Sleeper buses and design

June 10, 2005, [MD]

Finally back to Coyotitan after a very long 18 hours on a bus (it was supposed to be 14, according to the ticket seller) from Mexico city. Since the individual lights did not work, I could not read after sunset (around 8PM), and had plenty of time to think (after my brain had been toasted with the movie Alexander the Great on full volume).\ \ Always trying to travel cheaply, and preferring overland for many reasons, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in buses and trains, in many countries. You come across a number of ingenious designs, and others not so smart - and you wonder, how does this kind of innovation happen, and spread? Why do they have trolley buses (electric buses, kind of a mix between buses and trams) in Eastern Europe and Russia, but not in Western Europe (that I know of)? In China, most long-distance buses are sleeper buses, with beds (see picture). Properly designed, they can probably carry almost as many people as a normal bus (in which nobody is standing), and they are much more comfortable for a long night.

The interesting thing from an economical point of view, is that I would love to pay 10 − 20 extra for a night in one of these, instead of in a normal bus - but I don’t have that choice. And how is my economical choice registered in the market if the alternative does not exist?

Another ingenious solution that I came across once, on my way from Slovenia to Sweden on a bus where everybody but I spoke Serbo-Croat, where seats that fold into “beds”. The part of the seat that you sit on folds out to cover the entire space, and the back is turned up to cover the entire space above - thus you have two layers of beds, and since each person will “lay across two seats”, you can fit exactly as many people as you could when they were sitting. Surely it is kind of cramped, you might be forced to be intimate with someone you don’t know (needless to say there is no undressing going on), but still the opportunity to lay down and stretch out is far superior to trying to find a comfortable situation in a normal bus.

Or look at the super-long buses going through dedicated bus lanes in Brazil? Made by a Swedish company, when are these coming to Europa? I know car freaks like to read magazines about new cars, the latest features and innovations - but I would like to read “Public Transportation Weekly” — what are the latest brilliant features they have thought up, and when is it coming to a city near me?


Stian Håklev June 10, 2005 Toronto, Canada
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