Private horse buses and Government-owned railways were the first form of communal public transport in Sydney operating from 1855. However as the city expanded government operated tramways were introduced usually in areas not serviced by the railways. The Sydney electric tram system grew to become the largest in the British Empire, alongside an extensive metropolitan electric rail network.
The first private motor omnibus licence was issued on 21 April 1907 by Warringah Council to John Williams for his motor bus service from Manly to Pittwater. Skills brought back by returned ex-servicemen after the First World War, where the first real use of petrol-engined trucks occurred, saw the rapid introduction of petrol-driven motorbuses. By 1930 it was said that there were 606 licensed buses run by 129 operators on 209 routes and running 221 services in the metropolitan area. Of these 115 were in direct competition with Government trams. So serious was the threat to the established government routes, (the revenue was urgently needed to pay off the infrastructure loans), that legislation was passed which taxed many private operators off the roads. This had the effect in some cases of leaving the public stranded so the Government was forced to introduce its own bus service, which began on Christmas Day in 1932 as route 144 between Manly Wharf and Cremorne Junction, using buses hired from former private operators. This was administered by the Department of Road Transport and Tramways (DRTT). By 1933 sixteen services were conducted by the Government. 'Feeder' routes co-ordinating with other forms of transport (railways and ferries) were the highest priority. The development of bus technology and the introduction of the steel-framed bodies made buses reliable workhorses. This convinced the Government by the late 1930s to replace the electric trams and trolley buses with the first replacement occurring in 1939. Nevertheless, the changeover occurred gradually and was delayed during the Second Word War. In 1948 two-way frequency modulation radio was installed allowing immediate communication between the central control room and traffic inspectors who patrolled the bus routes. This enabled a quick response to accidents, traffic congestion and mechanical problems. By mid 1949 there were 720 Government buses operating in Sydney and 123 in Newcastle. One-man operation commenced in 1952, initially on routes where patronage was low. In the same year the department reorganised and changed its name to the Department of Government Transport. The entire tram network was turned over to buses in 1961. In 1972 the Public Transport Commission (Bus Division) took over the buses as all public transport services, buses, trains and ferries were merged. The establishment of the Urban Transit Authority in 1980 saw the separation of rail from ferry and bus operation and from 1989 the State Transit Authority took over the buses.
Urban Transit Authority of N.S.W.
The Urban Transit Authority of N.S.W (UTA) operated Australia's largest bus fleet. The annual report of the UTA for 1983/4 noted that their bus fleet comprised 1,694 vehicles of which 1504 were based in Sydney and 190 in Newcastle. The fleet comprised 707 Leyland Worldmasters or Leopards, 22 Atlanteans, 200 Mark 1 Mercedes 0305's, 550 Mark 2 Mercedes 0305's, 182 Mark 3 Mercedes 0305's, 3 Mark 4 Mercedes 0305's; and 30 Mercedes 0305 articulated buses. The buses carried a total of 187,675,000 passengers in that year. Generally the services radiated 11-15 km from the central Sydney area with the exception of the Manly-Warringah area where routes extended as far as Palm Beach, some 45 km from the city. There were 13 depots in Sydney, at Brookvale (coded V on the bus tickets), Burwood (coded B), Enfield (coded E), Kingsgrove (coded K), Leichhardt (coded L), Mona Vale (coded F), North Sydney (coded N), Pagewood (coded P), Randwick (coded R), Ryde (coded Y), Tempe (coded T), Waverley (coded W) and Willoughby (coded M). Leichhardt, North Sydney and Tempe Depots were satellite depots of Ryde, Willoughby and Kingsgrove depots respectively. Day to day maintenance was carried out at the main depots while heavier work was undertaken at Chullora Workshops.
UTA bus tickets date from between 1980 and 1989. A zone-sectional fare system prevailed with the issue of block tear-off tickets on one-man operated buses. Tear-off tickets were supplemented by those issued from a limited number of Ultimate and Almex machines, or pre-sold multi-trip tickets. Travel concessions for children and pensioners were available. Regional "travelpass" tickets offered multi-modal zonal travel on a weekly, quarterly or annual basis. Day Rover and Weekly Rover tickets were available for travel on all Sydney and Newcastle bus, rail and ferry services (after 9 am on weekdays).
On the back of each UTA ticket at this time featured a 'Do The Right Thing' advertisement for sensible disposal of the ticket after use. 'Do The Right Thing' was an extremely successful anti-litter campaign which achieved a 70 % reduction in litter between 1979 and 1990. The television advertisements and catchy jingle associated with this campaign influenced children to speak up if their parents, other adults or peers littered. Apparently it was the most successful behaviour change campaign in Australian History.
Australian Bicentenary Bus Tickets
During the Australian Bicentenary in 1988, the Urban Transit Authority bus tickets were especially printed with the Bicentenary logo, a stylised map of Australia and the wording 'Australia 1788-1988'.
Ultimate Machine tickets
Ultimate ticket dispensing machines were introduced for 'Beret girls' in 1949 at tram stops to ease queues and lasted through the demise of trams in 1961 and through the bus era until the mid 1990s. The bus tickets issued from the Ultimate machines replaced pre-printed tickets on some one-man operated buses, but was mainly always used as an additional resource. They were made by the Bell Punch company and the agents in Australia were Control Systems Australia.
State Transit Authority of N.S.W.
