Chinese company unveils 'Transit Elevated Bus'

From "The Guardian": 

China unveils 'straddling bus' design to beat traffic jams. The concept vehicle is designed to float above the clogged-up streets of some of the country’s biggest cities

A Beijing company has unveiled spectacularly futuristic designs for a pollution-busting, elevated bus capable of gliding over the nightmarish mega-jams for which urban China has become notorious.

Plans for the so-called Transit Explore Bus or TEB were showcased earlier this month at a technology expo in the Chinese capital.

The “straddling bus”, which owes more to Blade Runner than China’s car-clogged highways, is supported by two legs that run along rails laid along the roadside.

Those legs allow the TEB’s giant frame to glide high above the gridlock at speeds of up to 60km per hour. Equally, vehicles that are less than two metres high will be able to drive freely underneath the bus, even when it is stationary.

“The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space,” Song Youzhou, the project’s chief engineer, told Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

Song claimed his buses, capable of transporting up to 1,400 commuters, could be produced for 20% of the price of an underground train and rolled out far more quickly since the supporting infrastructure was relatively simple.

One TEB could replace 40 conventional buses, he said.

A prototype will reportedly be deployed on the streets of Qinhuangdao, a coastal city about 300km east of Beijing, this summer.

The project has been greeted with anticipation in China, where traffic jams have grown as the country overtook the United States to become the largest car market on earth in 2009.

Last year alone 21.1 million passenger cars were sold here.

However, excitement over the innovation was tempered by the fact that a virtually identical contraption was unveiled at the same expo in 2010 without catching on.

Its designer? A Chinese engineer by the name of Song Youzhou.     READ MORE >

  D.C. Metro fires 20 managers

From "The Washington Post":

Metro fired 20 managers Friday in what the agency’s top executive described as a step toward “restructuring” the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority after months of subway safety problems, service disruptions and financial woes.

General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld sent an email to Metro employees announcing the firing of the managers, seven of whom he identified only as senior managers. More than one-third of the fired managers worked in subway operations, Wiedefeld said.

The firings were “immediate, effective today,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said Friday. The 20 managers were among about 650 “at-will” employees of the transit agency, meaning they could be let go at the general manager’s discretion.

Wiedefeld, hired as Metro’s general manager and chief executive in late November, has vowed to streamline the organization, which employs about 13,000 people, a vast majority of whom are members of three labor unions.

Metro declined to specify what departments the fired managers worked in or what any of the managers’ individual job responsibilities were. “I hope you will join me in respecting the privacy of these individuals, and note that I will not be commenting about individual employees,” Wiedefeld told the agency’s workforce in the Friday email.

After decades of maintenance neglect, the 118-mile subway system has been chronically beset by safety-related infrastructure problems, especially over the past year and a half, with electrical-related track fires becoming common. In October, Metro became the only big transit agency in the nation to be placed under federal safety oversight.

Meanwhile, an array of the agency’s financial problems have come to light, stemming from Metro’s mismanagement of federal grant money and from a decline in operating revenue partly caused by a steady drop in subway ridership.           READ MORE >

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