Taking the higher road

The light-rail “straddling bus,” will allow cars to travel beneath an upper level carrying as many as 1,400 passengers.

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Drivers on the congested roads in Beijing’s Mentougou district may soon have to get used to sharing the road with a rather futuristic-looking bus. The light-rail “straddling bus,” developed by the Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co., will allow cars less than two metres tall to travel beneath an upper level carrying as many as 1,400 passengers. The bus, which is about six metres tall and two street lanes wide, aims to reduce pollution (it will run partially on solar power) and up to 30 per cent of traffic.

Earlier this year, at the Beijing International High-Tech Expo, Song Youzhou said his company’s buses, capable of speeds up to 60 km/h, will be equipped with scanners and alarms to deter vehicles that are too tall from approaching, and to warn cars that are underneath from getting too close to the wheels. Flashing lights will also inform drivers when the bus will be making an upcoming turn. In an emergency, passengers would exit the upper level via an inflatable slide.

Though the company hasn’t committed to a specific launch date, designers point out the potential economic benefit of their modern ride. One bus, along with 40 km of track, will cost an estimated 500 million yuan—that’s 10 per cent of the cost of building a subway tunnel in China.

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