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An ambitious "straddle" design would allow buses to drive over traffic jams.

Chris Abell
May 25, 2016

In recent years China seems to have begun addressing its urgent pollution problem in earnest. Cities like Shanghai are repurposing land for urban forests and building magnificent eco-friendly (well, friendlier) skyscrapers.

And now, it appears, they’re going to start swallowing cars.

At the recent International High-tech Expo in Beijing, designer Song Youzhou presented a live model of the concept, which first made noise in 2010 (though, as TreeHugger notes, a very similar idea was proposed over 45 years ago by a couple of Americans). The idea is that a mega-sized vehicle—it would fit 1,400 passengers and take the place of 40 regular buses—would run on a fixed track the width of two traffic lanes. Passengers would board the straddle bus from above street level; the cabin would be atop a seven-foot-high tunnel that allows the whole contraption to glide over and around cars. The electrically powered “land airbus” would run at around 37 miles per hour and could save over 800 tons of fuel and over 2,500 tons of carbon emissions per year.

Though the idea is simple, the whole thing looks a bit like a sci-fi movie or a video game (we’re thinking of that old Nokia cell phone classic, Snake):

By carrying so many passengers, avoiding stalling, and not causing backups at bus stops, the straddle bus could help make a huge dent in the Chinese pollution problem.

Chris Abell is an editorial producer at Travel+Leisure. You can follow him on Instagram at @buildingflavors.

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