A Futuristic Bus Could Help Chinese Cities Curb Air Pollution And Traffic
The forward-thinking design could become a reality and help ease congestion in China
A scientific study published recently in the The New York Times estimated that outdoor air pollution contributes to the death of 1.6 million people a year in China. With car ownership soaring in cities across China, air pollution and increased congestion on roads in major Chinese cities is inevitable. In an effort to solve the issue engineers and designers are trying to find relief in technology. At the end of May, the 19th International High-Tech Expo in Beijing featured a model “straddling bus” that has the ability to pass over car traffic and the capacity to hold 1,000-plus passengers.
The proposed bus would span two traffic lanes and travel up to 40 miles an hour above street level on a special track. The bus would allow for all regular cars under 7 feet-high to pass underneath.
Most impressively, the bus would run on electricity and take the place of 40 buses. Chief engineer of the project, Song Youzhou, believes the new bus would cut annual fuel consumption by 800 tons and carbon emissions by almost 2,500 tons and would be less than installing a subway system that would require digging up the ground.
As futuristic as the idea sounds TreeHugger discovered that two architects, Craig Hodgetts and Lester Walker, came up with a similar idea in 1969 for New York City. Their idea was that a similar style of “straddle bus” would run between Washington D.C., and Boston.
While Hodgetts and Walker’s idea never made it past the initial draft drawing phase, Beijing-based company Transit Explore Bus is now building a life-size model of the “straddling bus” in Changzhou and hopes it will be ready for testing in July or August. This is an extraordinary step in the right direction for handling air pollution but a larger hurdle will be changing people’s attitude in China about owning a car.
With the emergence of a large middle class, many Chinese households are choosing to keep a second and sometimes a third automobile. The country, which is now home to 1.38 billion people has quickly transformed from a Bicycle to a Car Kingdom. According to China’s Ministry of Public Security, China had 172 million light duty vehicles at the end of 2015.
Shifting from a bicycle-rich nation to a car-rich nation has shifted Chinese culture. Cars no longer simply signify a sign of how much you earn in China, they also symbolize your taste and how suitable for marriage you are. A love affair with cars is growing and becoming embedded into the culture in China, similar to America’s car-obsessed culture. The ability to curb air pollution in China rests more in the ability to shift cultural perception rather than simply finding new technology to replace cars.