City Bus Innovations: Bigger or Faster?

My experience with public transportation is particularly bad and so I never take the bus. But if I would, I’d pick this new very long one by a German Fraunhofer Institute for traffic and infrastructure systems.

In places like London and Hong Kong buses are sized up vertically. An extra layer in a city that has learned to cope with tall vehicles is of course an excellent solution – except perhaps for those geriatric cases with a walking frame; I don’t recall the stairs of a London bus too spacious. But a tall bus isn’t always convenient outside such cities. Think of a low bridge or tunnel for example. Whether that’s the cause or not, fact is that there are very few double-decker buses on the continental side of Europe.

If a standard-sized bus just isn’t big enough, we prefer just to make it longer: the accordion bus, a.k.a. bendy bus, a.k.a. banana bus. Added benefit of this type of bus: it corners better and potentially faster, because it won’t tip over as easily. Where a normal bus is typically between eleven and fourteen metres in length, an accordion bus spans around eighteen and should be able to take onboard over 120 passengers, as opposed to the usual eighty or so. Moreover, boarding and unboarding is a much quicker process compared to a double-decker, because of the larger number of doors and the fact that the whole top floor doesn’t have to wait for grandpa to get down the stairs.

The Fraunhofer Institute must have seen all these benefits as well when they came up with their AutoTram Extra Grand. The thirty metre beast has five axles, of which four are able to steer, and can carry up to 256 passengers at once. A flippin’ road train! And because ‘green’ is everyone’s new fetish, it has a hybrid propulsion system.

Cool stuff, I have to admit. Though not quite as cool – but a lot more realistic – as the Delft University of Technology Superbus. That’s intended to carry only 25 passengers, but at speeds of up to 155 mph. Of course it has been in development for ages now.

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