Public transportation in China has greatly evolved in the 21st century. For example, the Beijing Subway has undergone several expansions in the 21st century. In 2002, the subway only had two lines. Today, the subway has 20 lines. Today, China has all forms of public transportation including commuter rail, subways, light rail, buses, and even maglev. So, how is China building the future of public transportation? There are several new forms of public transportation China is currently testing and building.
The Zhuzhou tram is the world’s first railless tram.
A company called CRRC Zhuzhou Institute is developing a new form of public transportation. It is called Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit. The product is currently being tested on a 6.5 km (4 miles) track in the city of Zhuzhou.
The bus-tram is like a bus, a train and a tram. It is made up of individual articulated sections resembling a tram. However, it does not circulate on rails and has the ability to move like a bendy bus.
The bus-tram follows a white line on the road and does not need tracks.
The bus-tram is approximately 30 meters (98 ft) long. Its maximum speed is 70 km/h (43.5 mph) and has two options. A three-carriage option can carry up to 300 passengers. There is also a five-carriage option which can carry up to 500 passengers.
The bus-tram is built with plenty of safety features including lane assist, collision warning system, GPS and electronic mirrors. With the GPS, it could suggest the driver to take a detour in case the road ahead is closed.
The bus-tram is powered by lithium-titanate batteries which can recharge at each station. The bus-tram is able to travel a distance of 40km (25 miles). A 3-5 km (2-3 mile) trip takes 30 seconds to recharge while a 25 km (15 mile) trip takes 10 minutes to recharge.
The bus-tram has pros and cons. It is able to carry as many passengers as a tram but also has the flexibility of a bus. A GPS is built in to suggest detours. The maintenance cost is low since no rails need to be constructed. The bus-tram is also environmentally friendly since it is powered by batteries and releases no exhaust gas. However, the tram-bus will create ruts in the road since it has many wheels. The bus-tram is not necessarily suitable for the winter climate since it hasn’t been tested on snowy/icy roads.
The Transit Elevated Bus at a test track in Qinhuangdao. China developed a new concept called the Transit Elevated Bus. It is where a bus straddles over traffic. It is like a bus and a train. The bus would take up two traffic lanes and would be elevated which would allow cars to pass underneath. The bus would not be higher than a semi so passing under overpasses wouldn’t be a problem.
The bus-train is on rails so it can only run on a fixed route. Vehicles lower than 2 meters (6’7”) will be able to pass under it, reducing congestion caused by buses when they’re stopped. Passengers would board through pedestrian overpasses or stairs on the side of the road. The bus will be electrically powered using overhead lines. Its maximum speed is 60 km/h (37 mph). The bus-train will be able to carry up to 1,200 passengers with some variants being articulated.
The bus-train would sound an alarm to warn cars when they are too close to it. It would have evacuation slides like an aircraft. The bus would be fitted with a bunch of other sensors including safety curtains and warning lights.
According to a 2010 proposal, the cost is around $75 million to build a 40 km (25 miles) guideway. This is claimed to 10% of the cost of building a subway and is expected to reduce congestion by 20-30%.
However, the concept also has disadvantages. Critics had questions on whether trucks would get stuck underneath and the risk to pedestrians and bicycles. The road would have to be modified to fit tracks and intersections would have to be redesigned since traffic lights wouldn’t work.
In the end, the project was abandoned in December 2016. 32 people from an investment company that backed the project got arrested on suspicion of illegal fund-raising. Workers started to dismantle the 330-yard track.
China now has the world’s biggest electric bus fleet. There are currently 100,000 buses in China. This is ⅕ of the country’s entire bus fleet. Shenzhen is the first city in the world to have a fully electric bus fleet. The city started out as a fishing village with a population of 30,000 in 1980. Now, 12 million people call this city home. Shenzhen has a total of 16,359 electric buses. Out of the 385,000 electric buses worldwide, 99% of them can be found in China. Comparing this to other cities, London plans to be all-electric by 2030 and New York currently has five electric buses with the plan to be all-electric by 2040.
According to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), electric buses will get cheaper in the future. Currently, electric buses are expensive but just like how electric vehicle battery prices have gone down in recent years, the price of electric bus batteries will go down as well. BNEF estimates the the price for electric buses could be lower than diesel buses by 2030. However, this could be earlier than that as there is a demand for electric buses.
There are two main reasons why China is building these new forms of public transportation: pollution and congestion.
China is building these new forms to combat congestion. Congestion in Chinese cities is very bad for several reasons its poor road design, expanding car ownership and poor driving. Traffic accidents kill approximately 260,000 people annually. Car ownership in China has increased greatly in the past years due to the boom in the middle-class. With more middle-class citizens, more people can now afford to buy cars. China now has 300 million registered vehicles, the equivalent of the population of the US. However, this means that 10 of the 25 most congested cities in the world are located in China.
China has solutions to this problem. In addition to building the largest network of control-access highways in the world, they need to build more public transportation in cities to improve traffic congestion.
They have done that with several cities having a subway system. However, with each public transportation form having a flaw, China is trying to merge different types of public transportation together to create the perfect public transportation vehicle. This is why we’re seeing railless trams or buses with rails.
China has pollution problems. With that many cars, pollution in China has become a big problem. This is why China is switching to electric vehicles to combat pollution and they are already off to a great start. Currently, electric buses only account for 20% of all buses in China with China’s goal being to only have electric vehicles. Switching to electric vehicles is like a requirement for China as the number of vehicles climbs, air pollution will just get worse. This will have major consequences.
However, China does have an advantage over other countries. Transport in China has support from the government. China is pouring billions of yuans into investing in public transportation. It includes subways and BRT. If China were to bring their technology to other countries, other countries may not have the money to pay for vast public transportation systems in many cities. China wants to bring their technology to other markets. For example, the city of Manaus, Brazil signed a letter of intent with Chinese developers to build a Transit Elevated Bus system.
One solution is China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Instead of having other countries paying for their public transportation, China will loan money to other countries and build the infrastructure needed. This has already been done in several developing countries. For example, China helped build the Addis Ababa Light Rail, the first light rail in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the end, I am confident that China will bring their technology to other markets. China will continue to build new forms of public transportation. If they find a flaw, they will continue to improve it until they find the perfect public transportation vehicle. This is why China is building the future of public transportation.