May 26, 2016

The "straddling bus"... an idea from China.



"The bus, powered in part by solar energy, would run on tracks, carrying up to 1,200 passengers in raised compartments that can glide over the traffic below."
Critics at the time it was first unveiled questioned whether the hovering bus could interact safely with other vehicles. They also argued that the tracks would require relatively straight roads not found in many older urban areas, and that the overhead boarding stations that the bus needed would take up too much space.
I find it disturbing, but maybe it makes more sense than a train... or isn't it actually really a train? It goes on tracks. But it's like a bus, because it runs on the road along with cars. It's a very cool (but disturbing!) variation on a bus, and I would recommend that if they think they could do this in America, they should not call it a bus. Call it a train. Americans don't like the idea of riding on a bus. We like the idea of a train. And I think a lot of Americans would enjoy the way this vehicle makes things very weird for the cars, getting in their space, overwhelming and digesting them. The anti-car people might love this, even as cars are taking over. And we'll have our self-driving cars soon, so the emotional distress of getting overtaken by a straddling bus won't affect the maneuvering of the cars. It will just screw with the heads of the passengers of the cars, who will already be reeling in a new reality.

IN THE COMMENTS: traditionalguy sees what's so unsettling:
There is something Female about that bus engulfing your penis shaped little car. Was it good for you? 
Yes, trains, planes, cars — all the moving vehicles — have been phallic. A vaginal vehicle is beyond all normal experience. Yes, we've ridden vehicles into garages and tunnels, but those things hold still.

69 comments:

MikeR said...

You have got to be kidding. Imagine being in one of those cars?

Henry said...

Imagine being a bicyclist.

Jeff said...

Why not just use monster trucks? Car drivers are evil, so who cares if a few of them get squished?

Ann Althouse said...

"You have got to be kidding. Imagine being in one of those cars?"

Yes, that's the point. Disincentivize driving.

"Imagine being a bicyclist."

Bicyclists won't be on the kind of freeways that will have a big old thing like that. You don't see bikes on the interstate.

traditionalguy said...

There is something Female about that bus engulfing your penis shaped little car. Was it good for you?

Achilles said...

This will work if all vehicles on the road are automated.

Dan Hossley said...

It works perfectly as long as every one is going in the same direction. What happens when it wants to turn left and all those cars underneath continue to go straight? hmmm.

Original Mike said...

"You don't see bikes on the interstate."

You do in Australia. They ride in packs on the Sydney freeways. More balls than I have.

Henry said...

The model looks like a multi-lane city street. Shanghai has added many of those during its building boom, and the shoulders are crammed with mopeds, delivery bikes and motorcyclists.

In Shanghai, however, the overhead bus idea is superfluous. Shanghai has a beautiful modern subway system (eons better than Boston's MBTA) that covers almost all of the city.

John Tuffnell said...

Only takes one engulfed car bomber to ruin the business plan.

SteveR said...

Would make for one of those costly public work projects that are used to get votes. Unrealistic and economically DOA. Let Jerry Brown get California to try it out and get back to us.

Brando said...

I'm all for it. The biggest problem with buses is that they are subject to the same traffic tie ups as cars so you lose one of the tradeoffs of having to deal with one. Another possibility for cities and counties that can't afford to put in rail is to dedicate a single lane each way on major roadways for just the buses (and maybe emergency vehicles) so they can speed through traffic and stick to more regular schedules.

rehajm said...

Why not just use monster trucks?

Use one that doesn't fit under their bus and you foil their silly plan!

Curious George said...

"We like the idea of a train."

We? No.

SgtPete said...

This is not logical related to any current solar power out put. This is pie in the sky, unless they know something more about solar conversion to electric energy versus the related energy needed to just overcome friction. Notice this is a model, with power supplied via the rails,e.g., a big a train set.

sezneg said...

This has none of the benefits of a bus: Scalability, flexibility, lower required capital investment.

traditionalguy said...

This is like Egyptian Pyramids. It is a monument to the Chinese culture to impress arrivals. The cost of PR is what is at issue.

n.n said...

El-train on a mobile track.

Comanche Voter said...

Americans like the idea of riding on a train? Have you been on Amtrak any time within the last 20 years. To paraphrase General Patton, No Real American would ever ride on Amtrak.

Sebastian said...

"This has none of the benefits of a bus: Scalability, flexibility, lower required capital investment." But it should have the major benefit of transit: access to OPM and plenty of subsidies.

rhhardin said...

At 1200 riders, there will be quite a wait at the stops. Busses get fewer riders more often.

