IT STARTED with a fanfare, albeit with a bemused tone. “China’s bonkers elevated bus is real and already on the road,” announced Wired on August 3rd. It was not only Wired. Headlines and half-page photos quickly filled the world’s newspapers and webpages, trumpeting the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB, pictured), a magnificent-looking contraption that, it was claimed, would straddle China’s streets, allowing cars to pass underneath it. Passengers could hop on and off from elevated platforms. This would allow the bus to cruise above the traffic jams that plague roads in urban China, while lessening the gridlock for others.

Befitting such a clever, mad-cap idea, the reaction was breathless. Although it crawled along on its inaugural journey, speeds would eventually reach 40 miles per hour, it was said, using rails running either side of the road. Its 300 passengers (1,200, once a few buses were linked together like train carriages) would travel in comfort, in something akin to an airport lounge. Of course, only in China could such a...Continue reading