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China’s ‘revolutionary’ bus draws mixed reaction The “Straddling Bus” is about 18 feet tall and two street lanes wide.


he Chinese inventor of a massive “ Straddling Bus,” which could carry up to 1,400 passengers, while cruising over traffic, has fueled much speculation with his bid to introduce the “revolutionary” transit to America. Song Youzhou, the inventor, is chairman of Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment, which first exhibited the “bus” at the 13th Beijing International High-tech Expo in May of 2010. It is scheduled for pilot use in Beijing’s Mentougou District. Reactions to the project in the U.S. range from “a lot better than what we have” to “an insane idea.” The most prevalent reaction appears to be “let’s wait and see what happens in China.”

Last October, Youzhou announced formation of U.S. Elevated High-Speed Bus Group to find markets for the invention here and in other parts of the world. The bus is about 18 feet tall and two street lanes wide and is often described as looking more like a subway or light-rail train than a bus. It is designed to travel either on rails or painted guidelines at an average speed of 25 miles per hour.. Mark Shieh, a spokesman for the U.S. group, said manufacturers and dealers are being sought to deliver the “Straddling Bus” to U.S. transit agencies. “An ideal partner for us would be a RV, motor home, aircraft, train or bus manufacturer with production

Image Source: U.S. Elevated High Speed Bus Group

facilities in the U.S. who is looking to diversify,” Shieh said. “We hope to leverage not only their manufacturing capabilities, but also their domestic and export sales channels. In return, we’ll deliver the design and fully developed concept.

Second Quarter 2011 China’s ‘revolutionary’ bus draws mixed reaction Perspectives vary on traffic congestion A plan to wire region together on transportation Retirements at the GBNRTC Mixed results from efforts to control CO2 emissions

“The word ‘revolutionary’ is so overused but this new bus actually is revolutionary. Relative to the cost of a subway line or other rail transit, our bus delivers extraordinary value. Aside from low cost the time for construction is about one third that for a subway.” Youzhou has described his “Elevated High-Speed Bus” as “an ultra low-carbon producer, environmentally friendly and a high-efficiency project.” He declared, “It solves the problems found with ordinary fuelconsuming buses that include air pollution, carbon emissions, and low energy efficiency. “Our bus is fueled by municipal electricity and solar power that is supplemented by solar energy gleaned from the roof. The Elevated High–Speed Bus combines the merits of Bus Rapid Transit and a subway…. A highlight innovation is that it runs above cars and under overpasses. It can reduce up to 25-30 percent traffic jams on main routes.” Use of the buses, he said, would require “remodeling the road” by laying rails on both sides of a car lane, “which can save 30 percent energy, or we can paint two white lines on both sides and use auto-pilot technology in the bus that will follow the lines and run stable.” The buses would also require “station platforms, either by loading and unloading passengers through the sides or “using the built-in ladder so that passengers can go up and to the overpass through the ceiling door.” He also spoke of “innovative” systems that could regulate traffic through the bus and safeguard passengers. According to a report in the New York Daily News, cars less than 2 meters high can pass beneath the ‘straddling bus’ and “if an oversized vehicle gets too close to the bus, an alarm will go off.”

Bus may use auto-pilot technology to assist in steering.

Passengers board using elevated platforms.

Image: U.S. Elevated High Speed Bus Group

Cars less than 2 meters high may pass freely beneath.



