Now time for something a bit different. Those of you who know me well will know I have casually done this on a couple of forums before, but this year I have decided to step it up a bit. This will be the first of three articles which takes a look at statistics and the roller coaster industry.
I am a geophysicist by trade so the combination of maths and roller coasters has a certain charm for me at the same time this is all for fun and the numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt. I shall explain why as we progress but in essence as we go back in time the numbers are harder to verify and there is always going to be a little error room with all the facts and figures found on the Internet. All numbers used here unless stated otherwise are taken from the excellent RCDB on the 27th of July 2013 and all errors and mistakes are my own.
So without further ado lets looks at some figures.
First up let’s simply look at the countries who have the most roller coasters. Below is a selection of countries with a good collection of coasters.
Interestingly this is the 4th year I have done this and the first year that the RCDB lists more operating rides in China than the USA.
The USA and China are the places to live for the sheer number of Roller Coasters, Together they have more roller coasters than every other country in the table combined. Meanwhile the UK and Japan are punching well above their weight for their size while the rest of the list is a bit of a random jumble.
This list only tells part of the story however. If we start to look at other factors we can begin to get a better picture of where is best to live for the dedicated enthusiast. For the graph below I took that latest census results available from each country in the list and compiled a graph listing the number of people (in 1000s) per roller coaster in each country.
The thing to remember here is that the smaller the number the better. For example, In China there are 1,915,000 people for every roller coaster. However in Denmark there are only 144,000 per coaster. The USA fairs fairly well here too and the smaller European countries all do well. One thing is for sure, If theme parks take off in India there may be some huge queues to start with.
Another thing to take note of here is that the graph only shows the 21 countries with high coaster counts that I picked from the RCDB. If I was to plot up countries such as Nigeria or Senegal which all have really low coaster counts and large populations they would have really high ratio’s and dominate the top of the graphs.
However this isn’t the only factor we could use to help us here though. There is no point in having a decent number of roller coasters if you have to travel for days to get there. So I took data on the size of each country and calculated how many roller coasters there are per square mile. (Australia you would do poorly here I’m afraid)
This time larger numbers are better. Russia loses badly here but then again most of Russia is a barren frozen tundra not really conducive to a good theme park. Again as is to be expected the smaller countries do well while the USA does slightly poorer this time and finishes in a very similar spot to China.
On a side note, if the Vatican built an Intamin mega coaster it would instantly reach the top of both these graphs.
Let’s leave this train of thought for a while and look at the state of the industry as a whole. Below is a graph showing the number of roller coasters which have opened worldwide in the last 20 years. It is worth noting that as this graph is based on data from the RCDB and as such figures for earlier years are likely to be less accurate than more recent ones.
Worldwide it looks like the industry is in pretty good shape. 2000 was an excellent year possibly because many parks built rides to celebrate the passing of the millennium. While it’s unlikely the 2013 numbers are complete yet they are already higher than 2012 which is a good sign.
To get a more complete picture I also decided to take a look at how many coasters have closed over the same period of time.
While the 2013 figure here is almost certainly unreliable and real numbers for 2013 are likely to come out towards the end of the year, it does appear though that the number of rides closing has steadily increased over the years. Again this could be down to uncertain closing dates on rides prior to 2003 or it could be down to simple economics and the recent recession. However it’s good to note that we are still building more rides than we are removing which means we are still in credit.
As a side note due to the way the RCDB works, relocated rides are counted as both closed and opened so will feature on both graphs.
Before moving on I decided to look at many people’s favourite type of roller coaster and look at wooden roller coasters, the next graph shows the number of wooden rides built over the last 20 years.
As you can see the market is small but fairly steady. It’s dropped a bit over the last 10 years compared to the 1990’s but this could be down to economics. 2000 was a great year for wooden rides but amazingly 7 of the 16 wooden rides built in 2000 are already closed. With the success of Outlaw this year I am hoping we will see a resurgence of wooden rides in the next few years.
Now let’s get a more precise picture of the industry and have a look at some continents individually. The graph below shows the number of coasters built each year in Asia, Europe and North America over the last 20 years. Sorry Australia, South America and Africa you would all be way down the graph. (Don’t worry Antarctica is even lower, Penguins don’t ride roller coasters much)
The interesting thing to note here is that while the numbers in North America have decreased quite a lot, numbers in Asia have increased by a similar amount. (Europe has stayed fairly steady throughout) While there are likely to be economic factors at work here another point to consider is that each company can only build a certain number of rides each year. If the rides are being built in Asia then they can’t be built elsewhere.
Taking this one step further we can have a look at the same graph using the top country in each continent. The graph below shows the number of coasters built in China. the USA and the UK over the last 20 years.
The graph looks remarkably similar to the previous one. What this graph does show well is just how many new rides are being built in China right now compared to just 10 years ago. The USA is actually building more rides in 2013 than it was in 1994 but still nothing like the heady heights of 2000. Interestingly many people in the UK consider 1994 a brilliant year with the construction of Nemesis, The Big One and Shockwave but it’s actually one of the least active years on the graph. But quality not quantity hey?
