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China’s Amazing Straddling Bus

The Straddling Bus will carry up to 1400 passengers and occupy no space on the road

When we think about China, we probably conjure up images of the yellow-grey skies of Beijing that were broadcast and streamed worldwide during the 2008 Olympics. Indeed, China is facing a dramatic pollution issue caused, on the one hand, by rampant and often uncontrolled industry and, on the other, by traffic and the rapidly increasing number of private vehicles on the country’s roads.

Amidst a flourishing economy, the Chinese are buying more and more cars. In fact, 20 million new drivers are joining the chaotic traffic each year. The Chinese government is now attempting to regulate traffic with new parking regulations and driving restrictions that are expected to ease congestion, but the pollution levels are gargantuan. The answer to this problem, however, may be closer than expected. Engineer Song Youzhou has developed a remarkable innovative solution to tackle this issue: a bus/tunnel hybrid, the so-called “Straddling Bus” or “Transit-elevated Bus.”

Song introduced his first version of the Straddling Bus in 2010, but plans to develop five miles of track for it by the end of the year never came to anything. Now, however, with pollution soaring and car ownership on the exponential rise, the Xinhua News Agency reports that the Beijing-based “Transit Explore Bus” Company is currently constructing a prototype that will be tested during the summer, following the worldwide excitement caused by the model demo that was showcased at the 19th International High-Tech Expo in Beijing (May 19-22, 2016).

The Straddling Bus, which can carry up to 1400 passengers, occupies no road space and requires no dedicated parking facilities as, in both cases, vehicles can simply drive underneath it. As it moves over cars (allowing vehicles up to 2 metres high to pass below it) and under underpasses, a sensor-laden telematics system automatically alerts vehicles that are too high to pass underneath and motorists that drive too close to its “moving walls.”

Engineers have estimated that it will only take one year to build 40 kilometres of straddling bus as opposed to a minimum of three years to build an equal length of subway. The bus runs on electricity produced by solar panels and is recharged automatically at every station via superconductors that provide it with enough charge to reach the next station. An intelligent automated traffic light system will give the straddling bus priority at all intersections.

Passengers can board and alight the bus both from the side and from below. In case of emergency, the bus walls collapse like plane-hatches with automatically inflating slides that will allow passengers to rapidly leave the bus. Last but not least, the bottom of the bus is illuminated like a faux sky in order not to disturb the drivers passing underneath it.

The Straddling Bus is a truly visionary and innovative project that promises to replace as many as 40 buses, markedly reduce congestion, produce close to zero acoustic pollution, save over 860 tonnes of fuel per year and reduce carbon emissions by over 2640 tonnes per year.

Following the test run this summer, the project has scheduled the first 186 kilometres of tracks to begin being laid in Beijing by the end of the year.

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