The World’s First Transit Elevated Bus Hits the Road in China

China has finally tested its elevated bus that straddles traffic and it’s totally bizarre.

  • Photo: China Xinhua NewsPhoto: China Xinhua News
  • Photo: China Xinhua NewsPhoto: China Xinhua News
  • Photo: China Xinhua NewsPhoto: China Xinhua News
  • Photo: China Xinhua NewsPhoto: China Xinhua News

Getting stuck in a traffic jam can appear to be a huge problem, especially when you’re late or in hurry. However, Chinese engineers have come up with a brilliant idea. They introduced and have already conducted a test drive of the country’s Transit Elevated Bus (TEB).

The electric bus was designed to resolve gridlock problems by letting passengers soar over the tops of cars on the increasingly-congested roads of China’s major cities.

The futuristic locomotive, which looks like a moving tunnel, is designed for capacity and efficiency, not necessarily for speed. Today the novelty debuted in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province.

Sure, its ultimate capacity (it only transversed a controlled track of just 300 meters) wasn’t demonstrated, though it’s a proof of concept beyond anything we’ve seen before.

The test drive took place on a 300 metre-long controlled track, separate from road traffic. A 72-foot-long vehicle is promised to host up to 300 passengers, and up to four TEB cars can be linked together – although only one was used for its first public outing.

“The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space,” said Song Youzhou, the project’s chief engineer, in an interview with news agency Xinhua earlier this year.

“It’s built extra wide to carry up to 1,400 passengers, and extra tall to allow any cars under seven feet to travel underneath, whether the bus is in motion or not. This is important because, as a public transport vehicle, the bus would stop and start frequently to load and unload passengers. And, with a top speed of 40 miles per hour, restless drivers would undoubtedly want to pass through,” writes Digital Trends.

“The bus may also help cities become more environmentally friendly. Its size would allow it to replace 40 conventional buses and, since it’s powered by electricity, the design would reduce fuel consumption by some 800 tons and carbon emissions by nearly 2,500 tons every year.”

The concept was first released back in 2010 and then again last May at Beijing’s 19th International High-Tech Expo. Song Youzhou, the designer of the futuristic vehicle, told reporters that prototypes are being constructed, and that five cities — Nanyang, Qinhuangdao, Shenyang, Tianjin, and Zhoukou — have already signed up for pilot projects.

The idea of straddling buses first came to two talented American architects, Lester Walker and Craig Hodgetts, in 1969.

The concept seemed to be extremely ambitious, even by todays standards, including computer-driven vehicles, perpetual motion, and “friction-free air cushion bearings” as wheels. Walker and Hodgetts expected the solution to modernize New York City.

To those still skeptical about the straddling bus, Song told Xinhua that a full-scale model of is currently being built in Changzhou, China and will be tested by August. If all goes well, the design may help curb the carbon emissions created by approximately 20 million new drivers who take to the road in China every year.

Of course, there’re still many questions to ask about feasibility of the straddling bus, most importantly how it won’t cause many, many traffic deaths. The prototype that was launched in Qinhuangdao this week will hopefully help answer some of those concerns.

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