China Aims to Revolutionize Mass Transport

China Aims to Revolutionize Mass Transportation

The Chinese wait in line to go to work every morning wondering how bad traffic is going to be. But coming soon to the world's most populous country is a futuristic-looking vehicle that straddles cars.

No, it's not a train or a subway. It's a new form of mass-transportation that is soon to be part of people's day-to-day lives.

With space for other vehicles to pass under on the ground level, the upper area will be reserved for up to 1,400 passengers at a time. China is introducing 3D Express Coach to battle its horrific traffic in urban cities and its worsening air pollution.

The 3D Express Coach, or so-called elevated high-speed bus, was designed by Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment. The cost of $1.35 billion will be about 10 percent of what it would be to build an equivalent subway system.

"The straddling bus overcomes the inconvenience of driving in a separate lane," designer Song Youzhou told ABC News. "The current Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] system is sometimes quite bothersome for other drivers and the fast bus will improve that a bit."

Peng Cheng, a frustrated Peking University student, watches a few buses pass each morning before he can actually get on the bus.

"It's a mental pain for me to think about going to work or going back home because the traffic here is unbearable sometimes," he said.

Shenzhen Huashi collaborated with Shanghai Jiatong University to estimate a 30 percent reduction in traffic, after the introduction of the 3D Express Coach. Beijing will be the testing ground for the vehicle, with construction set to begin by the end of the year and 90 buses operating by 2012.

"During the three-month testing period, the 3D Express Coach is going to run at the speed of from 13 to 20 miles per hour," Song said. "After that, we will run the vehicle at the speed of 25 to 30 mile per hour."

In Beijing, increasing car ownership and a population of 20 million are two major challenges with which the government struggles. In addition to the morning traffic wars, Beijing residents are, more often than not, shrouded by a veil of smog.

"I'm quite used to this pollution now," Peng said. "Once in a while when the sky clears up after the rain, I realize that I've been breathing in that horrible air pollution."

The 3D Express Coach is a step forward in China's quest to be green.

"We use electricity and solar power to run the vehicle," Song said.

The system has an automatic sensor that sets off a red light when vehicles are near. But the biggest concern among the public is how the straddling bus will turn.

"How are the cars going to turn a corner in parallel with the vehicle?" one Chinese Internet user commented on her blog.

The designers and manufacturers say there's no need to worry, although it may take awhile for other road users to get used to driving with something moving above them.

Others Show Interest?

"We're already under a contract with the Filipino government and they're going to order 10 3D coaches," Song said.

"Other countries like Mexico and India are also showing interest. If this innovation spreads to the rest of the world, I'm sure it will contribute a lot to a sustainable development."

Katherine Zhu contributed to this article.

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