Image: U.S. Elevated High Speed Bus Group

Image: U.S. Elevated High Speed Bus Group

Perspec ves vary on traffic conges ons


ifferent traffic surveys, using different data systems, present different perspectives on congestion in the Buffalo-Niagara metropolitan area. For example, a recent report by INRIX, an international traffic services company with headquarters in Kirkland, Washington, reported that Buffalo-Niagara was one of nine regions in the nation that had a record level of congestion in 2010. Other metro regions with record congestion included Milwaukee and Birmingham, Alabama. In the national context, BuffaloNiagara was still ranked No.50 for its level of congestion among the top 100 regions in the nation, the same ranking it was given for population. In earlier years, the region’s congestion had been ranked lower by INRIX, 55th in 2009, 58th in 2008, 68th in 2007 and 64th in 2006. Congestion peaked nationally in 2007, according to INRIX, reflecting in that year a 21 percent increase since 1995. On the other hand, the latest Urban Mobility Report by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), based upon 2009 travel data, rated BuffaloNiagara and Columbus, Ohio, as having the lowest yearly delay per peak-hour auto commuter, at 17 hours, among 31 comparable “large” urban areas. The comparable TTI figure for Buffalo-Niagara in 2008 was 16 hours, a decline associated here, as in the rest of the nation, with the economic recession and high fuel prices. According to the TTI report, Buffalo-Niagara also was tied with Louisville, Kentucky, for the lowest overall congestion increase between 1982 and 2009 at 13 hours delay per

commuter. The TTI report notes that back in 1982 the area delay was only 4 hours when the average national delay per commuter was 14 hours. Of course, the TTI survey for 2010 traffic, which will not be reported until later this year, will no doubt also reflect a congestion increase associated with economic recovery, though it is likely, again, to be expressed in terms of different

Kensington (33), Scajaquada (198), Aurora (400) and Southern (219) Expressways. The INRIX data is collected from GPS (Global Positioning System) devices, including cell phones, in more than 1.5 million motor vehicles, as well as from road-sensor data from the states. INRIX was founded by two former Microsoft employees who use specialized Microsoft technology

National trend as presented by Texas Transportation Institute.

data than the INRIX report. Timothy Lomax, Ph.D. research engineer at TTI, said the 2010 survey would not be issued until around Labor Day because “it takes a lot of effort to match the road section volume map to the speed map.” A significant difference is that the TTI survey is based upon data from 2,395 miles of “arterial streets” in the Buffalo-Niagara metro area as well as 650 miles of “freeway,” whereas the INRIX data is based upon freeway traffic -- on Interstate 90, 190, 290 and 990, as well as the Second Quarter 2011

Source: 2010 Urban Mobility Report

for the surveys. The TTI uses data provided by the states and the Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Performance Monitor System. However, the TTI survey on 2009 traffic also for the first time used data from INRIX, particularly as it related to travel speed as a factor in its measurement of congestion. Asked to comment on the INRIX report for 2010, Lomax, of TTI, said: “It’s a good report about congestion and the corridor bottlenecks. Great data! It’s a slightly different take on 3

the problem, but it is consistent with our report. “The main difference between their measures and ours is that we don’t present the same detail level that they do. We only do regional level. And they only use freeway data and don’t have the volume data that we do. So they weight every road section in a region with the same importance. Our procedure weights a freeway with 200,000 cars with twice the importance as a freeway with 100,000 cars. “Their travel time ‘tax’ measurement is similar but not identical to our Travel Time Index.” As defined by INRIX, its “Trip Tax” means the percentage of extra time a random trip during peak travel time takes as a result of congestion. Its survey showed a Buffalo-Niagara “tax” of 5.6 percent in 2010 (with a high of 11 percent on Thursdays between 5:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.), compared with 3.8 percent in 2009, 3.3 percent in 2008 and 4.3 percent in 2007. TTI’s Travel Time Index for Buffalo-Niagara was 1.10 in 2009, 1.09 in 2008 and 1.12 in 2007. It is defined as the ratio of travel time in the peak period to time in free flow. The INRIX survey for 2010 traffic stressed that “after three years of relatively modest traffic congestion, America is back on the road to gridlock with a vengeance“ even with “only modest urban job growth.” Of the 33 most congested regions, only three regions saw declines in congestion in 2010, according to INRIX -- Chicago (1 percent), Miami (9 percent) and Phoenix (12 percent). At the national level, the Travel Time Tax was 9.7 percent, up 11 percent from 2009 but still below the 27 percent peak in 2007. The 2009 TTI survey, which was not published until January of 2011, declared: “While 2008 was the best year for commuters in at least


