What’s the Utility of a Train/Bus Hybrid?

Two different readers forwarded me links to this train/bus hybrid vehicle being introduced by JR Hokkaido. On of them was Adron, who blogged about it at his site.

So it seems to me that we now have a variety of design choices for transit system, divided along several dimensions:

Dedicated right-of-way (e.g., LRT, BRT) versus operation in traffic (Streetcar, Bus).

Fixed guideway (rails, catenary wires, dedicated busway) versus re-routability, either temporarily (around congestion) or permanently (re-routing to respond to changes in demand).

Electric versus hydrocarbons (and hybrids thereof).

This particular vehicle blurs all the boundaries, but it seems to me that the design questions remain:

When do we used fixed guideways as a place-making tool?

When do invest in dedicated right-of-way so that transit can avoid traffic congestion?

When do we use self-powered vehicles versus those dependent on a catenary system?

I think I’m getting a headache :-)


5 responses to “What’s the Utility of a Train/Bus Hybrid?”

  1. Yeah, it boggles my mind too really.

    One thing to point out, just as with Talgo Trains, Bullet Trains, Jet/Turbine Trains, Electric Busses, Hybrid Busses, and a bunch of other vehicles such as this one, is that they where created here in America, by private enterprise. They’ve since however, sat it the catacombs of development until other countries pulled them out of the archives.

    Just wanted to point that out, as it should be held as a point of pride.

  2. There was an attempt at a rail-bus by the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co, which today is the Red Arrow Division of SEPTA. They used a GMC New Look fitted with Railway Wheels. It was not successful, and niether was PSTC’s attempts to drop one of the last Interurbans in this country. Plus, the rail/bus used just a normal Diesel Engine.

    Now, I am not sure if the concept mentioned in the article would work,but perhaps it is worth a try.

  3. Looking at the AutoTram concept, if it was used on Light Density routes that could not support Light Rail/Commuter Rail, maybe it would work. If it was sold as a cure-all for congestion, like some groups up here have pitched Bus Rapid Transit, and even the Monorail, then it will not work, and only ruin the potential of this mode.

    Now perhaps this could be tried on the Woodinville Subdivision up here, which is facing being rail-banked and turned into a hiking trail. We could use more trails, but right now, this line has a successful Dinner Train Operation on it. Perhaps something could be worked out that benefits both.

    Now a route that this could have been used on, if we had been able to get it to work 30 years ago, was the Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern. It ran from Ballard through the University District, North Seattle, Kenmore, and Woodinville, en route to North Bend. This might have been able to boost it’s use, and give buses a quick way around the congestion.

    Now, I am suprised the Blade Runner has not been pitched to two railroads up in Canada that still operate Mixed Trains, although in the case of the Little Bear run by Ontario Northland, it is a big frieght train that just happens to carry a few coaches for passengers.




    Also, few would ever suspect that Double-Stack Containers could run on an anachronistic Mixed-Train, but Ontario Northland does just that. The cargo, when it gets to it’s nothern terminus, is often transfered to barges and airplanes, to continue it’s journey.


  4. It is one technology that makes sense on some routes. Although ours is not a guided busway, but we do have a busway that runs from S. Spokane St. to The Downtown Bus Tunnel. It is in the right of way of the tracks that used to lead to Union Station when Union Station hosted passenger trains.(Last UP Passenger Train left Seattle, May 1, 1971) It used to be straight, but when the Central LINK was built in that corridor, they kind of slanted it a little. Metro also needed room for bus layovers.

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