China’s Transit Elevated Bus begins its first tests in live traffic
What do you get when you cross a train with a bus, with a, uh, bridge, and… a lounge area? The answer appears to be China’s Transit Elevated Bus (TEB), a huge electric vehicle that aims to provide cost effective mass transit to large cities. The concept for such a bus has been around since the 1960s, but the city of Qinhuangdoa recently debuted a working TEB. It’s not as elaborate as the multi-car versions showcased in earlier models, but it should help prove if this concept is worth retrofitting roads for.
The TEB is 72 feet long, 25 feet across, and has a clearance of around 15 feet. It rides on small rails set in the road, allowing the vehicle to straddle two lanes of regular traffic and theoretically easing congestion. As an electric vehicle, it cuts down on emissions of gas-burning buses, and gets a recharge at each station it stops at. Compared to a subway, the TEB obviously interacts with traffic more than a completely discrete train track, but is much less expensive for a city to install and maintain. If sufficient two-lane roads are available, no tunneling is necessary to add the TEB to exiting infrastructure.
Looking at logistics
There are some questions still about how this driving bridge/tunnel will mesh with other drivers on the road. Like a normal bus or above-ground rail system, the TEB has to stop at intersections to allow cross traffic to pass. Drivers underneath the bus need to be especially careful, and it’s not completely clear how they’ll coordinate and orient their movements with a basically opaque box moving with them down the road. A lighting system is supposed to help indicate the vehicle’s relative speed to other drivers.
Assuming this first run goes well, TEBs might not turn up everywhere. While an 11 foot, eight inch truck should be able to fit underneath, the TEB itself probably can’t fit under existing overpasses in many cities. And of course, as a vehicle that is two lanes wide, narrower streets need not apply. Hopefully testing goes well though, because even if it can’t solve every transit problem, trying out new designs is certainly welcome.
Source: Straddling Bus Begins Road Tests by Glenn McDonald, Seeker