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By amfibus across the Clyde
February 8, 2010 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Originally developed for military tasks, amphibious buses have found a niche running tourist services in various cities around the world. But now, Scotland is about to get the first timetabled amphibious bus passenger service, replacing a ferry route in Glasgow and extending it inland to a nearby town and a shopping centre.

While tourist operations typically use modified military personnel carriers, the Glasgow service will use a purpose-built amphibious passenger bus named the Amfibus, of which costs £700,000, looks much like a regular road bus and has been used by tour operators in the Netherlands, and will cross the Clyde between Renfrew and Yoker. The service made its maiden voyage today, but was temporarily grounded afterward after a flotation bag had worked loose.
posted by acb (49 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's awesome. I wonder why this hasn't been done before. It seems like every coastal city I visit has some form of a "duck tour". Using them for practical transport makes much more sense to me.
posted by hippybear at 10:31 AM on February 8, 2010


Oh, neat!
posted by brundlefly at 10:34 AM on February 8, 2010


That Amfibus looks like a prop out of a Dr. Who episode. Now that I think of it "Amfibus" sounds like an alien race out of Dr. Who episode...
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:37 AM on February 8, 2010


I've done the duck tour in Hot Springs, AR and Austin, TX. The one in Austin was hilarious and informative, and we couldn't even get in the water due to the recent rains. We just tooled around downtown quacking at pedestrians and learning about the history of the city.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2010


Amphibious bus plan sinks after floating coach breaks down just 60 minutes into test run snarks the Daily Mail.

The passengers should count themselves lucky their driver wasn't a MUSLIM.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:41 AM on February 8, 2010


I'm getting a Gerry Anderson vibe - clearly this thing is going to get stuck and require giant flying rescue machines at some point.
posted by Artw at 10:51 AM on February 8, 2010


Oh god, Daily Mail...
posted by Artw at 10:51 AM on February 8, 2010


I want so badly for this to succeed. This is so cool.
posted by Neofelis at 10:54 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is it that roareth thus?
posted by GuyZero at 10:54 AM on February 8, 2010


That's awesome. I wonder why this hasn't been done before.

Because bridges work really well.
posted by electroboy at 10:56 AM on February 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


Also, why do the British persist in calling it a "motor"bus? Do they still have non-motorized ones in service?
posted by GuyZero at 10:57 AM on February 8, 2010


I rode a Ducks tour in Seattle. It was fun. Have a hard time seeing it being used for anything other than a lake or harbor tour. It was s-l-o-w to transition into and out of water, and really s--l--o--w in the water.

Still, fun.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:20 AM on February 8, 2010


It could be a risky venture. At £700,000, the amfibus is roughly three times the price of a standard passenger coach. The company is proposing to run the service between a large shopping centre at Braehead on the south side of the river and the town of Clydebank on the north bank, to make it as attractive as possible to potential passengers.

And what pray tell is the environmental impact? Neither bus nor boat I imagine it is horribly inefficient as both. My guess is that this thing will produce a lot of unnecessary CO2 to transport "shoppers" who might be encouraged to do their shopping closer to home.
posted by three blind mice at 11:21 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a Seattle resident and often pedestrian, I find few things more annoying than a Ducks vehicle barreling by full of tourists.

I don't have any particular issue with tourists, but for some reason our amphibious tours seem to feel the need to be particularly... 'quirky', 'zany', and 'high-energy' are probably the euphemisms they would prefer.
posted by gurple at 11:32 AM on February 8, 2010


My wife used to live on a corner where the Ducks would turn, slowing down in the process so that she would get the full effect of the duck-call making tourists and amplified tour guide. She hates the things. If she is around and one goes past I always give them a cheery wave to annoy her.
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on February 8, 2010


I second gurple's sentiment. But that doesn't make me want to respond with, "I'm an amphibious bus driver," to "What do you do for a living?" any less.
posted by EsotericAlgorithm at 11:43 AM on February 8, 2010


Using them for practical transport makes much more sense to me.
posted by hippybear at 1:31 PM on February 8 [+] [!]


Well, amphibians have been used for public transport -- that is, if you consider a hovercraft an amphibian.

