China’s straddling bus
February 1, 2011 -- The Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) is an innovative new type of transport that aims to solve the problem of China’s overcrowded roads by straddling traffic lanes, allowing cars to drive underneath. If successful, it could reduce vehicle congestion by up to 30% on main routes.
Is it a train -- is it a plane, or perhaps a giant metallic centipede? No it's China's new "straddling bus" -- a groundbreaking, green solution to traffic congestion as it uses electricity and solar power to transport hundreds of commuters through the streets above the traffic.
The straddling bus -- a pilot scheme is to be tested in the Mentougou district of Beijing -- will carry as many as 1,200 passengers on an upper level as it travels through a tunnel suspended over the road at an average speed of 40km per hour. At 6m wide,
4-4.5m high and 10m long (per cart), in size it's not so different from double-decker buses on Britain's roads, but that's where any similarities end.
With the 3D Express Bus, engineers have come up with a solution to their ever more clogged roads that will save not just on space and money but on damage to the environment. If you consider that China has 120 cities with more than a million inhabitants each, the scale of their transport challenge becomes apparent -- the straddling bus gets more people moving without building costly subways or putting more vehicles on the fume-filled roads. The electric buses have solar panels on the roof and are "relay charged" by electrical conductors and "charging posts" as they move.
According to Song Youzhou of the Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Body, which is building the buses, the 3D Express Bus will cost a fraction of what it costs to build the metro and is quicker to construct: it takes a year to build 40km of remodelled roadway as opposed to three years for the same distance of subway track.
China's straddling bus must surely be the first road vehicle that cannot get stuck in traffic: Song Youzhou estimates that the vehicles will cut traffic jams by 20-30 percent and cut carbon emissions by an astonishing 260 tons a year (Beijing's traffic-clogged roads currently pump out 2,640 tons a year). Because they will either run along tracks between the lanes of traffic, or use auto-pilot technology to follow two lines painted on the road, the straddling buses will let vehicles pass underneath while they stop to let passengers on and off at specially elevated bus stops.
Any vehicle measuring 2m or under can fit beneath the bus, and a sophisticated warning system sounds an alarm if a vehicle that is too high to fit beneath it is approaching. Similarly, a warning system lets cars know if they are driving too close to the walls of the tunnel, or if the bus is turning. However, some remain to be convinced that this will be enough to prevent possible collisions if the bus and car are heading in different directions.
For Chinese prepared to brave the innovative transport solution, there's a huge skylight in the roof to make the journey more enjoyable, and an inflatable slide to get out if anything should go wrong.