While you might want to do your part to help diminish your individual carbon footprint, sometimes public transportation just sucks. You go to catch the 7:15 bus to make it to work on time, but that bus is delayed until 7:25. Then, it loses another 10 minutes on the way, and before you know it you are late for work. The problem is buses are susceptible to traffic just like a car, which is what makes them so unpopular among many travelers. Looking for an inventive way to overcome this problem, China has recently unveiled an elevated transit bus; and yes, it literally drives over traffic.
The challenge that the first world needs to overcome is that people who own personal vehicles simply don’t want to give them up. Even in big cities where public transit is (relatively) quick and efficient, why would anyone want to give up the privacy of a car in exchange for the congestion of a subway or bus? On a philosophical level, some might even go so far as to support these modes of transit, but when it comes to their own comfort, they drive their new hybrid or electric car instead. As a result, traffic stays packed and people find it harder to get around. In some areas, a subways system isn’t viable, and buses aren’t any more efficient because traffic conditions make it difficult to get places on time. Instead, China’s innovative approach may be just what people need. With an elevated transit bus, there is no concern with blocking traffic and public transit could actually get a leg up on personal vehicles when it comes to speed.
Currently going by the name “TEB-1,” China unveiled a first-ever elevated transit bus that not only offers a revolutionary new bus system, but also ensures that it leave no harmful impact on the environment. Powered by electricity and solar power, it sits elevated above traffic and measures 70 feet long. At this size, it can hold 300 passengers as it runs along the tracks. Its initial test run saw it only move about 1,000 feet and it traveled that distance at an incredibly slow pace. Despite that, many are hopeful that this technology could be developed and result in a new alternative for public transit.
Of course, one of the obvious shortcomings of this system is driver error on the road. Accidents happen on the road every day, and what kind of toll would it have on the bus if it were hit by a commuter’s vehicle? Would this sort of system be plausible at all in smaller areas, or would it be reserved for large urban centers. According to the developers, a full system could be setup in 1 year and it would cost only 1/5 what a subway system does, but how large of a system would this entail? With the regulations in countries like the US, would local states even allow such a system to go up, especially considering the dangers?
With the way progress works today, it is likely that the next few years will unveil some answers for these questions. In the meantime, maybe China will move forward with a full-scale release and the rest of the world can learn by example.