The Chinese bus causing an internet storm

A new public transportation idea from China has been setting social media sites and blogs ablaze over the past few days after its debut in Beijing back in May.

The "3D fast bus," better described as the "straddling bus," is effectively a bus catamaran, anchored to opposing sides of the roads so that normal vehicles can pass underneath it.

Passengers board the upper level using raised platforms at stations (much like light rail systems), while cars lower than 2 meters high can zip underneath unimpeded, reportedly reducing jams by 20-30 percent.

The advantages are obvious - it requires far less building than a light rail or subway system, it's unaffected by congestion, it doesn't impede traffic and, as it's powered by solar or electric cabling, it's pretty green.

However, the futuristic-looking bus also has some negative points - passengers sit on a bus moving at up to 60 km/h, which travels above cars that aren't controlled, so one wayward driver could cause a terrible accident (and the bus carries 1,200 people).

The straddling bus is also totally unsuited to older, built-up cities, where cramped intersections would make cornering the huge vehicle impossible.

Online, the idea has generated considerable buzz - the New York Times Wheels blog said that the idea had "some big advantages - even if images of traffic zooming through the girderlike legs of the “straddling bus” suggest a potential for exquisite catastrophe," while tech blog Engadget said that the "cunning project... actually makes sense."

On China Hush, which posted a translation of the presentation from Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment chairman Song Youzhou, readers were more dismissive.

"This is the craziest transportation device I’ve seen to date. By far," said one reader.

"It’s a beautiful design, but given the experiences I’ve had while travelling in Beijing and other cities… lanes are pretty much non-existent, so I failed to see how this could work in such an environment," said another.

For the moment it looks like the internet will have to wait and see what becomes of the "3D fast bus" - construction is set to begin on 168 kilometers of track in Beijing's Mentougou district by the end of the year.

See the presentation (Chinese): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQxP_un15iQ

NYT Wheels - http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/05/riding-high-a-chinese-concept-for-bus-transit/

Engadget - http://www.engadget.com/2010/08/02/china-to-build-ginormous-buses-that-cars-can-drive-under-video/

China Hush - http://www.chinahush.com/2010/07/31/straddling-bus-a-cheaper-greener-and-faster-alternative-to-commute/

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