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Public transit is not a trade I would consider artistic.  Functionality is key, especially as funding fades and it becomes increasingly hard to keep transit operates afloat.  I can see how trains have some aesthetic appeal, especially high-speed coaches with their sleek aerodynamic exteriors.  But busses?  No, busses are ugly.  Busses are rolling blocks spouting black noxious gasses from their rear ends as they chug sluggishly through our streets.  At least this is what the current generation of tasteless busses would have you believe.

Introducing the busses of the future:  These innovative new designs are filled to the rim with artistic freedom.  But they’re not all about aesthetics.  From alternative fuels to surfboard racks these new designs offer an array of functionality.  Hell, China’s Jumbo Bus design doesn’t really even use the road!  Check out these interesting new bus designs, and click on the images if you want to see more pictures.

Setra Coach 700 Series:

This electric bus boasts an impressive 600 mile range using the same engine as the Honda Clarity (power could be increased easily).  What makes this bus unique is its rear modules: using a simple male-female connector system the rear of the bus can disconnect to interchange with a number of different loadouts to increase functionality.

The Freight*Bus:

This combination passenger/freight bus was submitted to the “A New Bus for London” competition in 2008.  It did not win.

Ikarus Bus Concept:

It doesn’t seem to put good use to interior space, but the interior of the Ikarus concept is gorgeous in a very modern sort of way.

Icon Bus:

In addition to a brilliant blue exterior, this bus also features double-deck vertical seating.  What is really interesting is its use of “gills” on the side of the coach that break down atmospheric ozone into oxygen.

The Backbone

While not a full concept, this shows how much thought can go into bus design.  The backbone might enhance strength, capacity flexibility, and energy savings.  For more interesting concepts like this, check out this Flickr gallery.

China’s Jumbo Bus:

This is by far the most interesting of them all.  Other than looking ridiculous, the implications of an above-street megabus are enormous.  Imagine replacing expensive underground tunnels for subways with relatively simple raised platforms.   If such a design was feasible, the effects on congestion and cost would be sizable.

Oh, and let’s not forget creative new bus ads to that can be used to raise additional revenue or forward a cause.

Some of the designs I’ve seen are obviously for kicks, but some pose new solutions to old problems.  Although not novel, the double-decker seating sticks out to me as a perfect design for the long-distance buses serving urban to suburban routes.  Passengers on for short distances can quickly load and unload on the bottom while those in for a longer ride can get comfortable in the upstairs seating.

I don’t know that any of these concepts will translate into any real innovation in the bus industry but they’re definitely interesting ideas.  By themselves interesting designs cannot fix public transit, but surely a flashy and functional bus could help defeat the negative stigma often associated with public transit. And overcoming that stigma to attract more passengers is half the battle.

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