a decade, the problem again began to grow in 2009. The recession has helped some of us forget about our national traffic problem, but the recovery should help us to remember it.” But even INRIX conceded in its report on 2010 congestion, published in early March of 2011, that its forecast of “gridlock with a vengeance” could be mitigated if there were “a sudden and sustained fuel price shock, or the dreaded double-dip recession or jobless recovery economic scenarios.” And a recent report by the Brookings Institute, based upon data from the Federal Highway Administration, noted that while Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) have increased in the U.S., because “we’ve added over 29 million people since 2000 and 7 million since 2007 alone,” the “per capita driving rate is not growing and, in fact is pretty much at the same level as it was in 2000.” The INRIX survey on 2010 traffic does not include data on public transit. The TTI report indicated that public transportation accounted for 87.9 million passenger miles of travel for Buffalo-Niagara in 2009, a decline from 91.3 million in 2008, which had represented the highest level since 1992. However, as a result of an updating of the Metro system, as well as an increase in gas prices, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Association (NFTA) has reported a 5 percent increase of ridership during 2010. One area in which Buffalo-Niagara ranked relatively low in the TTI 2009 statistics was in “operational treatment savings,” associated with high-occupancy vehicle lanes, arterial street access management, signal coordination, and freeway ramp metering and incident management. The regional investment was put at $7 million with an average $45 million for 31 comparable “large” areas.


A TTI news release declares that the 2009 mobility report provides “the most comprehensive look yet at the nation’s traffic problems, incorporating more roads, more cities and more up-to-date congestion information – thanks to a new partnership between TTI and INRIX.” The release notes that the “‘best available data’ is much better and the procedures and estimates have been adapted to take advantage of those improvements -- it appears that several factors cause estimated traffic speeds to be different than actual speeds.” Earlier, an analysis by Joseph Cortright, representing an urban organization known as CEOs for Cities, had questioned the accuracy of the TTI reports and declared they were “often used to justify billions of dollars in expenditures to build new roads and highways” when the problem “has much more to do with how we build our cities than how we build our roads.” Areas members of CEOs for Cities are Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls and President Joseph Levesque of Niagara University. The Cortright report declares, “The key is that some metropolitan areas have land-use patterns and transportation systems that enable their residents to take shorter trips and minimize the burden of peak hour travel.” It was “critical,” for example, that TTI did not use a Travel Time Index computed by INRIX “based upon real-time observation of travel speeds.”

A plan to wire region together on transporta on


n electronic “warehouse” for regional transportation carded so that “we lose a basis for historical comparison” in information, believed to be the first of its kind in the assessing the effects of technological change, such as the use state, is being put together at the University at Bufof electronic message signs. falo to facilitate technological collaboration among govern“So we will build an archive and try to understand what ment agencies in Erie and Niagara Counties. is happening – whether people are really responding to these Dr. Adel W. Sadek, an associate professor of UB’s messages, for example a notice that the route is going to be Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering Department, congested. Without an archived warehouse, this might be outlined the project at a meeting of GBNRTC’s Planning and very hard or costly to do.” Coordinating Committee. The university itself is financing the cost of establishing Differing data systems and technological languages, he the warehouse but has also applied for state assistance. Sadek said, sometimes hindered collaboration in the application of said that the computer “warehouse” would initially be operresources to maximum effect for the region’s transportation ated by the university but added that over time it might be system. appropriate for another agency to take it over. The computerized “warehouse” would assemble in “We could have a prototype hopefully working by late meaningful language data from the GBNRTC, the New York this year or early next year,” Sadek said. State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), Niagara Similar data systems have been established in a number International Transportation Technology Coalition (NITof other states, he noted, and specifically mentioned those TEC), New York State Thruway Authority, (NYSTA) and established by the University of Virginia, University of Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO), as well as other California and Portland State University in collaboration with UB sources. transportation authorities. “Our objective is to Regional Transportation Data Warehouse Vision make all the data provided by different agencies intelligible to everybody. That is really the key concept here,” declared Sadek. He cited the application of traffic signal control devices as an example of technology that “definitely has much more to offer than what we’re using it for.” He cited a case where “you have two towns along the same corridor that fail to communicate with one another and you are not taking full advantage of the technology that could coordinate the traffic along that single road.” He stressed that the data “warehouse” would also be archiving data that often gets thrown away. For example, he said, information about traffic congestion often gets disIllustration is courtesy of the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Second Quarter 2011