And what pray tell is the environmental impact? Neither bus nor boat I imagine it is horribly inefficient as both. My guess is that this thing will produce a lot of unnecessary CO2 to transport "shoppers" who might be encouraged to do their shopping closer to home.
posted by three blind mice at 2:21 PM on February 8 [+] [!]


Well, I can't find any specifications -- as a bus it looks like it has to carry flotation bags and the water propulsion system which might make it a bit less fuel efficient (I think they also generally use lighter materials so it's easier to get it to float though, I'm not sure what the offset is), and as a boat it uses water jet propulsion, which is not incredibly efficient as compared to propellers, but it takes less energy to push something through water than over land (hence why canal barges have been very popular throughout history).

I mean, it's probably not optimally efficient at either, but I don't see why it has to be horribly inefficient. The operating company has to pay for gas, after all.
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:50 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I predict it will get eaten by the Loch Ness monster.
posted by anniecat at 11:52 AM on February 8, 2010


GuyZero: Also, why do the British persist in calling it a "motor"bus? Do they still have non-motorized ones in service?

I'm using several non-motorised buses right now. So are you. PCI bus, AGP bus, Universal Serial Bus, &c. It's a motorbus to differentiate them from buses that aren't motorised because they aren't forms of transportation at all.
posted by Dysk at 11:55 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have yet to have a conversation with an American derailed because they got confused about which sort of bus I was talking about. Even when talking to a hardware designer while on public transit.
posted by GuyZero at 12:00 PM on February 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


♪ The wheels on the bus sink down and down
posted by Babblesort at 12:04 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Amfibus? Naw, ahm fae Yoker.
posted by scruss at 12:06 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have yet to have a conversation with an American derailed because they got confused about which sort of bus I was talking about.

GuyZero: You could point out how Americans insist on saying "tunafish," unlike sensible Canadians like me who economically refer to the thing in the flat can as "tuna."

"Tuna?" the Americans cry, "God damn you sir! To which kind of tuna do you refer? Tuna bicycle? Tuna garden implement? Tuna nuclear reactor?"
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:11 PM on February 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm using several non-motorised buses right now. So are you. PCI bus, AGP bus, Universal Serial Bus, &c. It's a motorbus to differentiate them from buses that aren't motorised because they aren't forms of transportation at all.

This is why I keep sending Gordon Brown letters trying to convince him to change the word chips to thickfriedpotatoslices. I can't tell whether those brits are talking about integrated circuits, casino tokens, types of golf shots, that show that Ponch was on, etc.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:13 PM on February 8, 2010


burnmp3s, I've noticed that many packages of American crisps say "potato chips" on them. Strange that, I'd've assumed it was full of golf shots.

We disambiguate where it isn't strictly necessary sometimes, due to contextual cues. That's language.
posted by Dysk at 12:18 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was told that amphibious vehicles were also used to create tundra buggies (which you use if you want to drive out to see polar bears in the wild), but can't find any mention of it on their site.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:19 PM on February 8, 2010


The Duck Tour amphibious vehicle used to drive by my office window on its regular route, three or four times a day. Presumably it still does, but I'm not in that office anymore. I always marveled at what a terrible land vehicle it was. But then I encountered it in the water while kayaking, and as bad as it is on land, it's a hundred times worse in the water. About as hydrodynamic as a brick. Amazingly, it produces no wake at all. It appears to just shove water ahead of its front (I recoil in horror at the prospect of calling it a "bow") and sort of smooths the water out again at the back ("stern" ditto).
posted by rusty at 12:22 PM on February 8, 2010


Brother Dysk - Bus is short for "omnibus" - which is latin for "for the benefit and use of everyone." Omnibus was the name of a horse-drawn vehicle that serves the same purpose as a modern bus - motorbus is to distinguish a newfangled horseless public conveyance from an omnibus. Since all modern omnibuses are motorbuses, it's been shortened to "buses" on this side of the pond, as American English tends to be brusque.

