Thursday, August 5, 2010

Is this imaginative or what!

A news article on Chinese buses caught my eye the other day. It seems the Chinese are developing a super bus that will drive over two lanes of traffic. The bus, which can carry more than a thousand people, is being designed to alleviate rush hour traffic. Construction is supposed to start this fall in Beijing's Mentougou district, a western suburb which doesn't have the traffic that central Beijing has. Hopefully, if it works, the Chinese will expand this futuristic bus system to areas which really need help, like Second and Third Ring Roads.

When I lived in Beijing in the '90s, rush hour traffic wasn't as bad it is today, but still I could get somewhere faster on foot or bicycle. Taxis started imposing traffic jam surcharges; passengers could get zapped the extra fee in as little as two blocks. The surcharges are still in effect. When we were in Beijing two years ago, we didn't feel like walking 15 minutes from the subway station to our hotel, so we hopped a taxi. Forty-five minutes later we made it to our hotel.

The photo above was taken at Deshengmen on Second Ring Road. The buses are waiting to take people to the Great Wall at Badaling.

Beijing has done a lot to improve and update its bus system while still keeping fares reasonable, Buses are bigger and more comfortable. Buses used to break down frequently, and I remember one time while I was biking down Wangfujing, a bus broke down in the middle of an intersection. Passengers got off and pushed it out of the way. Of course, I didn't have my camera with me that day. Darn! But I did have my camera with me the day a bus caught on fire and burned while driving on southeastern Third Ring Road.

This new bus concept intrigues me. I especially like it that the Chinese aren't afraid to think outside the box. One time when I was working at China Daily, I edited a story about air pollution problems in Lanzhou, a major industrial town in western China surrounded by mountains much like Los Angeles is. One proposal to solve the problem was to blow a mountain to smithereens so the polluted air could escape through the new pass. The article did not say anything about implementing tighter air pollution controls on the industries responsible for the poor air quality.

A plug for me

If you're thinking about traveling to China, especially Beijing, please visit my website. Feel free to email me if you have questions about travel to the Middle Kingdom.

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