High speed rail is the leading contender for the sustainable medium-to-long distance transportation option of the future (sorry, flying cars and jetpacks). But in many places — the United States, for starters — adequate rail options are nowhere to be seen, and the infrastructure for the high speed variety is decades away. So might there be room for another reasonably efficient, high-speed transportation option? One that could even take advantage of existing highways and infrastructure?
The high-speed bus was designed by the Dutch physicist Wubbo Ockels, who envisions the futuristic transport occupying median lanes on highways everywhere. But part of the appeal of the Superbus is that it has the capability to ditch the median lanes and operate at slower speeds, allowing it to serve far more stops and generally be more versatile than rail could ever be. Such attributes should give mass transit-loving libertarians plenty to appreciate.
It’s a fun idea, but there’s a reason the Onion’s parody video of an Obama administration plan to trade in rail for buses was so damn funny:
And that’s because there’s clearly no safe, effective way that high-speed buses could ever serve as a high-volume transit system without additional infrastructure — if we seriously wanted to reduce congestion, and added electric buses that went 150 mph to the mix, the result would probably look a lot like what you see in the video above. And while we’re indeed seeing some great gains in Bus Rapid Transit systems around the world, they’ll almost certainly never rival the long-distance efficiency (and sustainability) of rail.
Perhaps it’s my lack of imagination — but when I envision a society with safe, fast, and sustainable transportation, high speed rail seems a lot more viable than sharing the highways with 150 mph buses.
Image credit: Superbus Project