This article is about the form of transport. See computer bus or electrical bus for the use of the term in computing and electronics respectively, or places like Bus, Pas-de-Calais and Bus-Saint-Rmy.

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The Bus, established by Mayor Frank Fasi, is Honolulu's only public transit system. It was twice honored as America's Best Transit System before being banned from the American Public Transportation Association competition. Other cities felt they could not compete against Honolulu.

A bus is a large wheeled vehicle, intended to carry numerous persons in addition to the driver. The name is a shortened version of omnibus ("for everyone").


History: the omnibus

The omnibus, the first organized public transit system, may have been originated in Nantes, France, in 1826, when a retired army officer who had built public baths on the city's edge set up a short stage line between the center of town and his baths. When he discovered that passengers were just as interested in getting off at intermediate points as in patronizing his baths, he shifted his 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.

Whether by direct emulation, or because the idea was in the air, by 1832 the idea had been copied in Paris, Bordeaux and Lyons. A London newspaper noted, 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.

In New York, omnibus service commenced that same year, when Abraham Brower, an entrepreneur who organized volunteer fire companies, established a route along Broadway starting at Bowling Green; other American cities followed suit: Philadelphia (1831), Boston (1835), and Baltimore (1844). Typically 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, which did not include upholstery, however. The New York omnibus moved right into urban consciousness. In 1831, New Yorker Washington Irving could remark of Britain's Reform Bill (finally passed in 1832): "The great reform omnibus moves but slowly”.

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"Omnibus," crayon and watercolor drawing by Honor Daumier, 1864 (Walters Art Museum)

The omnibus had repercussions both in society and in urbanization. Socially the omnibus put urban people, even if for only half an hour, into unheard-of physical intimacy, squeezed together knee-to-knee in a democratic press that even the most liberal-minded of the middle class had scarcely experienced before (illustration, left). 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.

And the omnibus extended the reach of the North Atlantic post-Georgian, post-Federal city. The walk from the former village of Paddington to the business heart of London in the "City" was a good brisk stiff one for a young man in good condition. The omnibus offered a further availability to the inner city of its nearer suburbs.

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 very great 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. In urbanization, the streetcars, rather than the omnibus, held the future key.

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


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"Routemaster" double decker bus in London.

Many varieties of buses exist. In some countries of Latin America buses are very important as a primary means of transport and trade.

Tourist, public transport

A normal tourist bus carries about fifty passengers with their luggage, and may be considered the standard bus for long-distance travel. It is often usual to call such a vehicle a coach.

In buses meant for public transport, luggage space is often sacrificed in order to increase passenger capacity, although the exterior is only slightly smaller than that of a tourist bus. Public transportation buses may carry more than one hundred persons if standing passengers are allowed. In western industrialized countries such buses are usually only used for routes within cities or towns, but in some other countries they are also used for inter-city routes.

Intercity, motorcoach, commuter, transit buses in North America

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A Greyhound bus.
An intercity bus or motorcoach in North America is a large bus that usually travels between cities, often for hours at a time. In the United States, national carriers such as Greyhound Lines offer intercity travel in 40 foot buses that hold up to 50 passengers and feature undercarriage luggage compartments, and lavatories. These buses often travel millions of miles during their service lifetimes due to their rugged steel and aluminum construction. Some of the more durable models may be in service for 25-30 years or even longer. Intercity bus services have become an important travel connection to smaller towns and rural areas in the United States that do not have airports or train service.

In the United States, a commuter bus or transit bus is usually operated by an urban-suburban bus line, a governmental public transit agency, or a contractor. It is used on public transit routes and generally must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). An increasing number of operations are using articulated commuter buses on routes with heavy ridership. However, several experimental uses of double decker buses have not proved them to be practical in U.S. operations other than for sightseeing groups.

Double-deckers, sightseeing in U.K.

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Tour buses are a common tourist attraction in larger cities.

The double decker is a bus designed in two stories in order to accommodate more passengers. Originally employed as a part of the London public transport system, in a distinctive red livery, they are extensively used throughout the United Kingdom and in a few other cities elsewhere, for example Bombay, Hong Kong, Singapore, Berlin and Davis, California.

London's Routemaster is a specific model of the double-decker bus, which has been in service since the mid 1950s, and has become something of an icon for London. It has an open rear platform for passenger entry and exit. The driver occupies a cab isolated from the passenger section and fare collection is the responsibility of a roving conductor. Routemaster are now being withdrawn from many routes and being replaced by either more modern double-deckers or single-deck articulated buses (below). However it is hoped that they can be retained on at least one route for heritage purposes.

Special sightseeing buses are variations of the tourist bus or the double decker and are generally constructed with large windows and/or an open top deck offering the best possible vantage point from inside a vehicle.