After this I decided to take a look at what proportion of new roller coasters the USA and China are building within their respective continents. The following two graphs show this as percentages.
As expected the USA takes up the lion’s share of coasters built in North America, Only dipping below 80% in 2009 and 10. This is in stark contrast to the Chinese market which has gone from almost nothing in 2000 to over 75% in 2013.
China has more roller coasters than anywhere else these days so I thought it would be interesting to break this down a bit.
As anyone who has been to parks in China knows Spinning Mice, Powered Coasters and Jungle Mice are ubiquitous. Thankfully the RCDB puts all these rides into their own subsets so it’s possible to make a break down for each country.
Below are two pie charts comparing the USA and China which shows the percentage of rides that fall into these subsets in each country. The slice labelled other rides will in theory include all larger and theoretically more thrilling rides (However Junior rides like roller skaters are included in Other)
Amazingly Wild and Jungle Mice take up over a third of all coasters in China while the featured ride types alone make up almost 60%. This is in comparison to the USA where all the featured ride types make up only 13% of all coasters.
Moving on I decided to take a look at the top 100 roller coaster according to the popular Mitch’s Poll. I took the top 100 rides from the 2012 poll results and split them up by manufacturer. Below is a graph showing a breakdown of the top 100 by manufacturer.
Impressively B&M have 45 of the top 100 coaster while Intamin take up 26. Other manufacturers split up the remaining 29. If we take a look at just the top 50 then Intamin and B&M take up an even larger chunk of the pie.
Intamin increase their slice significantly here compared to B&M which suggests the rides Intamn do have in the poll are in the top 50. Both companies are well known for building quality roller coasters and these graphs show their reputation is well deserved. B&M currently have 85 operating rides worldwide and Mitch’s poll puts the 10 rides with the Batman: The Ride layout together, this means that out of 85 total coasters, 54 of those (63.5%) are in the top 100.
Below is a simple graph showing the number of operating coasters from all the companies which had coasters in the top 100 with the addition of a Zamperla, Togo and Golden Horse for comparison. (and a little amusement)
This shows that quantity certainly isn’t quality with the most plentiful 4 firms only contributing 2 of the top 100 coasters. There are a couple of things to mention about this graph. First is that it includes both steel and wood coasters. Secondly is that due to the way the RCDB lists things it includes rides which companies may only have worked on in part. For example both Giovanola and Intamin worked on Shockwave at Drayton Manor, UK so it will be counted under both companies.
On a side note Arrow without S&S would place just below Mack while S&S would sit between Giovanola and Premier.
I decided to take a closer look at the top two companies from Mitch’s poll B&M and Intamin and see how their rides break down in terms of Geographical spread.
The following 2 graphs show how Intamin and B&M’s rides are split worldwide.
These graphs show the number of rides in the labels rather than percentages but it’s clear the biggest market over the years for both companies is North America with Europe second and Asia catching up in third. The lack of B&Ms in Africa, South America and Australia could be due to the high cost of one of their rides being out of reach for smaller parks.
While both companies are doing well in Asia they will suffer competition from local Chinese firms who don’t always follow copyright law. While no direct knock off B&M’s or Intamins have surfaced yet Beijing Shibaolai Amusement Equipment and Golden Horse both offer B&M imitations. Hebei Zhongye Metallurgical Equipment Manufacturing are also constructing the delayed 11 looping coaster at Jinling Happy World which looks very similar to the Intamin multiloopers.
Talking of everyone’s favourite IAAPA cast out’s Golden Horse. Here’s how their rides break down geographically.
All but two of their rides reside in Asia (119 of the 131 are in China). The two that can be found in North America are bizarrely found in Honduras.
Moving back to more popular companies I decided to break B&M’s coaster output down a bit more. The graph below shows how all their rides are split by type. For this graph I used all rides built up until 2013 so it includes the Flying Over The Rainforest and Nitro but does not include the wing coaster due to open at Heide park in 2014.
Inverted Coasters are clearly their largest market although we haven’t seen many built in recent years. Wing coasters already take up 7% while Stand-Ups have stayed stagnant for years.
Seeing this made me wonder exactly how B&M’s output varies year on year. The next graph is quite confusing to begin with but it shows the percentage of B&M’s output each year which has been taken up by any given coaster types. Worth noting is that relocated rides are not counted, So in all these graphs Iron Wolf was built in 1999 and is not shown when it was relocated in 2012.
Looking at this you can see the Stand-Ups in blue which disappear after 1999 while in 2013 Wing Coasters take up the majority of B&M’s output. The graphs shows the popularity of their Inverted rides has died off since the 1990s The Flying Coasters have not be particularly consistent sellers while the Mega Coasters have performed strongly recently.
B&M have been building rides for almost quarter of a century now so I decided to take a look at one measure of how their rides have progressed. I took the average height of rides built each year and put the results in the graph below to show how the average height of their rides has increased over time.
