Six years ago, a video for a bus that operates above roadways—it’s actually more like a train—raised some curious eyebrows. Some dismissed it as impractical, while other saw it as inexpensive solution to congestion since it allows transit and cars to travel unimpeded by each other.
The same concept is now advancing towards reality. A Beijing expo showed off a model of the solar-powered “straddling bus” this week and five Chinese cities are moving ahead with plans for the project. At $4.5 million per bus, the cost is a steal compared to a subway car (1/16 the price, according to The New York Times). Of course, there will be additional costs involved, like building tracks for the buses to run on and elevated stations for people to access them. Those stations would require elevators that lower into a stopped bus—where cars travel beneath it, uninterrupted—so people could get in and out of the bus, which hold about 300 people.
While even China is treading lightly with the bus concept—a 12-mile test track will be built in the city of Shenyang, but Beijing canceled a similar endeavor—the U.S. would probably be even more risk-averse (look at the hysteria over high-speed rail). If any American city is a good candidate for the straddling bus, it would be Los Angeles. As the Gray Lady points out, the system works best on cities with straight roads; our grid system seems ideal. So let’s play a game and imagine some good spots for such a bus:
Wilshire Boulevard may be too frenetic, and it will eventually have a subway running under much of it. How about Ventura Boulevard? Or Vermont Avenue, where a subway is already planned in the future? Lincoln Boulevard? That street is already visually cluttered enough; what difference will a huge hulking bus make? Add any more ideas in the comments below.