Vertical Horizons

Research and Musings around the amusement park world.

Fun With Statistics 2013 – Part 1

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.

That’s it for the first section of this series. The next section will focus on the breakdown of coaster types around the world, the Top 100 coasters and B&M rides.


One response to “Fun With Statistics 2013 – Part 1

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