Sounding like something from a farfetched science-fiction novel, Chinese engineers have demonstrated plans to build an elevated bus system that can drive over cars in attempt to reduce the crippling traffic congestion in the rapidly urbanizing country.
The Transit Elevated Bus
This idea was first mooted back in 2010, but it seems like engineers have been busy in the intervening years. It looks like we may see buses, which can straddle cars below, coming to fruition in the second half of 2016. Named the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB), it was showcased at the 19th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo and has quickly spread around the net as people have shared the pictures and videos.
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The idea works by passengers sat above the general traffic, with the bus straddling the cars below. Bus stops would be placed along the route, with passengers entering at an elevated position via elevators taking them ground level. Cars can pass, and be overtaken below without hindrance, thus improving space on the roads and allowing buses to literally drive through traffic jams. The model appears to show the bus operating on tracks that run outside of the road.
The lead engineer of the project, Bai Zhiming told China’s CCTV News: “With a carrying capacity of 1200 people at a time, the TEB has the same functions as the subway while its cost of construction is less than one fifth of the subway.”
The creators have stated they believe construction and introduction of the buses can be achieved within a year, and reports suggest the idea is likely be trialed in Qinhuangdao, a city in Hebei province, before the end of the year.
The idea has attracted much attention and with that comes scrutiny. What about tall trucks, would it be able to pass over them? This has not been addressed (the clearance height appears from the video to be 2.2m). For existing bridges, the plan is to lower the actual road to give the buss room to pass underneath, another expensive addition to the plan.
The bus is estimated to be able to travel at around 60 km/h (about 37 mph), and with the capacity of 1200, that is roughly equivalent to 40 buses. That’s a lot of road space and pollution that can be reduced.
Not everyone’s convinced
Chinese netizens were quick to comment on the safety aspects of the new innovation. Erratic driving below could easily damage or worse, cause the bus to topple, and with capacity for over a thousand people on the buses at a time, there is a tragedy waiting to happen. Another issue is how to change lane, merge on or off a road, if the bus’s rails run alongside the road.
Gridlock and traffic jams are a major problem in China, most famously in 2010 when a 74mile traffic jam on highway 10 took ten days to clear. Solutions are being sought through many avenues, and this is just one of a number or weird and wonderful projects being developed.
The congestion stems from the rapid urbanization, on roads, which were not designed to be able to cope with the huge numbers of cars now using them. Also, with mass car ownership still a relatively new phenomenon in China, some questionable driving is still prevalent, this means mistakes and accidents are common which leads to road blockages.
To help alleviate this, most provinces are working on public transport solutions including subways, sky-trains and taxi sharing schemes.