China Begins Production on Straddle Bus Amid Safety Concerns

Beijing wants to prove skeptics wrong while speeding up public transport.

There’s a lot one could say in favor of China’s long-anticipated transportation concept: the “straddle bus.” It’s electric. It takes cars off overburdened roads. It can move over a thousand people. It’s the trolley of the future. But there’s also a lot one can say against the concept and the chief concern is safety. Regardless, China’s going ahead with the project: The Transit Elevated Bus Technology Development Company is reportedly beginning production this week and expects testing to start in August.

Given both the concerns and the hype surrounding this project, these tests will be important to follow. Everyone is down with the concept at first pass. The straddle bus is a futuristic, affordable, electric mass-public-transit solution: how could anyone shrug at those modifiers? China, with its overcrowded roads and polluted air, would benefit greatly.

But at second pass, reality sets in. The bus runs on rails, which mostly rest outside of the traffic lanes. Whenever the bus and its rails must change direction, though, things get hairier: no longer are the bus’s sides protected from errant drivers, so no longer are the thousand-plus passengers guaranteed safety. A single collision could render the $4.5 million bus inoperable or worse.

Presumably, this Chinese company is working to eradicate these safety concerns. If production goes well, and tests show promise, the straddle bus could at long last become a reality. If so, maybe New York City — with its own significant transportation woes — will be next.