Turns are likely to be a problem. I think they call Houston's trolleys the danger train. This ought to trump that.

rhhardin said...

I rode a bicycle for years on NJ interstates. There used to be a wide shoulder that made it if anything more clear of traffic than regular roads, and also they provided a straight shot back home from across the state.

The shoulder is a regular lane these days.

Fernandinande said...

Comanche Voter said...
Americans like the idea of riding on a train?


"Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others"

Fernandinande said...

Al-Qaeda Claims U.S. Mass Transportation Infrastructure Must Drastically Improve Before Any Terrorist Attacks

n.n said...

The problem set: high, density population center, requires exotic solutions: straddling bus, immigration control, central authority, and abortion.

John said...

"But it's like a bus, because it runs on the road along with cars" But it doesn't. It rides on rails that are built into the roadway. Trolleys used to run on rails built into the roadway and they weren't called buses.

Since we apparently don't like the terms trains or trolleys why not just call them Above-ways?

richlb said...

Again with the rails. The single worst idea for mass transit outside of a buried subway is rails. They allow for no flexibility at all.

AJ Lynch said...

Establishing high speed bus lanes between Phila and NYC would be more efficient and economical than the current train services.

Static Ping said...

I was told we would have flying buses at this point.

Paddy O said...

Call it a hoverbus. Then people will scramble to ride it.

It doesn't really hover, but actually being something doesn't seem to be a limitation to using words these days. Hoverboards don't hover either.

Roy Lofquist said...

Prediction from a guy who spent 50 intimate years with computers - driverless cars will be one of the biggest fails ever. People have a seriously flawed notion of the capabilities of computers based on their experiences with credit cards and airline schedules. Those systems have taken 50 years to reach their current capabilities. The liability costs from the number of accidents caused by whoopsies during the shakedown period for autonomous vehicles will bury, and bury real deep, any company foolish enough to try.

Ann Althouse said...

"Americans like the idea of riding on a train? Have you been on Amtrak any time within the last 20 years. To paraphrase General Patton, No Real American would ever ride on Amtrak."

I used the word "idea" for a reason.

David said...

Sheeple mover.

Iapetus said...

" The liability costs from the number of accidents caused by whoopsies during the shakedown period for autonomous vehicles will bury, and bury real deep, any company foolish enough to try."

+1, but tell that to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, who is about to squander the yuuuge hoard of Apple's off-shore cash on a crazy idea to turn Apple into the next General Motors.

Nonapod said...

Communists and Socialists do love there trains. Personally I can't stand them, but I'll admit that if that Hyperloop thing ever becomes a reality I might consider trying it.

But this thing may actually be practical in those Chinese cities where the traffic is beyond insane and getting beyonder insaner.

California Snow said...

There are an awful lot of overpasses over interstates and metro freeways. This thing looks way too big to fit under one of those since most of those bridges have about 16-18 ft of clearance. So, then you have to build tracks that go over every bridge. If you make it shorter it's got to allow 18-wheelers to pass underneath. Nice concept but a lot of headaches in the engineering details.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Roy Lofquist said...

The liability costs from the number of accidents caused by whoopsies during the shakedown period for autonomous vehicles will bury, and bury real deep, any company foolish enough to try.

If liability cost bury the driverless car companies, it will be due to the depths of their pockets, not the number ( or severity ) of accidents. The problem is with our legal system, not with the capabilities of autonomous vehicles. As they hit the roads they have been, and will continue to be, safer that human drivers driving in similar conditions.

Roy Lofquist said...

@ Iapetus,

Yup. Steve Jobs was fanatical about the products. Tim Cook is a "vision" guy. It is a truism that the really successful companies are run by the engineers. The duds are run by the finance and marketing departments.

"Sell the sizzle, not the steak" is the mantra of marketing. Well, you can grab eyeballs that way but people are really looking for a good meal.

sinz52 said...

It's a train of trolley cars hooked together.

sinz52 said...

Comanche Voter sez: "Americans like the idea of riding on a train? Have you been on Amtrak any time within the last 20 years. "

Amtrak is a sick joke of a train.

Were you ever on the Santa Fe Super Chief, or was that before your time?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl_LoQ4vHDc

I would prefer riding in that to being jammed into a coach seat on an airplane.

lemondog said...

Pac-Man

bagoh20 said...

It has potential, but I suggest personal backyard human cannons. You have an app that you tell it where you want to go, just like with Uber. Then the cannon's software calculates a trajectory to avoid other traffic and accounts for wind and today's weight. You get in with a parachute and fire yourself right to you destination which you arrive at in seconds with a tiny carbon foot print. Plus it can serve as artillery against the coming Canadian invasion and the inevitable zombie attack later this century.

lemondog said...

