Every urban commuter laments the twice-a-day headache of traffic congestion and the often disappointing alternatives that mass transit offers. A Chinese company has officially rolled out one potential solution: the TEB-1, or Transit Elevated Bus. The Chinese giant bus, as some have called it, straddles two lanes of traffic and stands nearly 16 feet tall so that it can pass over cars on the roadway below. While still a long way from mass production, the TEB-1 could one day alleviate major traffic woes in China and other countries with crowded metropolitan areas.
The concept of an elevated bus was first floated in 2010, and a model was debuted in May 2016 at the 19th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo. The company behind the project, TEB Technology, conducted a trial run and opened its doors to prospective passengers for a 300m-long controlled track in the Chinese city of Qinhuangdao. The Transit Elevated Bus piloted in China’s Hebei province rolls along a designated track, making it similar in some ways to a commuter train or tram – the key difference, of course, being that it runs on top of the existing roadway without the need to construct a separate overpass.
Images distributed by Chinese media show a spacious passenger compartment measuring 72 feet long by 26 feet wide, capable of holding up to 300 riders. The vehicle is expected to reach speeds of up to 60km per hour, running on rails laid along ordinary roads. Up to four TEBs can be linked together.
It is not a new idea, but it was not seriously considered until a mini-model of it was launched at the 19th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo in May.
The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space; the TEB has the same functions as the subway, while its cost of construction is less than one fifth of the subway. One TEB could replace 40 conventional buses, according to the firm. However, it is unclear when the vehicle will be widely used in Chinese cities. There are also doubts: for instance, laying a track for the elevated bus on highways with few twists and turns is perhaps practical, but the crisscross pattern and narrow streets common in most cities may be more difficult.
Thousands of Chinese people took to micro-blogging site Weibo to express their amazement and incredulity. Innovation itself certainly has potential, but it is sometimes naturally hard to accept something none of us has seen before, and this can create a reluctance to accept its viability. However, this Chinese giant bus now seems the first step to a viable project.