The Straddling Bus exists, fer reals

TEB end view
© Xinhua via Shanghaist

We all laughed when we first saw the vision of the straddling bus in 2010, and then again in 2013, thinking it silly vaporware. Why would anyone build such a thing?

Lester walker straddle bus© Lester Walker straddle bus via New York Magazine, 1968

Originally conceived by American architect Lester Walker 45 years ago, there is in fact some logic to it; the right-of-way already exists, and instead of having a bus stuck in traffic, the straddling bus can fly right over it. When we showed a model of it earlier this year, we noted that the designer promised a working one by August.

side view© Xinhua via Shanghaist

And here we are in August, and there they are, running a real full size straddle bus down a thousand foot test track. It is officially known as a Transit Elevated Bus (TEB), will consist of four cars each being about 22 meters [72'] long, 7.8 meters wide [25.6'] and 4.8 meters [15.74'] high, and can hold 1200 people.

Interior of TEB© Xinhua via Shanghaist

Many of the complaints about the concept seem misplaced. Bike Portland tweets: "watch car culture at work in China. Look at the lengths humans go to not disturb our fragile car ecosystem. " Transport expert Jarrett Walker says much the same thing:

TEB side view© Xinhua via Shanghaist

Yes, if your starting point for urban design is that single-occupant cars, despite their extreme inefficiency in using scarce urban space, should be allowed to go anywhere at all, and that the surface plane should be designed solely for their convenience to the exclusion of all other citizens and needs, then this technology makes sense. Remember, the primary cost of transit infrastructure is the cost of keeping transit out of the way of motorists, on the assumption that motorists have the prior claim to absolutely every bit of public space in our cities.

ribbon cutting© Xinhua via Shanghaist

I am not so sure. It really is like a dedicated right of way going on top of the cars. It costs a fifth of what a subway would, and can be installed much more quickly. In Toronto, where I live, they want to spend $3 billion to build a subway with one stop because they didn't want transit taking space away from their beloved cars; this would be perfect, rolling right over them. In Toronto we are waiting forever for an incompetent streetcar manufacturer who can't meet a deadline; the TEB people clearly can deliver.

Bring on the Transit Elevated Bus!

Tags: China | Transportation

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