Convertible-style double-decker tour buses nearing end of their line
Shanghai's iconic convertible-style double-decker sightseeing bus will bid farewell to travelers soon because of reaching their used-by dates.
They will be replaced by electric buses, also double-decker but with enclosed upper decker, to continue serve people's hop-on-and-hop-off sightseeing demand.
The mobile landmark of the city over the past 13 years will disappear in September, triggering an avalanche of nostalgia among Shanghainese and those who have worked, lived or traveled in Shanghai.
"I once took a ride with my father," recalled Hu Yinghua, a Shanghai resident in his 20s. "I still remember the bus passing by landmark attractions of Shanghai one by one with the murmuring of my father.
"It was a sunny summer afternoon and everything looked fresh and lively," he added. "It bears an important piece of childhood memory which strikes my mind even today although it was almost eight or nine years ago."
Lin Yun (a pseudonym) came to Shanghai after her graduation in 2005. She quit her job in 2012 with the company she had worked for for seven years.
"I lost my purpose in life at that time and walked People's Square absentmindedly," Lin said. "I bought a ticket randomly and sat on the upper-deck.
"The plane tree leaves outside the bus were within reach and the architecture along the trip was beautiful. It was a lovely short respite which made me see the soft side of the city. I decided to stay in Shanghai in a moment."
Zhu Weihua, 45, has been driving the buses for nearly 13 years. He witnessed the rapid development of the city on the bus.
"It has the best view among all sightseeing buses in Shanghai," Zhu said.
The upper deck has more than 50 seats and the lower has over 20.
In recent days, people flocked to the bus for nostalgic trips after the news of their "retirement" triggered a buzz on social networking platforms.
"The traditional peak of the bus is May and June, but these days, I have seen a blow-out of passengers," Zhu said.
Yan Jiao, a university student, took a ride with her roommate recently.
"I took a large number of photos and the attractions along the trip are all popular ones," she said.
The bus also has a chartered service for uses such as marriage proposals, complete with decorations.
There are eight convertible-style double-decker buses in operation in Shanghai and they reach their us-by dates in September.
Regulations require that sightseeing buses must be scrapped after being in operation for 13 years, according to Shanghai Spring Tour, the operator of the buses.
Shanghai Spring Tour has about 30 double-decker buses in operation at present, and convertible-style ones are the most popular, according to Zhou Qing, who is responsible for the operation of the buses.
After the "retirement" of the convertible-style fleet, Shanghai Spring Tour plans to purchase eight electric buses as replacements.
"The new buses will have a capped roof and more space," said Zhou Weihong, a deputy to the Shanghai People's Congress and deputy general manager of Shanghai Spring Tour.
"Moreover, the glass window will be big for the best photo effects," she added.
"Every vehicle model has its pros and cons, and enclosed double-decker buses have a better experience during the current plum rain season and summer time, and promise the same beauty on the ride," Zhou said.
Seven electric buses joined the city's double-decker hop-on-and-hop-off sightseeing bus fleet late last year.
Worth more than 10 million yuan (US$1.4 million), the seven buses release no emissions or pollution and produce little noise compared with traditional diesel-fueled buses.
There are 30 double-decker hop-on-hop-off sightseeing buses in operation now, traversing six routes, up from the original 10 buses traveling two routes in 2010 and 2011.
They provide multilingual services in eight languages.
The routes link a number of landmark spots in Shanghai such as Jin Mao Tower, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall, Century Square on Nanjing Road E., the Waibaidu Bridge, the Custom House on the Bund, the Jinling Road E. pier, the Huangpu River cruise pier, Huaihai Road and Yuyuan Garden.