The straddling bus rolled into Hebei, China with much fanfare; now it's stuck there collecting dust. Stringer/Reuter

Briefly hyped as the future of transit, it now sits indefinitely in an open shed.

Remember that straddling bus that drew both excitement and criticism from urban enthusiasts, right before derailing into a possible full-on scam?

Well, what once looked like a treatment for China’s serious cases of pollution and traffic “is currently causing them,” as Shanghaiist puts it. A local reporter checked up on the 72-foot-long behemoth earlier this month and found it to be right where engineers left it back in August: on the 300-meter test track of a Hebei city road, blocking lanes and gathering a thick layer of dust in an open shed.

And it looks like it won’t be moving any time soon. Shanghaiist reports that the lease for the track was supposed to expire in August, but has since been renewed for another year. Song Youzhou, the designer, insisted his staff still tests the line every week and that his company—which earlier had been accused of operating a Ponzi scheme—is searching for new investors. (He blames the accumulated dust on China’s smog.) But workers still guarding the bus (or more accurately, the train) told local news that they haven’t heard a peep from the company.

Scam or not, this project was likely doomed from its conception, according to critics. It failed to address problems like feasibility (maintenance cost would be tremendous) and safety (trucks, for example, wouldn’t be able to drive underneath it)—not to mention the fundamentally car-centric approach that rankled many urbanists. The bus made its attempt to straddle between futurism and reality, which in itself warrants the initial excitement, but perhaps it’s time for it to make its final stop in the realm of science fiction.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    CityLab University: Inclusionary Zoning

    You’ve seen the term. But do you really know what it means? Here’s your essential primer.

  2. Life

    Don’t Throw It Away—Take It to the Repair Cafe

    This series of workshops aims to keep broken items out of the landfill, and it might help you save a few bucks, too.

  3. POV

    What ‘Skyscraper’ Doesn’t Get About Skyscrapers

    The Rock’s new movie should have gotten more thrills out of high-rise design, an engineer argues.

  4. An illustration shows two alleys in Detroit.
    Design

    Finding the Untapped Potential of Alleys

    “We’re starting to realize they’re just as powerful as a park or plaza.”

  5. A view from outside a glass office tower at dusk of the workers inside.
    Life

    Cities and the Vertical Economy

    Vertical clustering—of certain high-status industries on the higher floors of buildings, for example—is an important part of urban agglomeration.