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July 11, 2019

Past to Present: The History of Buses

Mandi Renshaw

An European omnibus full in rider capacity

Transportation in urban areas will always come with minor inconveniences. Nobody enjoys sitting in traffic or waiting for a late train or bus. It is difficult to not be irritated when things go wrong, but comparing modern transportation to 19th century transportation puts things into perspective and makes us appreciative of the luxuries we enjoy today.  

About 200 years ago, the first form of a large passenger vehicle known as the omnibus emerged in Europe. These horse-drawn carriages carried up to 14 passengers and were popular in urban European areas from the mid to the late nineteenth centuries. However, one of the main complaints about the omnibus was the discomfort the riders suffered due to the bumpy cobblestone streets. To fix this problem, fixed tracks were built to provide omnibus riders a smoother and faster traveling experience.

As the population continued to grow, the demand for inexpensive, safe and efficient public transportation grew as well. During the Modernization Era, rail systems including the monorail and subway increased in popularity. For example, BART was extended locally to expand the commuting range into San Francisco. Today, mass transit in urban areas is a complex web of ranging options for the public to utilize. There have also been numerous innovations and developments in the future of transport. Nonetheless, buses continue to be the most cost-effective, widely-used and efficient transportation system available to the masses. 

Fun Fact: The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 greatly improved the lives of commuters by devoting 375 million dollars to promote mass transportation for all Americans. That was a lot of money in the past, and it still is today!

The development of buses over time is similar to the ways in which our local Vallejo residents have developed their own creations based on their personal growth and history. Take our buses and ride for free after 4 pm to the Vallejo Art Walk this Friday on July 12th and see the creativity on display. (Check out ‘An Evening of Creativity With SolTrans’, which explains the festivities in detail.)

More interested in the history of buses or art in general? If so, come visit us at the SolTrans O&M Facility on 1850 Broadway St. Vallejo, CA 94589. Inside, you’ll find a canvas gallery of the old buses that were in service when SolTrans was two separate transit agencies (Vallejo Transit and Benicia Breeze). A few of the pieces can be found in the entryway and reception area. (The lost-and-found is also located in the O&M facility, along with physical operator and customer service job applications, if you’re interested in joining the team.) Don’t be shy to come down and say hi!

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