Bus with regard to computers is grounded in the original latin term omnibus, omni "for all" and bus, "benefit" - it means "for the common benefit." So it's a shared resource, usually used for transit, and since comp-sci nerds are lazy, and their field dominated by American researchers and engineers, they changed the naming convention to mirror that of the conveyance. So, instead of a graphics omnibus, you have a graphics bus. It's a pun that makes a nod to the omnibus-as-vehicle term, as "for the benefit" on its own doesn't make much sense with regard to its function.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:32 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This damp development may give the Bus Plunge new life and meaning.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:33 PM on February 8, 2010


We disambiguate where it isn't strictly necessary sometimes, due to contextual cues. That's language.

A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man. - Jebediah Springfield
posted by Babblesort at 12:35 PM on February 8, 2010


We've got duck boat tours in boston.. I've never been on one because I freakin live here but I've been almost run over by about a dozen. Riding my bike to work and back from boston to cambridge to boston I encounter like 4 to 5 duck boats a day and I sometimes feel like when we're both stopped at a red light that I'm being stared at like I'm some rare indigenous native (oh look! one of them is riding a bike!). I used to quack at them too.. but then a few years ago I grew up a bit and realized that the joke was on me.
posted by pwally at 12:47 PM on February 8, 2010


That Amfibus looks like a prop out of a Dr. Who episode. Now that I think of it "Amfibus" sounds like an alien race out of Dr. Who episode...

Yeah, if it had been around earlier, I'm sure Jon Pertwee would have found some way to make them include it in the chase during "Planet of the Spiders"
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:49 PM on February 8, 2010


I'm not that impressed, if only because it travels at about 8 knots-per-hour in the water... or about 9 mph.

Slow. Sloooow slow slow. Even for a bus in water.
posted by markkraft at 12:58 PM on February 8, 2010


I've almost been run over by the darn ducky tours in Pittsburgh too. They're the only vehicles allowed on the river trails (other than police and the zamboni that cleans up the goose poop) and I've turned around more than once to realized that the thing was right behind me honking its horn. I run with my since I'm on a closed trail and there's not usually anything behind me that I need to hear.
posted by octothorpe at 1:08 PM on February 8, 2010


I'd imagine amphibious busses would have a positive impact upon the environment whenever they make some public transportation routes more convenient than driving.

For example, Taksim square is a major public transportation hub in Istanbul, but you must take a funicular from the Kabatas ferry station. I'm sure a big frequent ferry plus the funicular is more efficient than a hoard of amphibious busses, but a few amphibious buses from non-standard ferry ports on the asian side might reduce the number of people driving.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:20 PM on February 8, 2010


Why not instead make a bus that doubles as a dirigible? Then it can just float above the water, or, if need be, over traffic.

Come to think of it, I'm patenting Dirigible Ambulances with this comment. It has my name on it, so it's legally binding. No one else steal my idea for an ambulance that can float over traffic and potholes to protect the patient.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:23 PM on February 8, 2010


I'm patenting Dirigible Ambulances with this comment.

Interesting. How big would a dirigible have to be in order to lift three people (pilot, nurse and patient), their gear and enough engine to push it reasonably fast?

For some reason, I'm thinking this would look like only a slightly slimmer Goodyear Blimp, and thusly be unable to land on a city street and navigate between buildings.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:35 PM on February 8, 2010


They have the duck tours in Philadelphia. While I'm sure this is actually an awesome idea, years of being openly mocked by tour guides, quacked at, gawked at, quacked at and MY GOD THE FUCKING QUACKING have left me filled with a deep and violent loathing for anything that resembles one of those goddamned becursed duck boats.
posted by kalimac at 2:32 PM on February 8, 2010


Panzershreck.
posted by Artw at 2:42 PM on February 8, 2010


kalimac : MY GOD THE FUCKING QUACKING have left me filled with a deep and violent loathing for anything that resembles one of those goddamned becursed duck boats.

Sure, they laugh. They laugh until you are driving over and through their wussy civilian vehicle with your unstoppable 6 wheeled World War two fucking landing craft.

Hell, if I owned one, get a quacking duck for my horn, just so people would learn a Pavlovian fear of that sound and the carnage and destruction that came with it.

[DUCKIST]
posted by quin at 2:52 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Achtung wasservögel schweinepest! BOOM!
posted by Artw at 3:00 PM on February 8, 2010


You could point out how Americans insist on saying "tunafish"...

