Those without cars often face a common predicament when going to work: “Will I take the bus or the train?” For citizens living in Adelaide, South Australia, there doesn’t seem to be much difference.

Check out Adelaide’s O-Bahn Busway:

YouTube video

Ever since its first passenger ride in 1986, the O-Bahn Busway has confounded both passengers and onlookers alike. Instead of making another tramway extension for the city, city planners decided to build the O-Bahn so fewer people could take more buses between the city’s Greenfell Street and Tea Tree Plaza Interchange main roads. The result is less traffic for everybody, and a dedicated route explicitly made for city buses.

“Is it a bus or a train?” – to which the O-Bahn Busway replies, “Can’t I be both?”.

o-bahn busway

In reality, the busway is precisely what its namesake implies: a series of dedicated paths made specific for buses. This particular busway allows bus drivers to not worry about traffic or obnoxious car owners and merely put the pedal to the floor, thereby reaching max speeds of up to 100 km/h.

o-bahn busway
Photo by Eric Fidler

The busway is composed of concrete running pads with just enough wiggle room for a city bus. Guide wheels installed on the side of the bus run along the pads’ curves, which automatically steer the vehicle for the driver.

o-bahn busway

To differentiate the busway from a conventional tramline, the O-Bahn’s 12-kilometer track has three interchanges (Paradise, Klemzig, and Tea Tree Plaze) which allow buses to enter and exit the busway onto other roads. Once buses have reached their initial destination, drivers get off on one of the interchanges and continue their route without having passengers look for another means of transportation.

The O-Bahn Busway, in particular, can carry up to 18,000 passengers from Adelaide to the Tea Tree Plaza in 15 minutes, with up to 31,000 people being transported per weekday.

While the durability of the guide wheels seems a tad questionable, the fact that they’ve been using the same system since 1986 will attest to this. We’ll probably never know if the transports running through the O-Bahn are buses or just miniature trains with wheels, but you have to admit this solves a lot of transportation problems for the state of Adelaide.


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.