UK Transport Wiki

A bus is a large road vehicle designed to carry numerous passengers in addition to the driver and sometimes a conductor. The name is a neologic version of the Latin omnibus, which means "for all."


The omnibus, the first organized public transport system, may have originated in Nantes, France in 1826, when Stanislas Baudry, a retired army officer who had built public baths (run from the surplus heat from his flour mill) on the city's edge, set up a short line between the center of town and his baths. The service started on the Place du Commerce, outside the hat shop of M. Omnès, who displayed the motto Omnès Omnibus ("Omnès for all") on his shopfront. When Baudry discovered that passengers were just as interested in getting off at intermediate points as in patronizing his baths, he shifted the line's focus. His new voiture omnibus ("carriage for all") combined the functions of the hired hackney carriage with the stagecoach that travelled a predetermined route from inn to inn, carrying passengers and mail. His omnibus featured wooden benches that ran down the sides of the vehicle; entry was from the rear.

There is also a claim from the UK where in 1824 John Greenwood operated the first "bus route" from Market Street in Manchester to Pendleton in Salford.[1]

In 1828, Baudry went to Paris where he founded a company under the name Entreprise générale des omnibus de Paris, while his son Edmond Baudry founded two similar companies in Bordeaux and in Lyons[2]. A London newspaper reported in July 4, 1829 that "the new vehicle, called the omnibus, commenced running this morning from Paddington to the City". This bus service was operated by George Shillibeer.

"Omnibus," crayon and watercolor drawing by Honoré Daumier, 1864.

In New York, omnibus service began in the same year, when Abraham Brower, an entrepreneur who had organized volunteer fire companies, established a route along Broadway starting at Bowling Green. Other American cities soon followed suit: Philadelphia in 1831, Boston in 1835 and Baltimore in 1844. In most cases, the city governments granted a private company—generally a small stableman already in the livery or freight-hauling business—an exclusive franchise to operate public coaches along a specified route. In return, the company agreed to maintain certain minimum levels of service. In 1831, New Yorker Washington Irving remarked of Britain's Reform Act (finally passed in 1832): "The great reform omnibus moves but slowly."

The omnibus encouraged urbanization. Socially, the omnibus put city-dwellers, even if for only half an hour, into previously-unheard-of physical intimacy with strangers, squeezing them together knee-to-knee. Only the very poor remained excluded. A new division in urban society now came to the fore, dividing those who kept carriages from those who did not. The idea of the "carriage trade", the folk who never set foot in the streets, who had goods brought out from the shops for their appraisal, has its origins in the omnibus crush.

The omnibus also extended the reach of the emerging cities. The walk from the former village of Paddington to the business heart of London in the "City" was a long one, even for a young man in good condition. The omnibus offered the suburbs more access to the inner city.

More intense urbanization was to follow. Within a very few years, the New York omnibus had a rival in the streetcar: the first streetcar ran along The Bowery, which offered the excellent improvement in amenity of riding on smooth iron rails rather than clattering over granite setts, called "Belgian blocks". The new streetcars were financed by John Mason, a wealthy banker, and built by an Irish contractor, John Stephenson.

The world's first motorized bus - a Benz truck modified by the Netphener Omnibusgesellschaft in Netphen, Germany (1895)

When motorized transport proved successful after c. 1905, a motorized omnibus was for a time sometimes called an autobus.

Bus lines proliferated in the U.S. as streetcar lines were torn out of the major cities by "bus manufacturing or oil marketing companies for the specific purpose of replacing rail service with buses."[3] This was accompanied by a continuing series of technical improvements: pneumatic "balloon" tires during the early 1920s, monocoque body construction in 1931, automatic transmission in 1936, the diesel-engine bus in 1936, the first acceptable 50+ passenger bus in 1948, and the first buses with air suspension in 1953.[4]

Bus services were a focal point in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. In the period after the American Civil War ended in 1865, racial segregation in public accommodations, including public transport such as rail and bus services, was enforced through Black Codes and Jim Crow laws in the South. These were made to prevent African-Americans from doing things that a white person could do. For instance, Jim Crow laws required bus drivers to enforce separate seating sections. These laws and enforcement varied among communities and states. In 1955, after a long day of work, Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a public bus, bringing attention to the injustice of differential and degrading treatment based solely upon race. This incident, boycotts of bus services, other protests, and court challenges led to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning segregation on public buses and helped lead the U.S. Congress to pass the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act which clarified the unconstitutionality of public racial segregation laws.

