As 2,000 new cars crowd Beijing’s roads every day — twice the number in New Delhi — authorities trying to ease congestion in the world’s largest car market are preparing to test a monster bus that is so big that cars can drive under it.
While Delhi’s planners study Beijing’s Bus Rapid Transit system, Chinese planners have moved on to the “super bus” that needs no extra road space.
The solar and electricity-powered bus will hold more passengers in four compartments than an Airbus. The bus will float 2.2 m above traffic on elevated tracks that create a tunnel for two lanes of medium-sized vehicles to drive under the bus as it moves at a maximum 60 kmph speed.
It sounds risky for India and China where the roads are scenes of unpredictable driving and the world’s highest accidents. But this week, soon after news of the world’s longest 100-km traffic jam on the Beijing-Tibet highway, the Chinese media said Beijing would start yearlong trials of the super bus in an economic zone this year, and extend the tracks to the airport if trials are successful.
The technology requires elevated bus stops, tracks and traffic controls. “I was stuck in a severe traffic jam when the idea came,” innovator Song Youzhou, CEO of the Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment Company, told the China Daily. He said the bus tracks cost one-tenth the cost of building subways and 40 km of bus tracks can be built in one year compared to three years for subway lines.
Beijingers spend 52 minutes reaching work — China’s longest commute — but they are wary of futuristic transport. In May, residents said they feared the effects of radiation and opposed plans for Beijing’s first 19-km magnetic levitation train.
Officials estimated that Beijing’s traffic will soar from 4.4 million to seven million cars by 2015. The roads can hold only 6.7 million vehicles. By 2015, city-driving speeds will reduce from 24.2 kmph to 15 kmph. Beijing’s car population rose from three to four million in three years, compared to 12 years in Tokyo, which Beijing has unseated as capital of the world’s second-largest economy. Beijing topped and Delhi ranked fifth in a commuter pain survey, but Beijing is testing commuter solutions faster than any other capital.