The world is agog at the Transit Elevated Bus, AKA the Straddling Bus, that runs down a highway in China while cars drive beneath. TreeHugger has covered it, and noted the earlier Americans proposal for the Landliner by Lester Walker and Craig Hodgetts, proposed for New York City way back in 1969, the same year that Americans landed on the moon for the first time. Alas, America never put as much engineering and skill into mass transportation since, and the Landliner never went into production. But now that the Chinese have actually built a working version, perhaps it is time to look at the Landliner again.
The Landliner was designed for intercity transportation, running in the Boston/ Washington corridor. As described in New York Magazine, as part of a modest proposal for fixing New York's problems.
The Bos-Wash Landliner rides on nearly friction free air cushion bearings at 200 miles per hour. It is powered by turbine powered ducted fan-jets that have a regenerator cycle to consume the hot exhaust. Much like the Chinese system, it is designed to use existing roads without obstructing the traffic on them.
The Landliner will be zooming only 16 feet over your head if you are driving along the freeway. The idea of using the freeway is based on two premises: 1) The states already own the land, and 2) by choosing to span the highways, the designers were able to work with a machine 60 feet wide, wide enough to build the speeding pleasure palaces they envisioned to replace the ordinary dreary commute.
Because it is traveling farther, it has more facilities than the Chinese version and sports a gymnasium, theater, restaurants, snack bars, ballrooms, conference rooms and observation decks.
There is no jarring starting and stopping at stations like there is with regular trains either, because the Landliner never stops.
Both bus and landliner are travelling at 60 mile per hour, their speeds locked together by computer; then a great claw descends from the landliner to "swallow" the bus. Once inside, passengers disembark and enjoy the facilities. Since the buses circle a city picking up commuters, driving the car to the station and leaving it all day will be a thing of the past.
The Landliner’s New York Terminus was to be halfway up Central Park, with a giant new station at 86th Street. It will probably mean a shift in New York’s axis from North-South, with Wall Street moving north to be closer; “there are cows grazing at the Battery.” There will be 25 machines in constant motion between Boston and Washington, “never stopping but continually circling around.” New York was to become part of a "Strip City":
...where “all points along the line are of equal intensity, and are flanked by parallel bands of housing, and commercial development, which are flanked, in turn, by recreational parks," according to the article. "Nobody is ever very far from exciting urban life or quiet parks."
As long as you lived along the line, transportation was fast and easy: “One can live in Connecticut, work in Boston and catch a movie in Times Square."
They never quite explain how one gets on the Landliner in the terminal, given that it doesn't stop. If you look closely there is some form of pneumatic transit in the station; perhaps a speeding hyperloop type module links up with the Landliner much like the buses do.
A few years ago, co-designer Craig Hodgetts told Curbed LA that he hopes someone picks up on the idea.
He calls the publication of the Chinese system "a surprising turn of events," and says he's glad his old idea is getting exposure. "We would hope that it might find some support among various transport agencies here in the US," he says. As for a copyrighting the idea, once an idea has been published, it can't be copyrighted, according to Hodgetts. "I like it being in the public domain," he says. "Someone can come along and expand on it.”
He’s right. In 1969 we went to the moon, and we got the Landliner. It’s time to build this bigger, faster, grander version.
Lester Walker is a TreeHugger hero; See some of his other wonders in related links below.