Re rements at the GBNRTC


fter many years of service, GBNRTC says farewell to four of its staff members as they enter retirement. Deborah Vizine, planning grants manager, has left after 35 years. She started in the ‘70s, when the agency was known as the Niagara Frontier Transportation Committee (NFTC) and had a space in the Statler Hilton, as did its host agency, the NFTA. Deborah started as a secretary/receptionist after taking secretarial science at Erie Community College North. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in business management at the University at Buffalo and was promoted by NFTC Director Edward Small to operations analyst in 1981 and later to planning grants manager by Charles Frederikson, under whom the NFTC became the GBNRTC. Ken Field, who functioned as editor of the newsletter for many years, has retired after 30 years with the GBNRTC. A graduate of the University at Buffalo with a degree in communications design, Ken joined the agency in 1980 as a staff assistant. At the time of his retirement in November of 2010, Ken was graphics manager. “I started out using pencil and pen and ended up using computer generated graphics,” he noted. Barbara Courtney, a senior transportation analyst, has retired after 29 years of service. A University at Buffalo graduate, with a degree in urban geography, she started as a temporary survey technician before becoming a full-time staff assistant in 1984. She became involved in a wide range of service over the years. Barb became the lead for the

GBNRTC Economic and Demographic Review Team, cultivated strategies and information resources for tracking job and household development in the region, worked on federal funding applications, alternative and human-service transportation needs, etc. “I have watched the evolvement of transportation planning from manual calculations and slide rules to sophisticated computer and simulation models,” she said. “The ability to research and find needed information quickly is quite amazing. Out of all this though, I will miss the people I have met and worked with on review teams and study committees and especially miss the interaction and friendship with my co-workers, both past and present.” Most recently, Robert Wagner has retired after serving since 1998 as primary contributor to GBNRTC’s newsletter. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in ornithology from Cornell and a Master of Science in journalism from Columbia University, Robert worked for the Times Picayune newspaper for New Orleans, LA in the 1950s then moved on to become State Capital Reporter for WDSU TV News (New Orleans). At WDSU, Robert wrote a television documentary on the Ku Klux Klan which won an Emmy for the station in 1965. Robert accepted the Emmy on behalf of the station which was presented by Sammy Davis Jr. at the Emmy Convention. Robert later moved to his hometown of Buffalo where he worked for the next 25 years as a reporter for the Buffalo News. Robert retired from the Buffalo News in 1997.

Thank you for your many years of service at the GBNRTC!

GBNRTC retirees, Barbara Courtney, Robert Wagner & Deborah Vizine



GBNRTC retiree, Ken Field


Mixed results from efforts to control CO2 emissions

arbon dioxide (CO2) emissions related to energy use declined by 7 percent in the United States during 2009, the largest decline since record keeping began in 1949, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). EIA Administrator Richard Newell said, “The large decline in emissions was driven by the economic downturn, combined with an ongoing trend toward a less energy-intensive economy and a decrease in the carbon-intensity of the energy supply.” At the same time, the International Energy Agency (IEA), based in Paris, reported that preliminary data indicates a decline in 2009 of up to 2 percent world-wide in global energy use, associated with CO2, with emissions “well below what they would have been had the recession not occurred.” It would be the first time since 1981 on “any significant scale” that there has been a fall in global energy use. However, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations agency based in Geneva, later reported that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the world atmosphere still rose in 2009 by 1.6 parts per million, to 386.8 parts per million, even though the increase was lower

