'Super bus' could cure Beijing traffic woes

Aug 24, 2010
This handout illustration from Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment shows Beijing's new proposed "super bus". The bus, due to be tested in the coming months in the western part of the city, travels on rails and straddles two lanes of traffic, allowing cars to drive under its passenger compartment, which holds up to 1,400 people.

China's capital Beijing, recently named along with Mexico City as having the worst traffic jams in the world, is looking for solutions. One could be the elevated "super bus".

The bus, due to be tested in the coming months in the western part of the city, travels on rails and straddles two lanes of traffic, allowing cars to drive under its passenger compartment, which holds up to 1,400 people.

"We're going to start laying down test tracks along a six-kilometre (four-mile) stretch towards the end of the year," Song Youzhou, the chief executive of design firm Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment, told AFP on Tuesday.

"From the second half of 2011, we're planning to test the bus with passengers on board," he said, noting that after a full year of trial runs, authorities would make a decision on whether to use the bus on a wide scale.

Song said Hashi was in talks with three Chinese carmakers to produce the eco-friendly bus, which runs on both electricity and .

Authorities hope eventually to install 180 kilometres of "straddle bus" lines including a route to the capital's international airport, Song told the official Global Times.

Song said the "super bus" could ease traffic congestion by up to 30 percent, as it does not take up actual road space, but special tracks would have to be put down, elevated bus stops built and new traffic signals developed.

Only small and medium-sized vehicles will be able to pass under the bus, meaning drivers will have to be extra-vigilant. An alarm would sound if an oversized vehicle attempted to pass, the report said.

Song said the bus had to be tested with car drivers in real-time situations to detect any possible problems.

According to government data, Beijing is on track to have five million cars on its roads by year's end. The four million mark was passed in December.

The head of the Transportation Research Centre, Guo Jifu, warned this week that in the capital could slow to under 15 kilometres an hour on average if further measures were not taken to limit the number of cars.

Private cars are currently kept off Beijing's roads for one day per week depending on licence plate numbers.

Beijing's air is among the most polluted in the world, and the problem is getting worse amid high demand for private vehicles from its increasingly affluent residents.

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User comments : 18

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El_Nose
2.7 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2010
pardon my ignorance -- i don't get it

do you meet it at defined stops and park in it ?? that would make sense or do you just ride under it ??? and what if it comes across a semi already in it's lane its stuck in traffic just like everyone else.

or do you just walk onboard like a bus and it travels a great distance and you disembark -- and it sits on rails?? - thats called a train ;-)
Nik_2213
2.7 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2010
It straddles regular traffic lanes ? Unless there's height-limit gates at the ends, it is a recipe for disaster-- And farce ! There are enough cases of high-sided vehicles hitting low bridges despite ample warnings...

IMHO, it will be a 'Victorian-grade' folly: Have they considered bus lanes ??
LariAnn
3.5 / 5 (6) Aug 24, 2010
You walk onboard, like a bus, while people who are not taking the bus drive by "underneath" your super-bus. The passenger compartments are elevated above the roadway by wheeled "legs" on each of the long sides of the vehicle. Unlike subways or metrorails, though, no elevated track structure is needed, and the existing roadway can still be used by ground traffic at the same time as the elevated super-bus is operating. When the super-bus stops to let off or pick up passengers, the traffic underneath it does not have to stop or wait for it, as they do with conventional buses.

Also, since China has a planned economy, all they need to do is prohibit vehicles above a certain height from using the super-bus lanes - this could be enforced by "entrance ramps" with height-limiting barriers.
Adriab
2.5 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2010
Absurd recipe for disaster.

Traffic situations would most likely be screwed up a lot by this bus, what if a vehicle wants to turn right while this bus is attempting to cross over top? Its just a bad idea.
NotAsleep
5 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2010
IMHO, it will be a 'Victorian-grade' folly: Have they considered bus lanes ??


Have you been to Beijing? Go and tell us where you suggest they place bus-only bus lanes
GSwift7
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2010
what about turns and hills. I assume this thing would be in sections like a regular train, so that it can bend. I can't help but think it would be more practical to make them smaller and use more of them. Much simpler engineering problem and less impact if one of them breaks down. Easier to move a small one out of the way.

The problem isn't the hight of vehicles under it. You could make this thing plenty tall enough. You WOULD have to make SURE all the intersection with cross-roads are closed off and clear, or in the case of a freeway, all the exit/entrance ramps would have to close to allow it to pass. In an area with traffic jams, I'm sure you've all seen how idiots stop in the intersection because they get caught by the light turning red with nowhere to go. This thing couldn't get through a gridlocked intersection any better than regular traffic can. The rails need to be elevated above the flow of traffic like a regular elevated train in cities all over the world.
otto1923
3 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2010
This will work better when vehicles are computer-controlled, which should be relatively easy to do in cities.

