Who Invented the Bus (Invention Timeline Explained)

It is safe to say that a person experienced riding on a bus at least once. Buses are everywhere as they are the most convenient means of transportation, which can carry more passengers over land for miles. It has been about 360 years after the invention of the first public bus by French inventor Blaise Pascal. And through the years, millions have witnessed how horse-drawn buses evolved into the motorized buses we know today. 

Have you ever thought about what it would be like if the world did not have buses? The history of the bus’s development is quite fascinating, so read on to learn its beginning, evolution, and the people and companies that contributed to its success.

Who invented the bus?

French inventor, mathematician, and physicist, more known for this theory of probabilities, an early form of calculator, and more, invented a system for horse-drawn carriages, which became the first public bus line. The idea was ahead of its time, with its fixed stops, and scheduled bus arrival.

The bus’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Blaise Pascal
    The very first public bus

    The French mathematician, inventor, physicist, writer, and philosopher developed a horse-drawn public bus design. He launched the first bus line in 1662. It was an excellent idea, as his system incorporated fixed bus stops and scheduled bus arrival. But it failed after a decade because the bus line only catered to the rich.

  • Walter Hancock
    Steam-powered buses

    He was an English inventor who pioneered the steam-powered buses in England in the 1830s. Another associate and inventor, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney likewise offered similar services, which were more reliable than horse-drawn omnibuses. But the steam buses did not last long because of the risks of the overhead steam boiler.

  • Siemens Brothers

    Sir Carl Wilhelm Siemens in England and Ernst Werner Siemens in Germany were brothers who collaborated to develop the trolleybuses. They named their prototype the Electomote. Inventors in the U.S. also ran similar experiments. But the brothers presented the idea, which other inventors, such as Louis Lombard-Gérin and Max Schiemann, further developed.

  • Karl Friedrich Benz
    First motorized bus

    In 1895, Karl Benz, a German mechanical engineer, developed the world’s first motorized bus. The sales of the automobiles Benz made were slow, so he used the technology to establish the motorized bus, the first of which they delivered to Siegerland’s bus company, Netphener Omnibus-Gesellschaft mbH, which started its service in March 1895.

  • Daimler Motors Corporation
    Double-decker bus

    The German company produced the earliest motor buses and sold a double-decker in 1989 to London’s Motor Traction Company. It carried 20 passengers in its lower enclosed area and the open-air platform. It became a success, and other companies in London, Speyer, and Stockholm bought double-decker buses.

When was the first bus invented?

The first public bus was invented in France in 1662, based on the concept developed by Blaise Pascal. The public bus line consisted of horse-drawn carriages that carried passengers on specific routes. It had designated stops and fixed schedules. However, since it only ferried the French nobles, they soon lost interest. 

Brief history of the bus

Buses are ubiquitous, so it isn’t easy to imagine a world without them. Children cherish their first taste of independence when they ride a school bus. In addition, people learned to navigate cities by bus. Thus, it would be interesting how this low-cost public transportation came about.

Who would think a person like Blaise Pascal, who was more into physics and mathematics, would invent the first public bus system? Still, with its fixed stops and schedule, his invention started the wheel rolling.

One hundred and fifty years later, France came up with the omnibus, invented by Omnès, which used steam to run the vehicle. However, he used his bus service more to promote his spa business. After a few years, the streets of London saw the appearance of the first mechanical omnibus with steam power. While the buses no longer need horses, the concept was not a success because of the risk presented by the boiler installed on top of the bus.

But in the United States, horse-drawn buses ran on rail systems, which made the ride smoother. By the 1880s, American commuters enjoyed the convenience of the trolleybuses, which later developed into motor buses. Finally, after about 50 years, manufacturers have perfected the design of buses that we know today.

Pascal’s invention, which did not last long, was the beginning of the world’s most used form of transport. Buses bring commuters through short and long distances; if you think about it, riding a bus gives you peace of mind because a bus is the safest form of transportation.

The bus’s timeline

  1. 1600s
    First public bus

    France launched the first public “bus” line in 1662. Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, physicist, and inventor, developed a system of horse-drawn carriages to run across the Parisian streets on a fixed schedule. The plan was novel but considered a failure after a decade because the “bus” was only available to the nobility.

  2. 1820s
    Horse-drawn buses

    The bus, short for omnibus, was re-launched in France in 1826. The three-horse carriage could ferry 42 passengers, from nobility to commoners. By 1828, the first omnibus line in the U.S. began in New York City. Despite the bumpy ride over cobblestone roads, unpadded seats, and pricy tickets, the new middle class patronized it.

  3. 1873
    Cable car buses

    The first cable car, launched in San Francisco by Andrew Smith Hallidie, did not need horses. Instead, the system used a moving cable between the existing rails. A bottom clamp secured each vehicle. But the system was hazardous because the cables often snapped, causing serious accidents. Thus, they stopped the operation soon after its implementation.

