China Found a Brilliant Solution to Its Traffic Problem

August 3rd 2016

Lucy Tiven

China debuted its long-anticipated elevated bus in the city of Qinhuangdao on Tuesday, Gizmodo reports.

Though various videos and animations of the "traffic straddling bus" have circulated the internet in the past few years, Tuesday marks its first actual test run, according to Shanghaiist.

The voyage used a 300-meter track free of complex traffic obstacles or turns, Gizmodo reports. It will need to be tested further before it hits the streets, but eventually could carry more than 1,200 passengers at a speed of 40 miles per hour.

Running on electricity, the bus would have environmental, financial, and practical benefits.

Each elevated bus could replace 40 conventional buses, cutting fuel consumption by 800 tons per year and reducing carbon emissions nearly 2,500 tons annually, its chief engineer, Song Youzhou, told China's official news agency, Xinhua, in May 2016. It would also be cheaper than installing a subway system, according to City Lab.

More than 1.6 million people in China die as a result of breathing toxic air each year, and almost almost 300 Chinese cities failed air quality tests in 2015, CNBC reports.

The bus could also curb China's surging number of new car owners, which contribute to the country's high air pollution levels, as well as its traffic problem, according to City Lab.

At approximately 20 million new drivers per year, the spike in car ownership has also been linked to rising traffic incidents in China and concerns over road rage, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Though the bus offers a promising solution to these problems, making real inroads would require that people take advantage of the technology — i.e. value its environmental impact enough to forgo car ownership and change their daily transit rituals.

The current state of public transportation is not just a major concern in China, but also in the U.S. Our country's infrastructure challenges are intrinsically linked to income inequality, according to The Atlantic.

Recent studies from Harvard and NYU found that economic mobility was strongly linked to transportation access.

“Public transportation is desired by many but is even more important for lower-income people who can't afford cars,” Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the author of "Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead," told The Atlantic.

The public transit options that service low-income neighborhoods tend to be older, less reliable bus systems, The Atlantic points out. Newer, more reliable, transit systems are typically placed in more affluent areas, and often require that passengers have access to credit cards.

Other countries, including Brazil, France, India and Indonesia, have reportedly expressed interest in China's transportation technology, Xinhua reports.

[h/t Gizmodo]