Bus transportation has long been a fantastic method of getting people around, but the story of buses goes back way further than the invention of automobiles. In fact, people have turned to buses as a reliable mode of transportation for the better part of 200 years!

Professional Charter Services is proud to provide the best charter bus services and bus rental in all of Northern California, and we are extremely grateful to the technological advancements that led to us being here today. From corporate commuter shuttles to intercampus shuttles and bus rentals, we support the transportation needs for any need.

As you might have noticed from our previous blog post, we also happen to enjoy a little history. So let’s take a peek back in time and learn just how we all ended up with the amazing bus transportation we have today!


As the Industrial Revolution roared on, people began to migrate from rural areas and their traditional careers and farmers or ranchers, and moved into urban cities searching for work and opportunity. As populations grew in cities, there needed to be a bus transportation solution.

At A Glance:

  • Created in the early 1800s
  • Horse-drawn carriages designed to hold 8-10 people
  • Terribly uncomfortable when riding on old cobblestone streets

This was well before automobiles and personal cars, so omnibuses were invented. Essentially, they were large carriages pulled by horses. Some had multiple stories and the biggest held 42 people pulled by three large horses! Unfortunately, they were extremely cramped and uncomfortable as they bumped along largely cobblestone roadways in the 1820s.


The next decade saw the advancement of bus transportation technology, taking the carriages and placing them on railways for the first rail-based transit system. The tracks made the trips far more smooth and comfortable and reduced the weight for the horses thanks to reduced friction.

At A Glance:

  • Similar to omnibus, but pulled on rails, the first of its kind
  • Much more comfortable rides on smooth rails
  • Horses got tired, or sick, and couldn’t keep up with the workload

Customers could ride these old-school buses for as little as 5 cents, making them more or less available to the middle-class workers residing in the cities so they could commute to work and back home easily. However, there were still traffic jams, the horses left behind manure and spread equine flu.

Cable Car

By the late 1800s, innovation was really starting to take off and bus transportation moved away from the need for horse labor. Instead, people used cables in the tracks to pull the carriages along, making them quicker and more reliable than tired or sickly horses.

At A Glance:

  • First appeared in the 1870s
  • Eliminated the need for horses with cables drawing the carriage
  • Were relatively fast, but very unsafe as cable often snapped

In fact, the first cable car system was in San Francisco! It was tested in 1873 and was intended to fix the challenge of navigating the city’s hills. But innovation was often favored over safety and cable cars were frequently dangerous modes of transportation as the cables snapped, which was less than ideal halfway up a hill.


A safer alternative to cable cars (which soon went out of fashion due to their hazards), streetcars instead relied on an electric cable system above the carriage itself to pull them along the railways.

At A Glance:

  • Carriages were pulled by lines above the roads as opposed to beneath
  • Gave citizens easy, safer bus transportation to and from work
  • Eventually placed underground for a subway system still in use today

They were able to use the existing infrastructure, keeping implementation costs relatively low and quickly streetcars were the best way to travel cities. Fewer people than ever stopped walking, and because travel was so easy, people began leaving city centers in favor of nicer suburbs and commuting into town for work.

Rapid Transit

Streetcars, as great as they were up to that point, still rode around on busy streets and had to deal with traffic and congestion, making commute times slow and unpredictable. So naturally, people looked at putting them above the roadways — and below them.

At A Glance:

  • Elevated or underground rail systems
  • Were faster and could avoid traffic conditions
  • Expensive to build and implement and couldn’t make route adjustments

Chicago built the L-Train above its roads in 1892 (and it continues to run to this day), while Boston became the first city to utilize a subway in 1897. Subways didn’t have to stop for poor weather and conditions, unlike its above-road sister. But it was expensive to build them and they had set routes, with no room for minor adjustments as needs changed.

Modern Bus Transportation

Once automobiles were invented and implemented more regularly in the early 20th century, people began using roads more frequently again and bus transportation as we know it today began to form.

At A Glance:

  • Made for better street travel as use of roads increased following automobiles
  • Additional comfort with individual seats
  • Could travel anywhere with no need for rails or cables

Not everybody could own a car, or in big cities, wanted to deal with parking and other traffic-related issues, so public bus systems were adopted in practically every town in the world. In huge cities like San Francisco, even if you have a car, getting to work can be a pain. Parking is extremely pricey and annoying, so using a shuttle service became great options for getting to work effectively.

Contact Us Today!

Thankfully, we’ve all come such a long way in both comfort and safety over the last 200 years of bus transportation. The thought of bumping around the whole trip sounds truly horrifying. But we would never let that happen to you!

Professional Charter Services is your Top Rated Local® charter service and our dedication is to provide comfortable, reliable and cost-effective charter bus transportation for any need you have. Contact us today!