Here we can see a slow but steady increase in the average height of the rides built each year by B&M. Unfortunately I could not find information on the height of either Hair Raiser or G5 so they are not included.
Interestingly if you stacked up every B&M built so far on top of each other they would stand around 12,300ft tall. Almost enough to reach Lake Titicaca the world’s highest navigateable lake.
In these final few graphs I decided to take a quick look at theme parks themselves before goofing around a bit. There are also a few graphs which I didn’t feel provided useful information but were at least interesting. One graph was produced in response to a comment posted about the graphs seen earlier
To get us started the graph below simply shows the number of operating parks on each continent.
Being the largest continent it’s not surprising Asia has by far the largest amount of parks, Europe is surprisingly high and North America is third. I suspect the fact that the USA is the only park heavy country in North America is probably the reason it’s third behind Europe, A continent which is composed of many smaller but park rich countries.
Using the statistics we’ve already dug up on the number of rides we can calculate the average number of rides per park as shown in the graph below.
Here North America finishes top by a significant margin and is the only continent to break an average of two coasters per park. Australia has a surprisingly strong showing here with their few parks notching up only slightly fewer coasters on average than Asia. Obviously the minimum average possible here is 1 as the RCDB only lists parks which have a coaster. (There are a couple of operating parks which no longer have a coaster but they only exert a minimum influence).
I took this one step further and split it down into the countries we had in part one.
Denmark excels here and is miles ahead of everyone else on the list. (If there is a country with a higher average I haven’t found it yet) Several countries average 2 or more coasters per park while most countries on the graph average over 1.5. As with some of the graphs in part 1 it’s worth noting that if countries such as Senegal or Tajikistan were included they would only obtain an average of 1.00.
The RCDB also lists parks which are under construction at the moment. The locations of these are shown in the graph below.
Asia dominates this graph with the majority of new parks going to China. The list is probably not massively accurate as parks under construction often won’t be added to the database until coasters are confirmed by the parks themselves. Hopefully though it gives an idea of the rough trend around the world right now.
While there are plenty of parks under construction there are also some sat around rotting away. The RCDB also lists SBNO parks and coasters. The following two graphs show which continents currently have the most.
While these graphs don’t really provide useful information they are at least quite interesting and do make me a little sad. For the record I imagine information on African parks is lacking so the numbers are probably be inaccurate. I would be interested to know how many of these SBNO coasters are at currently operating parks.
The RCDB gives info on one last thing in this area. The database lists all the coaster companies currently operating around the world. It’s possible to split this down by continent and the results can be seen in the graph below.
In this era of globalisation this probably doesn’t mean a whole lot as companies have the ability to manufacturer where they want. B&M have a facility in the USA despite being a European company while S&S are an American company yet manufactured Dinoconda in China. However it’s nice to see both the USA and Europeans doing strongly here. I’m willing to bed the number of Asian companies has increased rapidly in recent years.
And for the final serious bit, kailisun98 on Themeparkreview mentioned (in response to the total company coaster count graph in section 2) that the only reason Intamin have a higher number of coasters overall is because they have been around longer. It certainly seems plausible but It got me thinking if there was an upper limit to the number of coasters a company could have open at once.
After a certain amount of time coasters will become too old to keep in good condition and will become uneconomically viable. I wondered if there is a point where the number of a company’s coasters closing equals the number they open each year and their total coaster count plateaus.
Given the data I had at hand on B&M and Intamin I created a graph showing the total number of coasters that each company had operating (excludes SBNO) any given year. (There’s an issue here somewhere as the resulting number of Intamin coasters doesn’t quite match up and is out by 4 but it should only make a minimal difference, this could be Coasters on the DB that don’t have an exact closing date)
This pretty much disproves my theory and proves kailisun98 correct. B&M caught up in the early 2000’s but have dropped back a bit in recent years as Intamins output has increased. I’m still interested to see if the plateu theory will work for coaster companies which have been around longer but the further back I go the less data there is.
Now for a little bit of fun and a graph which shows no meaningful information what so ever. In part one of this set of articles I used population figures to plot the number of people per coaster. Taking the top coaster from Mitch’s poll used in section 2 Expedition Geforce, its theoretical maximum throughput of people and the population data I calculated how long it would take for every person in each country to ride it.
Pointless I know but if you queued in China or India you would probably die before you got to the front of the queue.
The RCDB also lists records including the fastest operation coasters in the world. Using this list its possible to calculate how long it would take to get to Mars if you used the worlds fastest coaster Formula Rossa as your mode of interplanetary travel.
So turns out roller coasters wouldn’t be the best way to reach mars. OTSR probably wouldn’t be conducive to a comfortable experience either. It would only take two months to reach the moon though. So failing a NASA attempt at landing on the moon again we could always use Kingda Ka. (if you ignore escape velocity of course)
So that’s it for Statistics this year. If anyone has any comments or requests I’ll be happy to look into things (I have another 2 weeks at sea to burn). Hope you enjoyed it. A big thanks to everyone who contributes to the RCDB for the data and for Duane Marden in particular for keeping the whole thing going.