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!