Otherwise this thing would get banged up pretty quickly but would pay for itself in traffic ticket revenues, collected automatically by onboard cameras.
trekgeek1
not rated yet Aug 24, 2010
This will work better when vehicles are computer-controlled, which should be relatively easy to do in cities.


(wiping a tear from my eye) Ha! Can it be done? Yes, like most things, it is possible. Easy? NO. Engineers working on this have made progress, but there are still many problems to overcome in positioning, computer vision, control algorithms, etc. I didn't give you 1 star, that was somebody else. I forgave you for this statement because I too did not understand the problems until last spring when I took an intelligent transportation course, it really demonstrated the difficulty.

As far as the article, how long do you think this bus could possibly block traffic at a signal? It's not a freight train. Metrolink takes about 40 seconds to cross a street. Considering this bus removes 1400 drivers from the area, it probably off sets the traffic. I'm sure they had engineers study the traffic flow, they know if it will make it worse.
otto1923
not rated yet Aug 24, 2010
Engineers working on this have made progress, but there are still many problems to overcome in positioning, computer vision, control algorithms, etc
Things like central routing, guides imbedded in pavement, electronically-linked 'car trains', and partial control for parking etc will make the transition easier. But it is inevitable.
it really demonstrated the difficulty.
Did you discuss any hybrid or interim alternatives?
trekgeek1
not rated yet Aug 24, 2010
Engineers working on this have made progress, but there are still many problems to overcome in positioning, computer vision, control algorithms, etc
Things like central routing, guides imbedded in pavement, electronically-linked 'car trains', and partial control for parking etc will make the transition easier. But it is inevitable.
it really demonstrated the difficulty.
Did you discuss any hybrid or interim alternatives?


Mostly covered the needs of better lane-level positioning, computer vision to adjust to unforeseen disturbances, and of course the whole legal issue with who is blamed when something goes wrong and a fatality occurs.

Yes, easier stuff like platooning (car-trains) and networked streetlights are slowly coming, but automated cars are estimated at about 20 years away at least. I agree, it is inevitable and I welcome it. Roadway fatalities are equivalent to a 747 crashing every week. Where else would we tolerate this?
trekgeek1
not rated yet Aug 24, 2010
One of the most interesting ideas I heard was just starting to give drivers more up to date info on traffic conditions via the visible light spectrum. Cars sitting at signals would get data from the LED traffic lights flashing rapidly which the drivers wouldn't notice at all. I thought that was rather clever and it is the same tech that hospitals are looking at for communications within the building where RF isn't allowed. So that and coordinated signals seem to be the only real applications that may be appearing soon as an interim alternative. (actually, coordinated signals are already installed here and there).
ArtflDgr
1.3 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2010
problem is that they misplanned the roads in the first place rather than let them grow organically over a reasonable time... IE, they force grow things and then wonder why the result is a perversion of what they know can work. ergo huge cities that never had it as bad as they do in the planned ones.

more administration is not the cure for administration

just as more bloodletting is not the cure for the problems caused by bloodletting (or exacerbated by it)
stm_wrp
4 / 5 (1) Aug 25, 2010
This is a really cool and exciting project. Giant buses that travel over the cars? Neato! You who doubt and hate, well they misplanned the roads, and instead of reconstrution they are moving forward with their lives. I whole heartedly support any move to more transit (and less private car ownership).

As the sidebar says "Defectors take the car, cooperators go by bus" and they all cooperate, so more buses.

I really love that they are embracing "interim solutions" and not waiting for the future to hit them in 20-50 years. They may be destroying the planet but at least they are furthering knowledge.
jsa09
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
Just thinking what it would be like to drive under one of these things. You stop at the lights and the bus keeps going - suddenly you think you are moving backwards - very scary.

A nice addition would be moving platforms where the bus normally picks up and drops off. That way it would no actually have to stop at all. Just match speeds with the platform while passengers get on and off.

Just have one entry point and exit from platforms and people can be delivered from entry to exit alongside the bus. If they miss the bus there could be a smaller return ramp to take them back to the start of the platform to try again.
Shootist
1 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2010
China should go ahead and build several Arcopoli, 100,000,000 people, in a self-contained cube, 2km on a side.
Husky
1 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2010
i am sure china will be the place where these giant Anto..ehr...Arcopoli will arise, all farts will be recycled and soilent green can be purchased online.
Shootist
1 / 5 (3) Aug 29, 2010
Well, Arcopolises just didn't look right as a plural for Arcopolis, so, Arcopoli.

Basically, a human beehive, on a grand scale.
Uncle_Bex
5 / 5 (1) Aug 30, 2010
Traffic situations would most likely be screwed up a lot by this bus, what if a vehicle wants to turn right while this bus is attempting to cross over top?


Then apparently the other vehicles wait until things are clear. Not a terribly difficult proposition. This isn't unlike a regular ground-dwelling bus which blocks turn lanes to allow people on and off.