We do?
posted by Evilspork at 3:03 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


About as much as anyone in the UK says motorbus.
posted by Artw at 3:31 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am a native Wisconsinite. All Wisconsinites have been to Wisconsin Dells. All residents of the Greater Chicagoland Area have been to Wisconsin Dells. Everyone who has been to Wisconsin Dells has taken the duck tour at least once. It's the law.
posted by MikeMc at 3:59 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Turtles all the way down: "You could point out how Americans insist on saying "tunafish," unlike sensible Canadians like me who economically refer to the thing in the flat can as "tuna." "

I've noticed that we only call it that when talking about canned tuna. Presented any other way (steak, sushi, still alive and swimming) it's just plain tuna.
posted by brundlefly at 4:07 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've done the duck tour in Hot Springs, AR and Austin, TX. The one in Austin was hilarious and informative, and we couldn't even get in the water due to the recent rains. We just tooled around downtown quacking at pedestrians and learning about the history of the city.

As a surprise for my 30th birthday (because I *asked* for a surprise, which I will never do again, because it turns out that the quality of 'surprise' varies wildly from person to person), my friends took me and my family on the Austin Duckboat Tour.

The first part of the tour is mostly mood-setting. Everyone is given the plastic duck call and is instructed further on how/when to use it. Our driver/tour guide was a little over the top in terms of enthusiasm.

Driver: "Okay, happy people! We'll be ducking around town today! Now, I want all y'all to get into the ducky spirit and quack on three? Ready?! One-two-three!!"

Tour participants: "Quack quack quack."

So we tooled around downtown for a bit, quacking at Leslie (which was fun -- he fake mooned us) and at the Governor's Mansion (he didn't moon us, thank god), and then proceeding on to Town Lake. The obnoxious quacking was embarrassing at first, because I kept wanting to shout to bystanders "NO, REALLY, I LIVE HERE. I'M NOT A TOURIST!!" Then it got kind of liberating. It was all, "Heh, these are people I'd probably quack at in real life, if quacking at people on the street wasn't completely bizarre and socially questionable." And then the quacking got to be kind of boring. You can only quack on cue so often without feeling like it's you being made fun of.

But anyway, as we were crawling out of the water at Town Lake (after having puttered, so we were told, in the vague vicinity of Lance Armstrong's house), there was a beat-up old El Camino next to the boat ramp, flanked by two police cars, their lights flashing. A 20-something couple who looked like they knew about meth before the rest of the country did were handcuffed and bent over the hood of the car. We crept past them, and the driver said, "Okay! One-two-three!!!" and we all went "Quack quack quack!" at the poor couple being arrested.

I always felt really bad about that. It's bad enough being bent over the hood of a cop car without having a group of giddy tourists being goaded into quacking at you. But I have also always hoped that the experience served as something of a wake-up call to the wayward youths who got in trouble that day. Maybe after being booked on whatever charge, after sitting in jail and reflecting on the day's events, after being quacked at while cuffed, one of them said, "You know, I think I've wandered on to the wrong path. My life needs to change."

One can always hope.

In any case, it was a memorable 30th birthday.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:07 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've noticed that many packages of American crisps say "potato chips" on them.

Yes. Yes, they do. And I used to like apple chips and banana chips in my younger days. They sell those here. And I still like chocolate chips (and peanut butter chips, for that matter).

I'm also fond of computer chips, but not for the same purpose.
posted by Xezlec at 9:18 PM on February 8, 2010


markkraft, 8-9kt is a bunch faster than the old chain ferry could do.
posted by scruss at 4:36 AM on February 9, 2010


I am a native Wisconsinite. All Wisconsinites have been to Wisconsin Dells. All residents of the Greater Chicagoland Area have been to Wisconsin Dells. Everyone who has been to Wisconsin Dells has taken the duck tour at least once. It's the law.

I've been on it twice (once as a kid and once as an adult with my niece) and at least for the "Original" duck tour, nothing about it had changed during that time period. The corny jokes were the same (one about ferns, one about chicken wire, etc.), the made-up stories about rock formations were the same (one about a piano, one about a horse or something), and the stop in the middle of the woods to give everyone the hard sell on the packet of photos was the same.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:47 AM on February 9, 2010


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