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Asia Minute: A Bus that Straddles Traffic: Too Good to be True?

CCTV Screenshot
CCTV Screenshot

The Honolulu Rail project continues to be a focus for this week’s mayoral election on O‘ahu. As cost estimates and other complications rise, a recent transit development from China sounds promising. Or maybe too good to be true. HPR’s Bill Dorman explains in today’s Asia Minute.

The idea could change traffic patterns forever.  What if a bus could actually straddle traffic?  The concept is to have enough room under the bus so that cars could actually pass through it…or the bus could pass over the cars without disrupting traffic flow.  It’s been discussed for years—and in May, a model was presented at the Beijing International High-Tech Expo. 

Last week, a prototype was rolled out in a city in northern China.  National television carried pictures of the so-called “Transit Elevated Bus” seeming to float above two cars as it traveled down a fixed track about the length of three football fields.  The event generated international coverage—from the New York Times to the BBC….and the video ricocheted around the internet.

There was skepticism in some quarters: how would the bus make turns? Would it be too tall for highway overpasses? And if it’s on tracks isn’t that more of a train than a bus? 

Now some more basic questions have been raised—questioning whether the whole project is a hoax.  At least two official state run media outlets have claimed it’s a fraud—an investment scam.  The company behind the vehicle insists it’s a legitimate project…with more updates to come.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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