The idea of having a bus that can safely glide above the traffic was first introduced back in 2010, but most never thought it would actually happen. Even when designers revealed the bus model and began production earlier this year, people still refused to believe that the thing could really work. Finally, to prove all the doubters wrong, developers built the damn thing and conducted an actual “test run” in a controlled setting. Yet, still, pretty much everyone sees the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) as unfeasible.
But after conducting the test, developers apparently have even bigger problems to worry about than public opinion. Several state media outlets have published articles alleging that the company in charge of developing the TEB crowdfunded their project illegally and misled investors.
Despite the hype surrounding the trial run, both domestic and abroad, it seems that the company may have blown the occassion out of proportion. Not only was the test run just 300 meters long and completely failed to mimic real-life traffic conditions, but authorities in Qinhuangdao city also were not aware of it even happening, People’s Daily reports. The firm later verified that it wasn’t a “road test,” but simply part of “internal testing.”
Furthermore, netizens, as well as state media, have questioned how the TEB would actually operate on the road. First of all, the height of vehicles going under the “straddling bus” seems to be a bit of an issue. The height limit for vehicles on the road is 4.5 meters or 4.2 meters, depending on what type of road the vehicle is driving on. However, the maximum height for vehicles passing under the TEB is just 2.1 meters. So, either there has to be an effective method of preventing tall vehicles from driving on certain roads, or chaos will reign.
— Shanghaiist.com (@shanghaiist) August 2, 2016
Secondly, how will the massive bus interact with other cars on the road? Will it be able to safely make turns? Can it go on bridges? Would it go under or over traffic lights? Moreover, Chinese drivers are not exactly known for their safe driving skills. An aggressive person driving a normal-sized car is scary enough — imagine one driving a vehicle that is 54 meters long, almost 5 meters tall and 8 meters wide. Developers should really think about hiring this guy.
Finally, as Wired points out, the Transit Elevated Bus is not a bus, it runs on tracks and therefore, it is clearly a train.
These problems will only be answered (or not) next year, when developers conduct a full test run.
However, that’s not even half of developers’ problems right now. Global Times and Sina have both claimed that the TEB is a fraudulent peer to peer (P2P) investment project aimed at scamming investors. The TEB is funded by P2P financing, which the government has already been cracking down on recently.
Last December, police shut down Ezubao, a P2P broker, that cheated around 900,000 investors out of 50 billion RMB. A Global Times editorial published yesterday lamented that “Despite what happened, we still haven’t learned our lesson and are praising what could be the next ‘Ezubao.'”
The editorial then goes on argue that though the concept was first brought up in 2010, it has remained only an idea for around 6 years and the “straddling bus” still fails to consider real world traffic problems. The Global Times also attacks Song Youzhou, the designer of TEB, for only having an elementary school education.
Many government departments have refused to acknowledge their relationship with the project, including the municipal development and reform commission in Qinhuangdao and Shanghai Jiaotong University. In the past, developers have stated that both organizations are working closely with them on the TEB.
Also, surprisingly, the “straddling bus” idea is far from new. It was first proposed by Architect Craig Hodgetts, who referred to it as “the Landliner” and intended it to be built in New York city.
Hayao Miyazaki seems to have had the same idea in the 1980s.
— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) August 4, 2016
Song has denied all these allegations, insisting that his team has nothing to apologize for. “We haven’t done anything wrong at all,” he told Sixth Tone. “The latest tests show that the bus design is entirely possible.”
Netizens were divided on the issue and were particularly shocked to see the sudden change in rhetoric regarding the long-praised “straddling bus.”
“Is this a joke? A couple days ago, [the media] was talking about how great it is, now they’re criticizing it?” @炫妻晒娃专属号 wrote.
“Wow, people have gotten much better at using peer to peer investing to trick money from others,” @福尔不打摩丝 wrote.
“This design is completely unfeasible. There is absolutely zero safety measure,” @改个名是不是你就不认识我了 wrote.
So, do you think it has any shot at success? Would you be one of the 1,200 brave souls aboard the TEB? Or would you rather drive under it?
We for one look forward to a future where anything is possible.
— Shanghaiist.com (@shanghaiist) August 3, 2016
By Sarah Lin
[Images via Xinhua]