It beats a 9 day traffic jam.......... "Straddling Bus" Possible Solution for Beijing Traffic Misery

jameswhy said...

No. Jetpacks.

gadfly said...

Traffic Jams are part of the Chinese culture. In 2010 there was a 60 mile long jam on their National Expressway 110 that left drivers stranded for days - but that brings the memory of the science fiction short story featured in Omni Magazine way back in 1979 entitled "The Great Moveway Jam."

I remember the story of a traffic jam that extended for miles and lasted for months and the government decided on a simple solution, which was to build walls along the sides of the road expressway, and later fill the walls with concrete, encapsulating all the cars and drivers in a concrete tomb, to which a new highway would be built. Problem solved.

Roger Sweeny said...

Phineas and Ferb already did this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs8ekbo38y0

Birkel said...

Americans like the idea of driving (control) and flying (speed).

Businesses love trains for durable, heavy cargo.

Leftists love trains because they are nostalgic for shit that doesn't work well, removes control from the individual and causes people inconvenience "for their own good".

T said...

" It goes on tracks. But it's like a bus, because it runs on the road along with cars."

Years ago vehicles that traveled on tracks in the road were called "Streetcars."

Roger Sweeny said...

gadfly, a similar idea was used in the Dr. Who episode "Gridlock" (new season 3: episode 3).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07vDd_MkAAA

Bill Peschel said...

Makes me long for the '70s and monorails.

John said...

I wonder how many of the people who like the idea of trains have ever ridden any distance on one? I went Waukegan to DC in 67 and again in 68. You get on a train in Waukegan, ride 45 minutes to Chicago. Take a cab to a different station, then ride another train 20+ hours.

The train itself was not bad but 20 hours on any transpo is way too long. It's about a 3 hour flight.

Ditto coming back. Went DC to NYC. Then take a cab from one station to another. I broke the trip in Albany but from Albany it was almost a full 24 hours to Chicago.

I could have driven faster. Or could today. There were no interstates then. Google says driving DC-Chicago is 11 hours 30 min. Flying is 1 hr 50 minutes.

I've also traveled DC LA by thumb, on Rte 66 and back on Trailways bus.

I am just fine with air. No need for trains, thank you.

John Henry

Clyde said...

Straddling? Looks like "bus-spreading" to me!

Clyde said...

Henry said...

Imagine being a bicyclist.


Of which there are a Shanghai-load in China.

Jonathan Graehl said...

frequent sun to shade transitions are messy. but messiest are the narrow blades, with tremendous mass behind them. derail at every bad-driver move. presumably you wouldn't even be allowed to change lanes anywhere near one

Roy Lofquist said...

@ ignoranceisbliss

You wrote "As they hit the roads they have been, and will continue to be, safer that human drivers driving in similar conditions."

But they won't be in similar situations. From the National Transportation Safety Board: "While the fatality rate roughly leveled off around 2000–2005 at around 1.5 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, it has resumed a downward trend and reached 1.27 in 2008.[1]"

Accidents are exceedingly rare. Most of them result from unusual situations and/or negligent drivers. Computer systems can only deal with anticipated situations. I have personal experience of errors occurring years after system acceptance because a user pushed the buttons in some new unique sequence.

The automobile market is extremely sensitive to safety issues. Note what happened to the Chevrolet Corvair when Ralph Nader published "Unsafe at any Speed". Crash safety ratings are a ubiquitous part of industry advertising. Witness the litigation about Ford exploding gas tanks or Toyota spontaneous acceleration or even faulty ignition switches in GM products. Autonomous vehicles are a wet dream for ambulance chasers. The liability is automatically assigned 100% to the computer, justly or not. Punitive damages are a slam dunk.

I, personally, will try to find a surplus deuce-and-a-half to drive if they start appearing in my neck of the woods.

Fred Drinkwater said...

OK, back-of-the-envelope on the solar power aspect:
Insolation maxes out at roughly 1000 Watts/square meter, or roughly 1.2 horsepower (with sun at zenith). The top of that "bus" looks like it has about 5x7 meters of available space, say 40 sq meters. So the theoretical maximum power, with clear sky and the sun right overhead, and 100% efficient energy conversion, is about 50 HP. That MIGHT be enough to slow-roll a crippled bus back to the barn, but it's not going to make a difference in normal operation (where you'd be very lucky to reliably get one-quarter of that power).
And never mind the extra systems costs...
Engineering is about numbers. This thing reminds me of the quote from the "metamodernist" in the earlier post, about how imagining a thing was enough to put it on an inevitable path to realization. That's just magical thinking, a great scourge these days.

wholelottasplainin' said...

