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Straddling Bus Offered as a Traffic Fix in China

HONG KONG What do you do if your roads are congested and polluted? Try designing a
vehicle that takes up no road space. And make it partly solar powered.

A company in the southern Chinese town of Shenzhen has done just that. To address
the countrys problems with traffic and air quality, Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking
Equipment has developed a decidedly odd-looking, extra-wide and extra-tall vehicle
that can carry up to 1,200 passengers.
Though it is called the straddling bus, Huashis invention resembles a train in
many respects but it requires neither elevated tracks nor extensive tunneling. Its
passenger compartment spans the width of two traffic lanes and sits high above the
road surface, on a pair of fencelike stilts that leave the road clear for ordinary cars
to pass underneath. It runs along a fixed route.
Huashi Future Parkings outsize invention six meters, or about 20 feet, wide
is to be powered by a combination of municipal electricity and solar power derived
from panels mounted on the roofs of the vehicles and at bus stops.
A pilot project for the vehicle is in the works in Beijing, and several other Chinese
cities have shown interest.
The company says the vehicle which will travel at an average speed of 40
kilometers an hour, or about 25 m.p.h. could reduce traffic jams by 25 to 30
percent on main routes.
The straddling bus could replace up to 40 conventional buses, potentially saving the
860 tons of fuel that 40 buses would consume annually, and preventing 2,640 tons
of carbon emissions, said Youzhou Song, the vehicles designer.

I had the idea when I was doing research on the road for the designs of innovative
parking slots for bikes and cars, Mr. Song, who founded the company with several
partners in 2009, said by phone last week. I saw the traffic jams and wondered if
its possible to make buses high up in the air as well.
The design highlights a range of issues that have come with Chinas explosive
economic growth.
The nations urban population has expanded rapidly in recent years. In a report last
year, the consulting firm McKinsey estimated that an additional 350 million people
more than the population of the United States would move to the cities by
2015. More than 220 cities will have more than one million people. By comparison,
Europe has 35 such cities now.
All this has caused a vast need for urban infrastructure, with McKinsey estimating
that 170 new mass transit systems could be built in China by 2025.
At the same time, rising affluence has caused the number of cars and traffic jams
to soar.
China is the worlds largest polluter, and Beijing is eager to reduce carbon emissions.
The authorities have been pushing solar power and fuel-efficient transportation.
Huashis invention appears to have received a preliminary seal of approval from
Beijing. The capitals Mentougou district is testing the technology and plans to start
building nine kilometers of route at the end of this year. If the test is successful,
about 116 miles would be put in place.
Mr. Songs design is in line with our concept of green transportation and our vision
of the future. We hope to start the construction and operation as soon as possible,
said Wenbo Zhang, head of the science and technology commission of Mentougou
district, though he added that the necessary approvals would take time and
Shijiazhuang, in Hebei Province, and Wuhu, in Anhui Province, have also applied
to obtain financing for straddling bus systems, Mr. Song said, while Luzhou in
Sichuan Province has shown interest.

The vehicles will be built by the China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock
Corporation starting at the end of this month, Mr. Song said.
The cost of construction 50 million renminbi, or $7.4 million, for one bus and
about 25 miles of route facilities is roughly one-tenth what it costs to build a
subway of the same length, he said.
Huashi Future Parkings more modest inventions include space-saving vertical
bicycle-parking sheds. The bike sheds have been sold to the municipal government
of Nanchang, in Jiangxi Province, and to a factory in Dongguan, in the southern
province of Guangdong, Mr. Song said.