The history of public bus transportation traces its roots back to the 1820s, beginning with horse-drawn carriages. Even though different methods of public transport have been tried, their purpose hasn’t changed: to provide safe, affordable, efficient, and comfortable transportation for the masses.
Pioneering Efforts in Public Transportation
Initial attempts at providing public transportation began in the 1660s in France. Blaise Pascal developed a system of horse-drawn carriages across Paris’s streets. However, the novel idea only lasted a decade since Pascal’s proposed transport system was only made available to the nobility (a limited market) and didn’t support an actual public need.
The history of bus transportation began around a century and a half later, in 1826. France was again at the forefront of the effort to establish a system of long horse-drawn buses called the omnibus. The service was offered to both commoners and aristocracy, which helped to make it a success.
The omnibus also became popular in many other cities later on. People favored it because one bus could carry up to 42 passengers while drawn by three horses. Soon after, in 1828, the first omnibus line was established in New York. More bus lines were later established in other U.S. cities.
The word “bus” we use today is short for the word omnibus. The word “omni” is Latin for “all” or “many.” However, another theory is that the omnibus name was derived from the Omnes bus line in Paris.
The omnibus had a few downsides, though. First, it was uncomfortable for passengers because it had to tread cobblestone roads. Another drawback was the high fare price, estimated to be 12 cents one way. But later on, it gained popularity amongst the growing middle class.
The First Rail System
The next stage in the history of public bus transportation involves establishing the first public rail system. Cities began to lay down rails over the routes plied by omnibuses to make public travel more comfortable. They also made it easier for horses to pull more weight, thus increasing the capacity of these horse-drawn buses. The fares were also reduced to 5 cents, allowing more people to afford this mode of public transport.
Urbanization and City Planning Improvements
Rapid urbanization ensued after the ease of travel was provided for the working class. Further, urban development and better city planning resulted from the accommodation of bus routes. These developments became some of the precursors to the Industrial Revolution. As a result of these efforts, 20,000 horse-drawn buses were added throughout the U.S., and over 30,000 miles of railways were laid during this time.
Early Traffic Jams and Equine Influenza Outbreak
Traffic jams aren’t a modern phenomenon. Road traffic wasn’t regulated back in those early days when employees began traveling to work from home. And the increased number of people and vehicles on the streets resulted in many traffic jams. In addition, with more horses pulling buses on the streets, the amount of manure they left became a public health concern.
Those weren’t the only problems surfacing during public transportation development. For example, in 1872, an equine influenza outbreak caused thousands of horses’ deaths, halting the operations of many horse-drawn bus operators.
The Modern History of Bus Transportation
Innovations and solutions were needed to improve public transportation to resolve the many concerns in its development. One of which was the cable car.
Andrew Smith Hallidie invented a cable-driven bus system in 1873 in San Francisco. It was better suited to handle the rolling hilly terrain in the city, which proved to be a significant difficulty for horse-drawn carriages. His modified cars ran on the same rail system already in place. The only modification needed was a moving cable between the rails.
Unfortunately, cable cars proved unsafe since the cables that were used to mobilize them tended to snap under the weight of the vehicles, resulting in many accidents. They rightly went out of service shortly after. Today, you can still find several cable cars on San Francisco’s streets, but they’re only used for nostalgia, not public transport purposes.
The next phase in the history of public bus transportation moved into the modern era in 1881. Electric-powered cars were introduced to replace the cable-operated ones that were out of service. They were an innovative way to use the already existing railway system.
These electric cars could carry passengers many miles, further extending the former capacity of horse-drawn buses. Introducing this modern public transport system was seen as a major improvement in the history of public transportation.
But nothing prepared this industry and the nation for what was to come. The Great Depression of the 1930s caused many businesses to declare bankruptcy. And during that time, many bus lines closed due to the failing economy. After World War II, more electric cable car operators closed shop due to the strict rationing of gasoline, rubber tires and other necessities.
The Advent of the Modern Motorized Bus
However, it was at this time during the post-World War II era when the motorized bus gained popularity. The first motorized bus was developed in 1895 by Karl Benz, but it took a while before his invention gained public notice. Later on, France opened the first motorized bus line in 1906.
Gasoline-powered buses allowed government and city planners to avoid the huge costs of laying down new rails. In addition, these vehicles were more flexible and able to travel in areas where rail-based buses couldn’t.
Mercedes Benz designed the first modern bus with a spacious body and a rear engine. It paved the way for more modern bus designs such as school buses, intercity lines, and city transit buses.
Public cars also gained popularity in the 21st century. However, the rising fuel costs made buses an excellent option for the public.
Electric and Eco-Friendly Buses
In recent years, the environmental impact of gasoline-powered vehicles has become a modern concern in the modern world. With sustainability as the focus, bus companies are moving towards using electric fuel-celled and hybrid buses. Many countries worldwide aim to convert their bus fleets into electric models to reduce their carbon footprint while still providing modern comforts to their passengers.
Enjoy Your Next Bus Trip With Atlantic Coast Charters
The history of public bus transportation demonstrates human creativity. It also shows us the human ability to rise above challenges that come during different stages of development and growth.
Today’s modern bus lines enjoy this heritage of innovation and resilience. So enjoy your next bus trip and continue that tradition of excellence with Atlantic Coast Charters. We live up to these lofty standards providing our clients with excellent onboard amenities for the modern traveler. Contact us today to get a free quote and learn more about modern transport options via chartered buses.