The long-awaited and much-debated Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) had its first test run on Tuesday, driving on a 300-meter long track in Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province.
The TEB – sometimes described online as a straddling bus – is an elevated subway-like electric bus. It runs above the road with a hollowed out design that allows other vehicles to run underneath, as long as they are no taller than two meters.
Though a straddling bus is supposed to consist of four carriages, this time it had only one compartment tested. It is 22 meters long, 7.8 meters wide and 4.8 meters high with 55 seats and 20 raised handrails. In addition, the compartment is equipped with LCD screens and dynamic maps.
The straddling bus has quite a few appealing merits:
1. It curbs traffic jams. A straddling bus does not occupy room on the road, it occupies room above the road. With more people choosing to take straddling buses, there would be fewer vehicles on the road.
2. It protects the environment. Straddling buses do not burn oil, as they are powered by electricity. Engineer Song Youzhou said that with each straddling bus capable of carrying 1,200 passengers, one straddling bus equals to 40 common fuel cell buses – and that’s 2,640 tons of carbon emissions reduced per year.
3. It is fast. Song said that the straddling bus can run as fast as 60 km per hour with an average speed of 40 km per hour. In comparison, buses in general run at 15 to 20 km per hour in big- and medium-sized cities in China, according to Song’s data.
4. It’s not too expensive. While building a mile of subway in Beijing costs RMB one billion (USD 150.82 million) on average, a mile of track for straddling bus costs less than RMB 120 million – that’s one fifth the cost of a subway.
But however good it sounds, if it cannot be put into practice, it’s nothing but an armchair strategy. On the one hand, government bodies like the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Communications must set standards, and create an environment for building, running, powering and controlling straddling buses. On the other hand, unanticipated problems may potentially arise, such as conflicts caused by job losses of bus and taxi drivers.
More importantly, how would it feel like when you’re humming to yourself, happily driving along the road, and then all of a sudden, a humongous steel monster zooms over your head? It’s too early to say what the public reaction would be like.
Nevertheless, it is still exciting to think that this bus – with its sci-fi appearance and elevated boarding stations – might be able to run on China’s roads not too far in the future.
(Top photo from Shanghaiist.com)