In some areas of the United States, a school busing system has been used to achieve racial desegregation of public schools. Under such a busing plan, children do not necessarily go to the nearest school geographically, but to such a public school in the same district where there is an appropriate mix of racial diversity.

Types of bus service[]

Articulated buses on Tiradentes Express in São Paulo.

A luxury coach in Canberra, A.C.T.

Bus services can fit into several classes. Local transit buses provide public transit within a city or one or more counties, usually for trips of only a few kilometers. Intercity, interstate or interprovincial buses provide transit between cities, towns, rural areas and places usually tens or hundreds of kilometers away. They generally provide fewer bus stops than local bus routes do. Trailways Transportation System is an example of US interstate bus systems. Some local transit systems offer bus lines to nearby cities or towns served by another transit agency. Intercity bus services have become an important travel connection to smaller towns and rural areas that do not have airports or train service.

Some public transit bus systems offer express bus service in addition to local bus lines. Local lines provide frequent stops along a route, sometimes two or more per kilometer, while express lines make fewer stops and more speed along that route. For example, an express bus line may provide speedier service between a local airport and the downtown area of a nearby city.

Shuttle bus services provide transit service between two destinations, such as an airport and city center. Shuttle bus services are often provided by colleges, airports, shopping areas, companies, and amusement destinations.

Tour bus service shows tourists notable sights by bus. City tour buses often simply pass by the sites while a tour guide describes them. Longer distance tour coaches generally allow passengers to disembark at points of interest. Some tourist buses are decorated to resemble pre-PCC streetcars in order to attract tourists or for other appearance purposes. A similar phenomenon is Duck Tours, which uses amphibious DUKWs converted into buses/cruise boats for tours.

School bus service provides transit to and from school for students. Some private schools use school buses only for field trips or sports events. Some school systems, such as the San Francisco public school system, do not operate their own school bus system but instead rely on the local public transit bus system to provide transportation.

Charter bus operators provide buses with properly licensed bus drivers for hire.

Bus manufacturing[]

Main article: Bus manufacturing

Early bus manufacturing grew out of carriage coachwork builders, and later out of automobile or truck manufacturing enterprises. Early buses were merely a bus body fitted to a truck chassis. This body plus chassis approach has continued into modern specialist manufacturers, although there also exists integral manufacturers of complete bus or coach products. Specialist builders also build buses for special uses, or modify standard products. Modern day bus manufacturing combines a number of advanced technologies, including GPS location, passenger information systems and electronic control, and increasingly features technology to aid accessibility. Manufacturers are also investigating alternatives to the traditional combustion engine powered approach, with electric, fuel cell and hybrid bus technologies. As with the auto-industry, bus manufacturing is developing from a localised enterprise to increasingly becoming a globalised industry, with groups of manufacturers forming consortia. As with the car industry, new models are often exhibited at industry motor shows.

Types of bus[]

A Polish Autosan (A1010T LIDER) police bus

A Dennis Dart/Dash leaving Pontypridd bus station in Wales.

Red express bus (Expresso Biarticulado) in Curitiba, Brazil.

A bendy bus in Coventry, England.

Coaches parked at Chichen Itza, Mexico.