  4. 19th century
    Rail-based horsecars

    The omnibus idea was improved by laying rails over the existing transport routes. The horse-drawn carriages offered a smoother ride, making it easier for the horses to pull the carriage, allowing each car to take more passengers. Various U.S. cities had more than 30,000 miles of street rail tracks by the 1880s.

  5. 1889s to 20th century

    The trolleybuses replaced the horsecars in the late 1800s. The trolleybuses still ran on rails but were powered by electricity. The new transport system facilitated daily commuting, leading to the suburbanization of larger cities. Modern buses replaced most trolleybus lines in the 1940s. But some lines still operate in Philadelphia, Boston, and Seattle.

Where was the first bus invented?

France invented the first public bus line in 1662. It was based on the concept developed by inventor, mathematician, and physicist Blaise Pascal. Each bus was a horse-drawn carriage that could ferry eight passengers, each paying five pennies. The bus line had fixed stops, with each bus calculated to come every seven or eight minutes.

The importance of the first bus

  • A sound idea

    Leave it to Blaise Pascal to think of developing a public bus system. While it only lasted for a decade, it opened new opportunities to develop better public buses and other means of transport.

  • A better system

    It took a decade and a half before France came up with omnibus, still a horse-drawn carriage system but with three horses. The carriage was improved, and the wheels were bigger. Both the nobility and the common folks can ride the new bus. 

  • The idea crossed the oceans

    The new concept struck and it traveled across the oceans, with the United States adopting the idea, which found patronage among the emerging middle class. 

  • First rail systems

    In the U.S., cobblestones became outdated and the laying of rail systems allowed for smoother rides. There was less friction, so the horses had an easier time pulling the carriages. 

  • A transition

    Neighboring countries copied the rail system of the U.S. Using electric power, there was no need for horses. The trolleybuses became the faster mode of transportation before the introduction of rapid transit, and finally, the bus transit.

The bus by the numbers

  • 99,482This represents the number of buses registered in Texas, the city with the most number of buses in the United States, based on the latest (2017) data.
  • 1,000,000The number of registered buses in the United States. This data spans the years 2000 until 2020. 
  • 8,500Many countries are now employing electric buses because they are environment-friendly. According to statistics, the number represents the number of electric buses running in Europe at the end of 2021.
  • 285,000Even if buses last for several years, the United States produce thousands of buses annually. In 2021, the country produced 285,000. 
  • 3,600,000This number represents the number of commuters using buses as their primary mode of transportation in the United States in 2019. It comprises 46.3 percent of all commuters using public transportation.

Five facts about the bus

  • Largest bus network

    Jakarta has the largest bus network in the world. The network comprises 4,300 buses, which serves over one million passengers each day, based on the available data from February 2020.

  • The color red to standout

    During its initial launch, London buses were painted in different colors, indicating the area of service. But in 1907, the owner of most of the buses decided to paint all buses red to stand out against competition. Subsequently all buses were painted the specific red color. 

  • Longest bus route

    The Interoceanic Highway, the route between Lima (Peru) and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), is the world’s longest bus route. The highway is 2,600 km (1,615 miles) long, and traversing it takes more than 100 hours. 

  • Largest bus

    Volvo designed the Gran Artic 300 is the largest bus in the world. The company developed it from Rio de Janeiro. The bus, which can accommodate 300 passengers, is 98 feet long. Brazil wanted large buses to reduce pollution, cost per passenger, and traffic congestion.

  • Yellow for school buses

    The yellow color was used for school buses in the U.S. for safety. Yellow has the highest visibility in bad weather and poorly lit conditions. It is likewise the most attention-grabbing color. Studies show that yellow is easier to notice and the human eye can detect the color quickly. 

FAQs about the bus

  • How safe is it to ride a bus?

     Although there is always a risk when you take public transportation, the bus offers a higher level of safety. According to studies, it is 91 times safer to ride a bus. On the other hand, a train is only 15 times safer.

  • What is the longest bus route on record?

     Historically, the longest bus route was the London, the UK to Calcutta, India route. However, the bus route was only used 15 times from 1968 to 1976. The trail was 20,256 miles (32,600 km) long.

  • Why do buses always stop at railroad tracks?

     U.S. law requires buses to stop at railroad tracks and open their windows and doors. They created the law because of a December 1, 1938, incident that caused the death of the driver and 25 students in Sandy, Utah. A blizzard caused poor visibility, and the bus driver did not hear the train coming and crossed the tracks. 

  • Are there buses that do not use fossil fuel?

    In 2014, Stockholm planned to become fossil fuel-free entirely by 2050. According to the city’s plan, their buses should run on ethanol, biogas, or biodiesel by 2025, but they exceeded their plan, reaching their target by 2018. Thus, Stockholm became the world’s first city to have a green bus service.  

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