Buses are an essential part of the transportation system and there are a wide variety of bus types that transfer millions of people each day for work, school, and leisure. In this article, we will explain the 9 most common types of buses that you will encounter on the road.
1. Single Deck Bus
A standard passenger bus has a single deck and is commonly used by transit systems, tourism companies, and charter bus companies.
A full-size single deck bus carries 60 to 120 passengers and ranges from 16 to 39 feet in length.
They typically run on diesel fuel or natural gas with the engine located in the rear to allow easy entry and easier visibility for the driver.
Examples include the Volvo B10M, ENC E-Z Rider II, MAN NLxx3F, and Mercedes-Benz Citaro.
2. Double Decker Bus
Double decker buses are used for both mass transit and tourism and are commonly associated with the iconic red AEC Routemaster buses in London. These buses have two decks for passengers with a staircase to access the upper deck.
Also known as double tall buses, double decker buses are used in some metro areas of the United States. The two largest fleets in the US are located in Las Vegas and Seattle. Seattle has a fleet of over 60 double decker buses, which provide greater capacity and better views than older articulated buses that were replaced.
Double decker buses are limited on the routes they can take due to their height (about 14.5 feet) as drivers need to avoid any bridges, utility cables, or other obstacles with low clearance. When used for public transportation, they may be inefficient for frequent stops because of the additional time required for passengers to get off. They are a better fit for longer trips such as regional express routes.
The open roof version of the double decker bus is excellent for use in tourism and is enjoyed by visitors of popular tourist destinations like the Las Vegas Strip and downtown New York City.
3. Articulated Buses
Articulated buses, also known as a bendy bus or accordion bus, have the prominent feature of a pivoting joint that joins two sections of the bus. They can be up to 66 feet in length and carry up to 270 passengers at a time.
Articulated buses were banned from London in 2011 by mayor Boris Johnson due to a perception that they were dangerous and caused accidents.
The bi-articulated bus, or double articulated bus, is a longer version that has two trailing sections.
4. School Bus
School buses are an essential part of the education system in the United States. School buses transport over 25 million students to school each day in the U.S. In 2016-2017 the expenditures for public student transportation exceeded $25 billion at an average of $982 per student.
School buses are specifically designed for maximum safety including their standardized color of School Bus Yellow (established in 1939) and the mandatory safety features of flashing lights and extended stop arms. Students riding a bus 70 times more likely to get to school safely compared to riding in a car.
A minibus looks similar to a large van but is designed to transport more passengers than a typical van.
An example of a minibus is the Ford Transit Minibus which can seat up to 18 passengers.
Another example is the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter which has sold over 25,000 vehicles. The largest model can transfer a maximum of 38 passengers (Mercedes Sprinter City 75).
6. Electric Bus
Electric buses have been around for over 50 years. In 1970, The MAN company launched one of the first fully electric passenger buses, the 750 HO-M10 E.
Today, electric buses are increasing in numbers as more public transit systems transition their fleets to use more renewable energy.
China is increasing its electric bus fleet at a rapid rate with 16,000 electric buses in the city of Shenzen alone.
In the United States, just 2% of the 70,000 transit buses are zero-emission. The Center for Transportation and Environment estimates that it would cost between $56 and $88 billion to transition the entire U.S. transit fleet to zero-emission vehicles.
Leading electric bus manufacturers include BYD in China, Yutong in China, and AB Volvo in Sweden.
7. Shuttle Bus
A shuttle bus is a bus that “shuttles” passengers regularly between two locations and is most commonly used to transfer people between hotels and airports.
They can also be used by transit systems for routes in less populated neighborhoods since a full-size bus is not needed.
Popular examples of shuttle buses include the Ford E-350 shuttle bus and Ford E-450 shuttle bus. A Qualified Vehicle Modifier prepares the vehicle for use as a shuttle bus by adding features like luggage storage, bus passenger seats, a bus-style door, and wheelchair accessibility.
8. Transit Bus
Transit systems in major cities transport millions of passengers each day, primarily on single-decker buses using diesel fuel or natural gas. In 2019 29,989 transit buses ran on diesel (41.8%) and 21,486 ran on natural gas (29.9%) according to the American Public Transportation Association.
Transit buses with a low-floor deck have no steps to climb, which are easier to enter for elderly riders. A high-floor deck has steps at the entrance and can be equipped with a wheelchair lift or ramp to accommodate riders with disabilities.
Transit bus fleets consist of multiple types of passenger buses including single-deck buses, articulated buses, and double-decker buses, depending on the routes and needs of the passengers.
A trolleybus is a bus that is powered by electricity from wires connected to overhead cables.
They are similar to electric buses except they don’t require a large battery. Some trolleybuses have batteries as a backup if they lose connection to the power cables or they need to go off the cables.
One advantage to trolleybuses is that they do not need to be recharged like electric buses. Another advantage is that they have lower emissions compared to diesel or natural gas powered buses.
A disadvantage is that it is more difficult to pass other vehicles which can slow down the route. They are typically limited to routes where the overhead cable system is available (some trolleybuses are able to switch to battery power for off-wire routes).
Trolleybuses were prevalent in the former Soviet Union, partly due to the minimal natural resources needed to operate them. They can still be found in some transit systems like Seattle and Vancouver, but are decreasing in popularity.
Additional bus types include:
- Commuter Bus
- Tour Bus
- Charter Bus
- Coach Bus
- Party Bus