Thursday, September 13, 2012

Enough with The Chinese Straddle Bus!

The Straddling Bus has attracted a lot of attention. I got an early video of this concept developed in China almost two years ago. Now I get two emails a week about it. At least!

Here's my take on it. It's a cool concept, but in reality, it is impractical and difficult as a retrofit. However, it can be adopted in new cities in China, India and other new, highly populated urban areas.

Challenges of the Straddling Bus include but are not limited to these: 

1.       Very few real world streets and traffic lanes are perfectly straight or level... traffic lanes are not built to airport runway standards. Therefore, at a minimum, expensive lane strengthening and re-alignment would be needed in order to operate this bus.
2.       How do we manage a crash of such a huge vehicle on the street? How do we tow it or lift it if it becomes sufficiently incapacitated?
3.       We do not know how "the common distracted driver" will react when a “tunnel” drives over him or her. Driver startling and related crashes will be an issue. This is why I proposed that the straddle bus runs as an Express Bus over existing BRT lines.
4.       The concept requires elevated stations which adds significantly to the cost because all elevated stations need to be ADA compliant. Obviously this will be an express service with stops at intervals of 1 km or longer.
5.       Overpasses, cross wires, sign and signal gantries, and trees will present significant challenges.
6.       Trucks, buses and other large vehicles have to be regulated out of the two lanes that go under the Straddling Bus. Writing the ordinance is easy. Enforcing it is not, and one unfamiliar trucker will block the Straddling Bus for a while.
7.       Receiving U.S. DOT certification to operate it on US city streets won’t be trivial.
As of mid-2012 not a single prototype exists. So let China build it, and then we can copy it. That'll be a first!


Ga Law said...

It seems you do not understand the concept before judging the Straddling bus. The bus runs over the railways, so nothing to do with the road quality. The emergency exit system is just like the one in the comercial aircraft. Sliding system provided in every bus window. The bus is equipped with the alarm system, the "the common distracted driver" will adapt to it. The cost of the elevated stations are obviously much cheaper comparing to MRT station construction cost. Of course any vehicle with height more than 2 m can not pass through the straddling bus. They use another lanes. Above all, , the certification procedures should be followed.
Just remind you, this is a new technology, so it takes several adjustments to implement it. Isn't it common in every new technology or system implementation?
In my opinion, Straddling Bus has the whole advantages of both MRT and Busway, plus green technology and quick construction period. Very futuristic mass transport vehicle.

Robert Claxton said...

Ga Law
It is obvious that you are a proponent of the system. However, it is equally obvious that Fix Oahu clearly understands the concept. He has raised legitimate concerns which your response does nothing to address. Running over railways was one of 2 proposed systems and auto guidance would require levelling roads, in addition to which, both systems would require road straightening. It strikes me that the emergency slide system would hardly be safe for disabled passengers, apart from the fact that you have not dealt with where they would slide to -- into the third lane of traffic perhaps? Sorry, but your statement that the distracted driver "will adapt to it" is specious. The author made no comparison to MRT construction costs, he simply states that elevated stations will add to the cost. The concern about large vehicles blocking lanes you dismiss by saying that vehicles larger than 2m will use other lanes, but his concern is that they may not, and there is nothing forcing them to do so -- drivers make mistakes constantly. In addition, you have not dealt with the issues of trees, wires, gantries, etc. - yes, they can be dealt with, but at expense. And finally, you have ignored completely the concern about breakdown. I have one further concern - what if a car crashes into the side of it, either from outside or underneath, which is inevitable, or if a transport truck sideswipes it (would it topple onto its side)?
You should not accuse someone of not understanding the concept, if you, yourself, cannot understand the issues being raised.

Greg said...

Ga Law

The straddling bus is an inspiring concept and I look forward to it being tested in Beijing.

You are right that it takes several trials to perfect new technologies, and I believe Fix Oahu was precisely pointing out the biggest challenges that the parties involved will face in implementing this project.

Dismissing any concerns raised and arguing that a project is faultless is not the best way to support a project.

Equally, listing out the challenges faced by a project does not necessarily mean that one is against it.

In this case I think Fix Oahu's concerns are very pertinent, and I hope that the developers of the straddling bus will be able to find the best solutions to each of them.