Friday, August 6, 2010

China to build buses that drive over cars

Well, this is an interesting story that's come out over the last few days: To try and combat congestion along roadways, Chinese transportation planners have developed a bus which is able to straddle cars and drive over them.

It's an intriguing system: Stations are actually on top of the straddle-buses, and doors open to reveal a staircase riders will descend to get into the bus. It runs along tracks, never switching lanes, and there seems to be some sort of warning system for cars driving underneath the bus. The video embedded below explains it a little better (although it is narrated in Chinese, it's still easy to see the idea behind it).

This is something I've dreamed about being able to do, while stuck in traffic: Having my wheels extend from the chassis of my car, and let me drive over the cars holding me back. (In fact, I think it's something Inspector Gadget was able to do with his vehicle.) But I'm not sure if it's really something that would work for Ottawa, or any Canadian city; construction of this system is going to begin in Beijing, a hugely dense city with a population almost two-thirds that of Canada. Still, an ingenuitive solution to a difficult problem. It will be interesting to see how well it works out.


chzplz said...

I've seen the coverage of this elsewhere, and I'm not sure about calling it a bus, especially since it runs on rails. And it doesn't look like it could take tight turns. More of a train/trolley system, but, whatever - that's just semantics.

Either way - interesting concept that could make sense in very specific conditions. ie - wouldn't want to be stuck trying to turn right at an intersection while this is above you. It could work if it was in a designated no-turn lane, I guess.

SEA said...

Creative concept anyway! Kudos to China for thinking outside the box!

David said...

I agree with chzplz - this thing runs on rails or tracks or something similar. That makes it far more like a train than a bus. A term like "bridgetrain" probably best describes it.

The real innovation of this idea is that it straddles not one but two lanes. That gives a lot of internal floor space and circulating room. Instead of being limited to four seats across, this could probably accommodate twelve seats across plus aisles.

I can't really think of a location in Ottawa where this would be useful, though. We don't have the combination of wide boulevards in high density areas that many Chinese cities have. We could run it down streets like Baseline or Hunt Club, but they just don't have the density of development, while streets downtown don't really have the width.

Anonymous said...

It's a great idea until you realize that in cities, you typically have bridges and pedways to go under, traffic lights. You'll also cause traffic snarls when there's someone who needs to make a turn, but can't because there's this huge monster on top of them blocking turns for 10 cars lengths.

More specific to China, is the fact that people don't drive in what we would call a "lane", or follow what we might call "rules of the road" and their driving patterns would only end up impeding the progress of the trainbus who has to follow the tracks laid out for it.

RTWAP said...

I think you could probably get around the problems of cars changing lanes by restricting the points at which those lane changes could happen. Like only allow lane changes right after intersections, and give the bridgetrain first priority in passing through the intersection.

But it would certainly mean reconfiguring roads quite a bit to serve this single transit mode.

I like the idea though. If the big knock against elevated systems is they obstruct views then having the entire elevated structure move with the cabin seems like an interesting approach.

As pointed out, it wouldn't work very well when passing under obstacles like bridges or utilities.

Anonymous said...

This is definitely an idea for a high density city. It seems like a stop-gap idea as well. Instead of reducing the number of cars on the road, the number of cars is allowed to stay the same or increase while these bus/train hybrids are added.

Shouldn't the original problem be solved instead of working around it?

China said...

I think this is absolutely amazing and scary at the same time. We can learn a lot from the innovation in China. I’ll be moving to China soon so maybe I’ll be among the first to ride the giant bus…