Negotiating rush-hour traffic, sitting in a car in the middle of an urban metropolis, can be one of the more frustrating experiences in life. But leave it to free market innovation to solve today’s modern problems. A new bus has been developed, the Transit Elevated Bus, or TEB-1, that drives over cars. The development doesn’t come from Silicon Valley or the heart of free market capitalism anywhere around the world though. It is the emerging economy of China that is bringing this innovation to the world. ValueWalk reported on the development last May.

Chinese Bus
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

The “bus” that runs on tracks holds 300 people

The wide bus, spanning two lanes of traffic, is more of a hybrid between a bus and an elevated train. Its large rubber wheels run on a track that straddles either side of traffic. The nearly 15’ 8” high clearance is shorter than most bridges but is tall enough to tower over most passenger vehicles in traffic. Trucks and certain sport utility vehicles with high ceilings, however, might find difficulty when the bus-train comes roaring overhead.

The 70-foot-long, 26-foot-wide vehicle holds close to 300 people and on Tuesday received its first road test in Qinhuangdao City, in North Eastern China’s Hebei province.

The benefit of this mass transit system in densely populated areas is that, compared to an elevated train, it does not require extensive cost of overhead track infrastructure. When compared to a subway, it does not require extensive underground tunneling to lay track. And when compared to a conventional bus, it can power over traffic and does not let congestion stop its progress to a significant degree. It has the benefits of a bus in terms of lower infrastructure overhead, but the advantages of an elevated train in that it can speed through traffic to a certain degree.


Chinese Bus
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

The bus – train concept gets its first live test in Northern China

The testing of the vehicle and government officials allowing minimal track to be laid was a milestone in the bus-train’s development cycle.

The concept was first rolled out in 2010, the New York Times reported.

TEB was the brainchild of engineer Youzhou Song. In 2009 the founder of Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment had created video simulations depicting how the bus could operate. That video went viral all over China.

In 2010 the Chinese investors were planning to lay track in Beijing’s Mentougou District, sporting ideas to carry 1,200 people on a single “bus.”  But government officials refused to approve the project without an actual road test. Song and his partners continued to tweak the system and ultimately shelved the project until officials in Qinhuangdao City allowed Song to operate on tracks in their city.

Hybrid bus – train solves not just congestion but also solution problems

The hybrid bus – train solution comes at a time when traffic congestion is a major problem in China. In 2015 China had a famous 50-lane traffic jam that illustrates the economically expanding region’s expanding wealth and appetite for Western-style convinces. But with 1.36 billion people – many cramped into urban centers along the roughly 9,000 mile stretch of Eastern seaboard – China’s economic success can be seen, in part, based on congested roads where more and more cars are competing for limited space. The US, by contrast, has nearly 316 million people.

The government has been taking action to reduce the number of cars on the street. In 2016, Beijing began testing a tax on cars involved in congestion, imposing restrictions on the use and purchase of vehicles and offered incentives to promote environmentally conscious commuting. It is not just a congestion problem that the bus – train hybrid solves. Cars are a significant contributor to China’s serious smog problem as well.