With gas prices expected to near four dollars a gallon by the early summer, many Americans will be turning to mass transportation to get around town without emptying their wallets. In major cities with high population densities, commuters have a whole range of options, but in the suburbs – a built environment designed around private automobile usage – the pickings may be slimmer, even non-existent.  Perhaps the combi, a little-known transportation system from the developing world, could change the way suburbanites travel through their space.

While the combi itself is nothing to write home about – just a large ten passenger van with a driver and a cobrador, or conductor – the way combis are organized make them perfect for navigating the sprawling world of the suburbs. Though they follow set routes like traditional buses, combis lack specific stops, picking up and dropping off passengers at any point along their route. Because of their smaller size, a combi could go where larger buses would not be welcome, such as in housing developments and big-box parking lots. This increased flexibility could allow a combi line to be more responsive to where riders actually travel than the bureaucracy-minded municipal systems.

In a country where car ownership has long been equated with economic success, many people will have to overcome their transportation bias and get on board the bus to the future.