Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
I can't believe it's not a tram!
Are you less likely to miss the bus if it's the size of three buses? Does a bus the length of a blue whale make traffic better or worse?
Dresden's Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure will soon be able to answer those questions. The Institute has unleashed the world's longest bus, the Fraunhofer IVI AutoTram Extra Grand. Like an insect, this beast is composed of three connected parts. Unlike an insect, the three parts are buses and the entire thing is a hundred feet long. It can haul over 250 passengers around town, as long the streets are wide enough (and the blocks long enough) to accommodate its lingering tail. Best of all, patented multiple axis steering ensure that the back of the bus perfectly follows the front, meaning driving the Extra Grand is no harder than driving your standard 35-footer.
The English-language German newspaper The Local talked to Institute Director Matthias Klingner about the new record-breaking mass transit. "There is a lot of know-how invested in it -- the computer is driven by a pretty clever steering algorithm," he told the paper. "There's no problem with the maneuverability and stability, but we have to see how such a long bus affects normal city traffic."
Indeed we do. Klingner said the Extra Grand could be a good option for cities that want trams but can't afford the investment -- the complete infrastructure required for a new tramline can cost more than $20 million dollars a mile. The new Extra Grand isn't on the market yet but it figures to be substantially cheaper than that. It will be road-tested in Dresden in October, but probably won't be of much use there: "There is already a pretty well-developed tram system here," Klingner told The Local.