Articulated buses

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Bendy bus in London

Jointed or articulated buses (also known as a bendy bus in some places) are yet another permutation for increasing passenger capacity around the world. Found almost exclusively in public transport use, these buses are so long that they would not otherwise be able to negotiate city traffic. To make them nimble enough they are fitted with an extra pair of wheels and a flexible joint (usually located slightly behind the midpoint of the bus, behind the second pair of wheels). Some models of articulated buses have a steering arrangement on the rearmost axle which turns slightly in opposition to the front steering axle, which allows the vehicle to negotiate turns in a somewhat crab-like fashion, an arrangement similar to that used on long hook-and-ladder fire trucks operating in city environs.

Some buses have two flexible joints, and these are called bi-articulated. Some rare combinations between double decker and jointed buses also exist, but neither are in common use.

Due to onboard fires, they have been humorously nicknamed Chariots of Fire (at least by London residents). The model concerned was the Mercedes-Benz Citaro which are the ones mainly bought by London operators. During late 2003/early 2004 Mercedes-Benz quickly addressed the problem, so for a while the articualte buses or 'bendy buses' were off service. These buses are also the ones that many London operators are using to replace the AEC Routemaster, a bus which has been the sight on London for around 50 years.

Low floor buses

Low floor buses were developed towards the end of the 20th century and can increasingly be found all over the world. A major design advantage of a low floor bus is that it generally can more easily be made accessible to mobility-impaired passengers, who may require the use of wheelchairs, canes, or similar devices. The proximity of the bus floor to curbs or ground level may avoid the need for passengers to either negotiate steps or deploy an elevator (or wheelchair-lift) when boarding and disembarking. In the U.K all buses must be low floor by 2016.


Minibuses are smaller than the ordinary tourist or public transport bus, and are intended to carry from (about) eight to twenty passengers. Due to their smaller size they are often used on routes with few passengers, on narrow rural roads, or on routes where the service frequency is high.

Some minibuses are built from other vehicles that were not originally designed as buses. Examples include the songthaews of Thailand (converted from pickup trucks), the Filipino jeepney (jeep), the Turkish dolmus and Israeli sherut (minivan), etc. In many parts of Africa, they are called matatu, see Transportation in Kenya. In Peru, minibuses are the most popular means of public transportation and are known as micros.

Electric Trolleybus

An electric trolleybus is a bus driven by electricity supplied from overhead wires by a pantograph or trolley.

Guided bus

Guided buses are steered for part or all of their route by a track or rail.

Dedicated lanes, bus rapid transit

As part of a public transport network that shares the roads with other traffic, bus schedules cannot be as accurately maintained as those for other public transport systems. Some cities have tried to counter this by instituting special "bus lanes" that only public transport buses may use. Sometimes these lanes can also be used by taxis, bicycles and motorcycles. Some cities have tidal bus lanes, which only operate during the rush hour. Other cities have incorporated busways, which are essentially bus systems that run on special rights-of-way; this is a form of bus rapid transit.

Shuttle buses

Some buses are termed shuttle buses, or shuttles, after the weaving shuttle, because they operate on a short fixed route making repetitive and frequent trips. Shuttle buses often are used to service two or more transport terminals, such as a rail station, port or airport, or between nearby locations in a traffic-congested area,

Neighbourhood bus

A neighbourhood bus in the Netherlands, buurtbus, is a complementary public transport service with minibus by volunteer drivers in rural areas, where regular public transport is not feasible.

School bus

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2006 Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 School Bus

A school bus transports children between their homes and school. In the US a school bus is usually a distinctive yellow and is equipped with traffic warning lights and other safety equipment to be used when loading and unloading passengers. Usually operated by school districts or contract bus service providers, the school bus is used to transport children to and from school when they live beyond safe walking distances.

First Student is now introducing yellow buses in to the U.K. However most school services are operated useing normal buses or coaches.

In other countries, school buses may not necessarily be yellow. Buenos Aires, and possibly Argentine school buses and vans are orange and marked "escolares."

Social issues

Buses have often ended up at the centre of important public controversies.

Busing for racial purposes (U.S.)

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

Buses and segregation in the United States

Bus services were also 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. 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 a U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning segregation on public buses and helped lead the U.S. Congress to the pass the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act which clarified the unconstitutionality of public racial segregation laws.


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Modern Scania buses in Helsinki
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The (in)famous Chicken Buses of Guatemala

Some manufacturers of buses or bus parts:

Bus line operators

See: List of bus companies.


The usual plural of bus is "buses". "Busses" is sometimes used, but is also the plural of "buss", a dialectal word for "kiss" or a type of boat.

See also


External links

de:Omnibus es:Autobs fr:Autobus id:Bus hu:Autbusz nl:Bus ja:バス (交通機関) pl:Autobus pt:Autocarro ru:Автобус sk:Autobus fi:Linja-auto sv:Buss zh:公共汽車


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