  • Commuter Bus (also known as Local transit bus or City bus) usually have two axles (duallies on the drive axle), and two doors (one front, one mid-rear). While it is the general convention in Britain for buses to have one door, as the tickets are issued by the driver in most cases, in continental Europe and many other places, three doors (one front, one middle, one rear) is the norm. Their seats are usually fixed and limited, leaving room for standing passengers. Having no need for a luggage compartment, many have low floor design, further easing entry and exit. Double-decker buses, guided buses, articulated buses or extra-long triple-axled buses are often used on urban routes with heavy passenger loads. An articulated bus is sometimes called a bendy bus.
  • School buses are similar; though often lighter, they have only one passenger door, seats more closely spaced, and no standing room. North American versions are based on truck chassis, and must meet special USDOT standards.
  • Electric buses
  • A "kneeling bus" is a bus equipped with an accessibility feature that lowers the entrance of the bus to curb-side-level, so that a person in a wheelchair may smoothly board the bus. These buses are often equipped with lifts that help the disabled get on the bus' raised platform.
  • Trolleybuses and other electric buses are similar in appearance and function to commuter buses, but powered by an electric motor supplied by overhead power cables rather than by an onboard internal combustion engine. They are not to be confused with buses that are decorated to look like turn-of-the-20th-century streetcars and which sometimes go by the name of "trolleys".
  • Parking lot trams are a specialized form of bus, found in the parking lots of amusement parks such as Disneyland. Those vehicles consist of an engine-car or motor-car (which may or may not be passenger-carrying) chained up to a passenger-carrying trailer or number of trailers, thus making a kind of road train.
  • Motorcoaches, also known as intercity coaches, are heavier, sometimes requiring three axles, with usually one passenger door, and no standing room. Seats are normally soft and able to recline. The floor is high, allowing large under-floor luggage compartments. There is usually a small carry-on luggage rack within the passenger cabin, as well. Besides their use for intercity transportation, motorcoaches are used for long-distance airport shuttle service, local touring and charters for large groups, and so on. The usual seating capacity is 47 to 62 passengers; though variants with fewer or greater seats - minicoaches and midicoaches; articulated and double-deck coaches.

In the US, due to road restrictions, the maximum width of motorcoaches is Template:Convert/in, and a maximum length of Category:Aldwych Branch The Short Streach Of Line Between Holborn And Aldwych Was Closed In 1994.The Line Was Due To be extended to Waterloo but never was.There will be a bit of Aldwych In My Website when added or Category:Aldwych Branch The Short Streach Of Line Between Holborn And Aldwych Was Closed In 1994.The Line Was Due To be extended to Waterloo but never was.There will be a bit of Aldwych In My Website when added

  • Tour coaches, especially cross-country touring coaches, are often equipped with a lavatory, video system, PA system, and other amenities.
  • Short-distance tour buses are simpler, having a PA system and sometimes a video system. Some retired double-deckers and specialty vehicles are used in the local tour bus business.
  • Minibuses are one size up from large passenger vans, and seat up to 25 passengers. Some may include a small space for luggage. Usually derived from heavy-duty small truck platforms such as cutaway van chassis, minibuses are often used for short-distance shuttles, city tours, and local charters. Many are wheelchair-lift equipped and used in paratransit capacities.
  • Midibuses, or mid-sized buses, are larger than minibuses, but smaller than motorcoaches, thus seating between 26 and 47. They can be front- or rear-engined. They may be used to transport airport passengers between the terminal and distant parking lots; such vehicles may sacrifice seats for interior luggage space. The truck-based ones, such as the ABC M1000 series, can pack in enough seats to rival a motorcoach, but lack the luggage space and other amenities. However, they are also much cheaper.

Bus service operation and scheduling[]


Public buses of Kowloon Motor Bus, Hong Kong.

Operation of a bus service inevitably varies from the published schedule and timetables due to a range of factors including traffic, weather, passenger loading variations, and operating staff behaviour. Schedules may be focussed on maintaining a headway between each vehicle on a route, rather setting out the exact time a bus will arrive at each bus stop.

Bus crews may behave in ways which affect these headways:

  • 'Scratching' is the colloquial term for the bus being driven slowly, or the crew holding it at a bus stop for no apparent reason.
  • 'Punching-up' is the act of closing the headway with the bus in front, but never overtaking it, in this case two buses arrive at the same time.
  • 'Measuring off' is similar to punching up, except the crew of the second bus keeps a small headway so that all passengers at the bus stops board the bus in front, and they arrive at a bus stop with little chance of needing to service any passengers.

See also[]


A Leyland Lynx Mk.II that seats 49 with 22 standing.

Norwegian bus

File:102 0435.JPG

Argentinian bus

  • Battery semi-trailer for electric buses.
  • Biodiesel
  • Bus lane
  • Bus manufacturers
  • Bus rack
  • Bus spotting
  • Bus stop
  • Queueing theory
  • Bus types
  • Commercial driver's license
  • Coach body
  • Diesel-electric (hybrid) buses are the diesel version of the hybrid electric vehicle.
  • Kneeling bus for buses for the disabled.
  • List of bus operating companies
  • Malta bus
  • Public transport timetables
  • The man on the Clapham omnibus
  • Vehicle safety


  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


External links[]

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