The Transport Authorities Act of 1988 abolished the Urban Transit Authority and created the State Transit Authority of N.S.W. and State Transit Authority Board consisting of the Chief Executive and between four and seven members appointed by the minister for Transport.
State Transit Authority Night Ride Tickets
Trains generally do not operate after midnight, or before 5am. The 'NightRider' Bus network replaced rail services during these hours. Despite there being criticism when they were first introduced, today (2006) there are nine Night Rider bus routes that approximately mirror the rail networks, but do not go as far as the rail services (i.e. there are no night buses to Emu Plains in the west, Waterfall in the South, Mount Ku-ring-gai in the North, etc) and make fewer stops. The buses depart every hour from George Street directly opposite Town Hall and Railway Square (Central Station).
N.S.W. Omnibus Prop. Association
The N.S.W. Omnibus Prop. Association was formed in 1942 changing to the Bus Proprietors' Association (NSW) in 1970. It is now the Bus & Coach Association (BCA)
McVicars Omnibus Service
McVicar's Bus Services grew to be one of the largest operating in NSW. It spanned three generations of the McVicar family and operated from 1919 to 1978. The company began in 1919 when Archibald Robert Brownlow McVicar began a bus service from Lidcombe Station to Berala with an Oakland car which was extended with a Truckmobile chain driven rear axle. McVicar extended his service to Regent's Park and gained permission to run from Lidcombe to the Lidcombe State Hospital on Sunday afternoons. Up until the Second World War there was considerable business for bus operators running to hospitals and cemeteries on Sundays. In 1923 McVicar's once-a-week service to the hospital was expanded to a 7-day frequency. By 1927 McVicar was operating from Bankstown to the Milperra Soldiers' Settlement as well as Picnic Point, East Hills and Panania. The opening of the Chullora Railway Workshops in 1923 had brought employment opportunities and industries associated with urban development including those producing bricks, tiles, plaster and ice. In 1930 Arch McVicar's brown-roof buses with cream window pillars, red, panels and McVicar Omnibus Service monogram on the sides began running between Bankstown and Burwood. Mc Vicar survived the new Government legislation of 1932 and agreed to pay the "seat tax" to continue to service the two major rail points on the western line. The McVicar depot was developed at Lidcombe, and in 1935 Arch was joined by his son, Arch McVicar Jnr, as an apprentice mechanic and in that year the first diesel engine bus was acquired for the firm.
The Second World War saw the firm restricting the number of vehicles to 12 despite the heavy passenger demands operating to and from essential industries, working a daily three-shift operation. By 1950 McVicars had 31 vehicles in daily service and several others in the workshop. The peak period for the private bus industry was said to have been up to the mid 1950s. There were relatively few cars on the roads and bus patronage was high with timetables drawn up in a way to attract customers rather than economic necessity. However with rising costs from big wage claims and declining patronage, through greatly increased car usage, the company this time suffered difficulties though this was partly offset by revenue generated from the school bus services.
In February 1962, Archibald McVicar snr, died at the age of 72 years. At that time the company's fleet was credited with being one of the largest in the Sydney suburban area. Arch McVicar Jnr and his sister Mavis took over the running of McVicar's Bus Service as joint directors. Mavis had joined the office side of the operation in 1931 after leaving school taking over from Mrs McVicar snr. She was the mainstay of the company's administration for nearly 40 years.
The third generation of McVicars, John McVicar, son of Arch Jnr, joined first as an auto electrician in 1973 and was later put in charge of fleet maintenance. The family decided to sell the business in 1978 by which time there were 55 buses, mainly AECs and Leylands operating on nine routes, Nos 12, 22, 23, 24, 27, 38, 123, 125, and 137. Arch and Mavis retired and John went to the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Sydney.
Red Top Transport Service
The Red Top Transport bus service was one of the busiest in Sydney at their peak, operating from 1949 until 1977. The red top refers to buses painted with red roofs. This firm had their own bus tickets printed and was formed in 1949 by a group of Campsie businessman, including Arthur Marrin. They acquired the bus routes 34, 39, and 35, Strathfield to Hurstville, Campsie to Wiley Park and Belmore to Lakemba respectively. By 1950 Red Top had a new bus depot capable of housing 50 buses at Wangee Road, Lakemba. The purchase of more routes continued including No. 26 (Bankstown to Lakemba) and 176 (Bankstown to Punchbowl) as the area was built up from the rapid influx of overseas migrants obtaining jobs in local industries and purchasing land to build houses.
A boon to the company was the opening of the Roselands shopping complex in October 1965 and Red Top buses provided a 5½ day 15-minute frequency between Hurstville and Roselands on route 34. The firm by now was operating on five routes and used heavy duty buses such as Albion, AEC and Leyland, most with half cab bodies which by law required the employment of conductors.
The halcyon days were beginning to wane as cost pressures began to mount despite the Government eventually permitting the use of one-man buses. Higher wages and allowances, tardiness by the Department of Motor Transport to grant fare rises and timetable adjustments, higher prices for tyres, fuel and spare parts and the crippling weekend and penalty rates all ate into the company's profits. As the 1970s approached some of the Red Top Transport directors had died and others were reluctant to invest in updating the fleet which had by this time dropped to 20 vehicles most of which were old. In 1971 Red Top's route Nos 46 and 35 were sold with the last two routes 34 and 39 sold in 1977. Arthur Marrin died in 1978.