Thursday, December 08, 2016

Checking in on China's road-straddling bus

After making its much-anticipated debut last August, it looks like the innovative transit solution is now, quite literally, collecting dust:
Well, what once looked like a treatment for China’s serious cases of pollution and traffic “is currently causing them,” as Shanghaiist puts it. A local reporter checked up on the 72-foot-long behemoth earlier this month and found it to be right where engineers left it back in August: on the 300-meter test track of a Hebei city road, blocking lanes and gathering a thick layer of dust in an open shed.
And it looks like it won’t be moving any time soon. Shanghaiist reports that the lease for the track was supposed to expire in August, but has since been renewed for another year. Song Youzhou, the designer, insisted his staff still tests the line every week and that his company—which earlier had been accused of operating a Ponzi scheme—is searching for new investors. (He blames the accumulated dust on China’s smog.) But workers still guarding the bus (or more accurately, the train) told local news that they haven’t heard a peep from the company.
I'm not going to lie: I'm a little bit sad about this, because - in spite if its obvious ridiculousness and impracticality in most urban areas - this project intrigued me and I wanted to see if it could actually succeed.

This is not to entirely abandon hope for the road-straddling behemoth; its current problems seem to be more financial than technical and it might yet survive. However, as a transportation planner, I think that transit's future isn't in inventing fancy gadgets that will completely replace the bus, but is rather in making improvements to the bus itself.

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