"I wonder how many of the people who like the idea of trains have ever ridden any distance on one? "

Quite a while ago I took a four-day train from Istanbul to Tehran.

As it was crushingly boring, monotonous and uncomfortable to boot, I remember only two things:

the train stopped somewhere in the mountains, and a couple of barefoot children stood on the slope running outside the train, looking at the passengers in their compartments. They looked like they were freezing.

The other was the train being loaded onto a ferry in the middle of the night to cross Lake Van near Turkey's eastern border. Creepy feeling. Yes, trains use ferries to get to Malmo, Sweden from Denmark, but hey! That was Europe, not the land of hashish-besotted Assassins and Whirling Dervishes.

Big Mike said...

Well, I'm in love with the idea of taking CanadaRail from Vancouver to Banff, then hike up to see the Burgess Shale. Does that count?

OTOH, I used to use Metro to get to work down in the District of Columbia. For years now that has been a matter of taking your life in your hands so I was glad I was no longer working downtown.

The Godfather said...

The lack of flexibility scalability, etc. of rail-based transit is a feature not a bug, to the urban planners. Here's how it works. The government builds a rail line (commuter, elevated, subway, or whatever) with defined stops or stations. Developers look at the maps and say, Heh, I could make a lot of money if I build something near one of those stations! Because once that station is there, it ain't goin' anywhere. I can rake in the benefits for decades. But if the government, or God help us private enterprise, establishes a bus line, the developer can't count on it being there; it's easy to move or close down if the demand is stronger elsewhere. The develpers have to bet on market forces, and that's hard.

This is how it's worked in DC, so far (although that may change when the Metro collapses from inadequate maintenance).

Meade said...

It was just my invagination...
Running away with me

Darrell said...

Fred Drinkwater said OK, back-of-the-envelope on the solar power aspect:

It's China so it will probably be powered by burning car tires.

gadfly said...

Ominously, the government that brought us the Tiananmen Square Massacre is involved in yet another dangerous folly, so we cannot totally discount the possibility of a violent end to the Chinese embarrassment - although I doubt that the Chinese government is going to airdrop in suicide pills and pave over the "straddling bus" victims.

Henry said...

A vaginal vehicle is beyond all normal experience.

Not for island dwellers. Ferryboats.

Michael K said...

"A vaginal vehicle is beyond all normal experience."

Catamarans are common in sailing and in Australia where they can be huge and very fast.

cyrus83 said...

I can just see some idiot trying to cut this thing off and misjudging it. Or having this thing navigate some of the more fun intersections or roundabouts they've built here recently. To say nothing of the fact that some roads have narrower lanes than others as well as all the low-clearance bridges around.

And then there's the problem of route design. The problem with mass transit locally is that it is not designed to get people where they want to go in a timely fashion. We can have all the fancy and expensive rail solutions in the world, but unless the routes fit what people demand, it's all going to be an expensive bit of virtue signalling.

To use my own example, I live in the suburbs, and my job is about 13 miles away with an 8:30 start. If I desired to use mass transit to get to work, according to Google's planner I'd need to be at the bus stop by 5:30 each morning, take 3 different buses with 120 stops total along the routes, and then take a 45-minute walk at the end of all that to arrive by 8:15 each morning. Getting home relies on getting out the door every day at 5 on the dot and the kindness of a co-worker to drive me to the bus stop, as it's not actually possible to get home at all unless I somehow cut 19 minutes off the 45-minute walk. And even then I don't get home until quarter to 9.

Meanwhile, the trip can be done by car in only 30 minutes each way even in heavy rush hour traffic and is along major thoroughfares the whole way except for the first few blocks and the last mile and a half off the main road to work.

Much more cost-effective and efficient would be having Uber and Lyft develop a self-driving fleet of cars that perfected an elevator-type algorithm of handling travel requests in an efficient manner (essentially a dynamic carpool based on live demands).

Curious George said...

The only train I'm willing to take is the L from Howard Street in Skokie to Wrigley Field. There is no real parking at Wrigley, so driving is a hassle. It's also in a very dense urban neighborhood so getting home is slow.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

It's a supraway.

Rusty said...

File this one under; Nearly a good idea.

jr565 said...

I'd think you want to raise the tracks so that the train is even more elevated and not at the same level as the road. If they are the same level as the road I'd be afraid that I was driving really close tot the rails and get crushed. Might be an irrational fear, but I can imagine a lot of cars getting crushed.