chinese-over-traffic-buses1The first time I saw an image of the weird looking Chinese bus — a gigantic articulated vehicle transporting 1,200 riders in the upper level while passenger cars swooped through the open lower level as the bus traveled along the highway — I thought, what the heck IS this thing? The closer I looked though and the more I read about it on China Hush, the more off-the-wall brilliant the idea seemed.

Designed to ease China’s traffic congestion and travel OVER the traffic, the bus would be powered by solar energy and electricity that recharges as it moves along the highway. Riding on existing roads, the buses would cost much less to construct than underground subways or overhead rail lines.

In the video describing his company’s creative concept, Song Youzhou, the chairman of Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co. (they might consider shortening that moniker) pointed out the bus could save 860 tons of fuel a year, while reducing carbon emissions by 2,640 tons. In urban areas the buses would run on rails to prevent lane straying, while outside the city, cameras and a semi auto-pilot system would navigate painted line markers to reduce infrastructure cost. During non-peak hours the buses would simply be parked on roads allowing regular passenger car traffic to pass unimpeded beneath them. No need for garages or parking lots so another big saving there.

American’s reactions to the gigantic buses  (1,529 comments at last count in the Huffington Post) ranged from admiration to critical derision to dire predictions of horrendous, gargantuan-scale accidents. Many said US drivers couldn’t possibly cope with such close quarters beneath these buses because drivers were too often distracted by their ipods, cell phones, texting, make-up application and latte slurping, etc.

While I myself marveled at the Chinese brainstorm, I also felt disconcerted by it.  Where the heck were OUR visionary mass transportation planners?  First the Japanese come along with their bullet train — currently streaking across countries in Asia and Europe at speeds of 120 mph to 268 mph (in good old China again) while our puny little single, high speed rail line from Boston to Washington DC zips along at the average wow speed of 68 mph, only briefly touching speeds of 150 mph. And now here’s China introducing an even more revolutionary transportation concept to the world. While our traffic infrastructure is crumbling under decades of neglect, China appears to be blazing into their mass transportation future firing on all cylinders. As if this disparity weren’t unsettling enough, this morning I read in the New York Times that cash strapped US states are now actually tearing up their own roads, turning pavement into gravel surfaces because they can no longer afford the upkeep. Imagine — we are now destroying part of a highway system that was once the streamlined marvel and envy of the world.

In the mass transportation department, America — Like Bo Beep and her lost sheep — seems to have lost its innovative vision and get-up-and-go and doesn’t know where to find them

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