The original hop-on-hop-off design, with its open rear deck, was perfect for car-choked streets: you could jump on when it was stopped and off again without waiting for a pre-determined stop. And because each bus had a driver and a conductor (to collect your fare), the Routemaster never had to wait while the driver fiddled with coins.
Being England, though, this amazingly practical bus was canned. Why?
Safety, and penny-pinching. Every Londoner has either fallen off the back of a bus, or seen it happen to some other poor soul, and this kind of self-responsibility isn’t permitted in the Nanny State. And two workers on board obviously costs more than one. The buses were also environmentally dirty, and there was no easy way for disabled people to get on and off.
But the Routemaster is back, and even better than ever. The new version, designed by Thomas Heatherwick for Wrightbus, combines the old 1958 design with modern buses. The open rear-deck is back, but it can be closed when needed (at night, for example, to keep the drunken gangs of baseball-capped, knife-wielding teenagers out).
The new bus has three doors: joining the single rear entrance are a front and a side door. There are also two staircases, solving a major congestion problem, and a source of missed stops on full buses. The center door is also accessible to wheelchairs. Best of all, it will have the both driver and conductor, although the more traditional indoor cab will mean the driver will no longer have to climb in the window like a monkey. A prototype will arrive next year, and the first new Routemasters will take to the roads on 2012.
Over in England, complaints are already being made, mostly focusing on the design, which comes on as something between the original Routemaster and the bridge of Kirk’s Enterprise. But with this new bus, in combination with London Mayor Boris Johnson’s drive to make the city bike-friendly, London’s traffic may no longer be the bad joke it has historically been.
Via Wired Autopia: http://www.wired.com/autopia/