all the 2024 coasters have been announced yet. There could be a surprise announcement during the IAAPA convention next week.
You also might be thinking the year 2000 is skewing the data as 2000 is by far the longest average length due to recording breaking coasters Millennium Force, Son of Beast, and Steel Dragon 2000, three of the top ten longest coasters ever built. If we remove the year 2000 and 2024 the graph looks quite interesting:
The trend line is now sloped upwards, meaning roller coasters are getting longer worldwide.
But what about the US only? Let’s graph that data for 2000 – 2024:
The 2000 – 2024 trendline is also sloped downward but at a steeper rate. There is a dip in 2010 due to the missing Formula Rossa not pulling the average up. Let’s remove 2000 and 2024 to see how it looks:
Interestingly, once we remove 2000 and 2024 the trendline is still sloped downwards, meaning roller coasters are getting shorted in the US even though 2022 was the best year since 2006 (which peaked due to The Voyage at Holiday World). Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood is not only the longest coaster at Dollywood but the longest to open in 2023 at 3,990 feet.
Does the type of roller coaster have anything to do with roller coaster length? Maybe there are more launch coasters without long lift hills to add to their track length or multi-pass launches to reduce the amount of track needed. Let’s look at the data:
Worldwide, the number of launch coasters has been increasing. There are not as many launch coasters in the US as I thought there were. It would be interesting to see the data if there was an easy way to find the length ridden for all the swing launch coasters.
What about wood versus steel (RMC hybrids are classified as steel)? Generally, wooden roller coasters are cheaper than steel coasters so you’d think there would be more but alas, we’ve only had one wooden roller coaster crack the list of ten longest roller coasters to open worldwide in the past SEVEN years!
Can you name the one wooden roller coaster from 2020 that was one of the ten longest roller coasters to open that year?
The US has a new wood coaster in each 2023 and 2024 but neither one cracked the list of ten longest roller coasters to open worldwide.
It’s hard to answer the question for sure. We could be at a valley and 2024 or 2025 will end up being a peak above average again. Time will tell. It should be noted that the world’s longest roller coaster, Falcon’s Flight, is currently under construction so that will definitely pull the data back up in the future.
Either way, any roller coaster over 5,000 feet should be cherished and considered special. Amazingly, between 2000 and 2001 there were SEVEN roller coasters over 5,000 feet (including three over 6,000). In the last decade there have only been five roller coasters opened in the US over 5,000 feet long, and none over 6,000.
What’s your take away from all of this data? Are roller coasters getting shorter?