than in 2008. The pre-industrial carbon dioxide average was about 280 parts per million in the atmosphere.. The WMO emphasized that efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, the gases associated with global warming, haven’t diminished the atmospheric concentration of these gases. Earlier, the IEA’s World Energy Outlook had reported, “The recession, by curbing the growth in greenhouse-gas emission, has made the task of transforming the energy sector easier by giving us an unprecedented, yet relatively narrow, window of opportunity to take action to concentrate investment on low-carbon technology. “The scale and breadth of the energy challenge is enormous – far greater than many people realize. But it can and must be met.” According to the IEA report, the world primary energy demand would increase 40 percent, or 1.5 percent a year, by 2030 “if governments make no changes to their existing policies and measures.” Developing Asian countries “are the main drivers of this growth, followed by the Middle East.” An alternative scenario, to control climate change, according to the IEA, would require international agreement and “$10.5 trillion more investment in energy infrastructure Continued on page 8

Source: Monthly Energy Review (April 2010), Table 12.1

Second Quarter 2011


and energy-related capital stock globally” worldwide, which could be “at least partly offset by economic, health and energy-security benefits.” In the transportation sector, this would require “measures to improve fuel economy, expand bio-fuels and promote the uptake of new vehicle technologies, notably hybrid and electric vehicles.” Under any future scenario, the IEA report predicts that demand for natural gas will continue to expand (particularly for the power sector) because of the “low carbon content of gas relative to coal and oil” and “constraints on the rate at which low-carbon technologies can be deployed.” According to a report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, partly on the basis of IEA statistics, in 2009 the “dramatic” 7 percent decline in CO2 emissions in the United States was replicated among OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries as a whole and in Russia. It “compensated for the continued strong increase in CO2 emissions in China and India of 9 percent and 6 percent

respectively.” The OECD comprises 32 nations, including members of the European Union, the U.S., Canada, Japan and South Korea. According to the IEA, “China became the world’s largest energy consumer in 2009,” surpassing the United States, which held the title for more than 100 years. Chinese officials later said their nation was still second to the U.S. in energy consumption. According to “preliminary U.S. Department of Transportation data” the fuel economy of the total U.S. fleet improved from 27 miles per gallon in 2008 to 28.5 miles per gallon in 2009.” Transportation accounts for about 29 percent of the U.S. energy consumption. The report by the U.S. EIA (Energy Information Administration), a unit of the U.S. Department of Energy, noted that although the 7 percent U.S. decline in carbon-dioxide emissions in 2009 was “exceptional,” there had been smaller declines in the U.S. in 2006 and in 2008.

Meeting Calendar Planning and Coordinating Committee (PCC) meetings begin at 9:30 AM

May 4th

Carnegie Building 1022 Main St. Niagara Falls, NY

June 1st

NFTA Board Room 181 Ellicott St. Buffalo, NY

July 6th

Niagara County Public Safety Building 5526 Niagara St. Extension Lockport, NY

August 3rd

NYS Thruway Authority 455 Cayuga Rd., Suite 800 Cheektowaga, NY

September 7th

Buffalo City Hall Niagara Square Buffalo, NY

Meeting dates and times are subject to change: please call (716) 856-2026 for confirmation.

Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council

Comments as well as requests to be added or deleted from the mailing list are welcome and should be sent to:

Phone: 716-856-2026 GBNRTC Editor 438 Main Street, Suite 503 Buffalo, NY 14202


Fax: 716-856-3203

This newsletter was prepared with the financial assistance of the U.S. Department of Transportation. However, the contents represent only the view of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the review or approval of the U.S. Department of Transportation.


GBNRTC Newsletter 2Q 2011