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A Bus Guide: City Bus vs Coach Bus vs Articulated Bus & Others

A Bus Guide: City Bus vs Coach Bus vs Articulated Bus & Others


Care to learn about the different bus types? In this post, we describe the various buses you’re familiar with, from the coach bus to the articulated bus.

There are those red double-decker buses, a tourist favorite.

There’s the school bus.

There’s the city bus, the one passengers and car drivers alike all lament, though it only benefits everyone involved.

But what’s the difference between a coach bus and a charter bus? What’s a rigid bus? Is there a non-rigid bus, and, if so, isn’t that just dangerous?

In this post, we talk buses.

passengers on bus in Cherepovets, Russia
Taken by A. Rozetsky via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

But before we go into the differences in bus types, we have to first ask—

What is a Bus?

A bus is a large road vehicle designed to transport many people at once from one destination to another.

The word bus is short for omnibus, itself a shortened form of voiture omnibus. The
voiture omnibus in French means “vehicle for all.” These first buses were horse-drawn carriages with a slightly larger occupancy potential, essentially.

The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica says:

Omnibus (Lat. “for all”), a large closed public conveyance with seats for passengers inside and out. The name, colloquially shortened to “bus,” was, in the form voiture omnibus, first used for such conveyances in Paris in 1828, and was taken by Shillibeer for the vehicle he ran on the Paddington road in 1829.

Voiture Omnibus de Paris first buses
“Voiture Omnibus de Paris” of the series “Voitures” by Victor Adam. A coach full of passengers, travelling to the right along a road, led by two horses; a coachman sits at top at right, another man stands at the back of the carriage on the steps; beyond at left, a man on horseback; beyond at right, another coach; in the immediate foreground, at right, rubble. c. 1841-44 Lithograph. From the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

Soon after, the English would pioneer the first mechanically-driven buses, in London in 1833.

From horses to steam to electric trolleybuses, now we have hybrid powered buses, fully-electric buses, and even self-driving buses.

Okay, now on to the various bus types:

The Transit Bus (City Bus)

The transit bus is a motorized vehicle which is purpose-built for city transportation. The speed will never reach high levels, as it is mean to accommodate passengers who are standing or seated.

The transit bus is your average bus, the kind you’re likely to see in cities and towns around the world.

As it’s point-to-point stops are frequent and short in distance, it often includes more doors along the sides of the bus for easy entry and exit of passengers. Standing room with plenty of support grips and poles are available for passengers without a seat.

regular city transit bus in Cluj-Napoca, Romania
The average city bus. Taken by V. Vesa via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

The Motor Coach

The coach is a bus type built for intercity or international transportation of seated passengers over medium and long distances. As the point-to-point distances are fewer and farther between, standing room is almost never included or allowed.

Coach buses often include a passenger cabin higher off the ground than a city bus, usually to have massive storage compartments with side doors below to hold luggage, packages, and other freight.

coach bus in New York City
A standard coach bus in the United States. Taken by R. Flores via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

The Rigid Bus

A rigid bus is a bus which has a single, rigid chassis as a foundation. This is the average bus, one that is not pulled as a trailer by a separate tractor or any bus with articulated joints (which we’ll talk about shortly).

A rigid bus may be a single-decker bus or a double-decker bus, which is a bus with a second compartment to accommodate passengers above the main one on the ground level.

red double-decker bus in London
The quintessential red double-decker bus of London, everyone’s favorite bus. Taken by A. Van de Pol via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

The Articulated Bus

This is the long one which crawls through the city like a centipede.

And like a centipede, you can even count 100 legs on it—though they’re all tucked neatly inside supporting tired bodies and eyes focused on Netflix.

The articulated bus is a bus with two aligned passenger compartments connected by an articulated joint. Articulated buses are just transit buses with a higher capacity. As it is longer than the transit bus, the articulated joint allows it to turn tight city corners more efficiently.

articulated bus in Indonesia
An articulated city bus in Jakarta, Indonesia. Taken by A. Rayhansyah via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

The Bi-Articulated Bus

If the articulated bus is a centipede, the bi-articulated bus is a millipede. It’s essentially a train on the road—

The bi-articulated bus is a bus with three aligned compartments connected by two articulated joints.

Passengers inside an articulated or bi-articulated bus will never see the actual pivoting joint, as it is covered by a floor plate platform connecting the two sections. Overhead, a waterproof bellows connects the side and the roof (that accordion-looking thing between each compartment).

bi-articulated bus in Brazil
A bi-articulated bus connected by two pivoting joints and waterproof bellows. Taken by Wikimedia Commons user Luiznp. [CC BY-SA 2.0].

The Minibus

A minibus is a motorized vehicle made for transporting about a dozen passengers, more or less. It looks something like a cross between the average bus and a minivan, and it is sometimes equipped with a lift for wheelchairs.

Minibuses, or minicoaches, are designed for specific routes with few passengers. It’s relatively small size compared to its larger siblings allow it to navigate a city quickly and deftly.

You’ll often see minibuses in crowded cities where the traffic is insane, such as in the Asian capital cities. Otherwise, a traveler might encounter them as an airport shuttle bus, taking passengers to and from the hotels and airports.

minibus in Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
A minibus in Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia. Taken by H. Muleba via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Charter Bus vs Coach Bus

A charter bus is a type of service. A company might hire an entire coach bus to ferry employees to a company retreat, for example. This is called “chartering a bus.” Another example may be a school needing to charter a school bus to transport dozens of students on a field trip.

So, what did you think? I hope this post helped you understand the different bus types. Got any questions, comments, or buses to add? Let’s chat below in the comments!

Christian Eilers
Written by
Christian Eilers
Join the discussion

  • Thanks for explaining the different types of vehicles, such as how minibuses are smaller than the other options, which is good for faster and easier navigation through a city. When choosing one, it might be a good idea to consider where you want to go and how many people you’ll be traveling with. Once you’ve determined the type of vehicle to use, it could help to go online and research local companies that offer transportation services to check out their fleet and experience to determine which one works best for your trip.

  • I had no idea that there are so many different types of buses. It seems like you should think about the type of experience you want to have. After all, that could affect what bus you get on.

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