City bus

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As a city bus one is inner-city transport system of public transport (public transport), based on the transport bus or trolley bus called. City bus networks initially existed primarily in larger cities. It is an organizational form of public transport that distinguishes between city (or municipality → then referred to as local bus ) and regional transport ( regional bus transport ).

The municipalities are responsible for the organization, financial security and ordering ( tendering ) of the transport services for city transport. In the case of regional routes, on the other hand, the districts or municipal transport or transport service companies operating at the district level are responsible. The lines are now tendered in so-called line bundles , with city networks being considered as independent bundles.

Low-floor city bus at the central transfer point at Almere Centrum station (NL)
City bus stop in Münster


In the history of transport initially developed rail networks ( tram , light railway , local railway ). The power bus as the successor to the horse-drawn bus gained acceptance from the end of the 1890s. Overland and city buses operated in large numbers from the 1920s. City bus systems, i.e. bus networks managed by the cities themselves, emerged only in medium-sized and large cities , mostly as a supplement to trams, underground trains and rapid transit systems . The modes of transport were the supraregional rail or post office administration , regional transport companies ( public utilities , city- owned companies , also electricity companies with trolleybus / tram companies) and private entrepreneurs.

Big city

In large cities, bus routes were generally developed to complement existing rail networks. Buses drove from suburbs like trains directly into the city centers. With the development of the bus networks, additional cross-connections and ring lines were created around inner cities to avoid detours via the centers. (Ring) lines - district buses - and ring lines were developed from the centers out of the centers.

From the 1930s onwards, trams were seen as an obstacle to the flow of traffic. After the construction years as a result of the war events, many trams were shut down from the 1960s, and the era of car-friendly urban planning began. It was the heyday of the trolleybuses, which only lasted a few years in Germany. The development of modern light rail vehicles and the expansion of underground and high-speed trains have given the city bus an important supplementary and distribution function for broken forms of operation . City buses should bring passenger flows to efficient lines (feed function). The routes of the buses, cycle times, travel times and operating times were now based on rapid transit systems, and central connection points ( bus stations ) were built at train stations. The inner-city network system of rail and bus followed - first in Hamburg - the tariff and transport associations.

In addition to the development of converting trams in city centers into underground light rail vehicles, efforts were made to include buses and the like. a. keep out of city centers due to broken traffic. Only a few bus routes with local significance will then remain in the urban transport network. This way went (and go) z. B. Hanover and Cologne .

From the station Sterkrade , a node of the Oberhausen public transport, also operate express bus lines

Different long travel times and frequent use of the lines made subdivisions of the offers sensible. Express or express buses only serve selected stops, direct buses go to residential areas, business centers, exhibition grounds or universities. A Metrobus qualification has been introduced for heavily frequented lines . These connect suburban areas directly with the rapid transit network or, if there are no rail connections, with the city centers and then fulfill functions similar to rapid transit (long operating times , high cycle density , free entry at all vehicle doors). Hamburg has developed its own metro bus network , while Berlin and Braunschweig have combined trams and selected city bus routes into a "metro network".

In larger suburban areas with rapid transit connections, separate district systems were formed (e.g. in the Berlin district of Spandau ). Such sub-networks often start in a star shape from a central district train station. District or district lines serve to develop individual city districts - often referred to as "Kiezbus". The urban area was also served by city buses with close ties to the cities. In addition to this direct suburban connection, there were well-developed intercity bus networks with direct service to the city centers. From the 1970s / 80s, long-distance transport was rebuilt and partially integrated into city networks or qualitatively adjusted to these as a regional bus .


Minibus at Marburg (Lahn) train station in 1972
City bus at the bus station in Hof (Saale)
Call minibus at the
Bad Oeynhausen central bus station

City bus routes already existed in larger medium-sized cities (from approx. 50,000 inhabitants) at the end of the 1920s. Many of these cities had well-developed city bus networks after the Second World War (from 1950s / 60s). With the retreat of small, circular and trams, intercity and city buses took over their transport tasks. The boundaries between rural and urban traffic were fluid, city lines went beyond city limits into the surrounding area, regional lines served city traffic. The main differences were in timing , passenger information and the form of organization (regional or municipal self-administered).

From the beginning of the 1990s, local transport was reoriented. In many medium-sized cities - now also with less than 50,000 inhabitants - their own city bus systems have been developed or existing ones have been adapted to new requirements (cost coverage, competitiveness) and, in some cases, sharply falling passenger numbers. The Dornbirn bus system introduced in October 1991 ( Vorarlberg , → Dornbirn city bus ) developed as a model. The first of these “modern” systems has been in existence in Lemgo in Germany since September 1994 ; it received a great deal of attention at the time and is still a role model today (→ Lemgo city bus ). It was followed a month later by the city of Lindau . In Switzerland, too , the term city ​​bus was popular at this time and bus networks were similarly (re) designed; for example, the Winterthur public transport company has been using it in their new logo since 1983.


Local transport in small towns is traditionally very closely linked to the surrounding towns and communities. A large part of the tasks of inner-city bus transport is therefore taken over by long-distance or regional buses. Individual city bus lines were used to connect larger residential areas or a train station away from city centers. Minibuses were used here very early on , e.g. B. In Plön , large city buses then only run in school traffic .

Around the same time as the introduction of modern city networks in medium-sized towns (mid / late 1990s), bus services were reorganized in small German towns. The focus was on taking over transport services from regional to urban organization. Some cities set up new city lines based on citizen buses (e.g. Espelkamp ). This led to considerable savings for the municipalities, as only vehicles, fuel and organizational costs have to be financed. Another way were special forms of public transport , i. H. the use of call minibuses with frequent intervals (usually every hour). Since these vehicles only actually drive when requested, the mileage driven is significantly reduced (a cycle timetable is offered, but operation is demand-oriented). The aim was to provide a basic supply that would cover costs as much as possible.

There have been attempts to carry out all bus traffic exclusively with dial-a-bus or taxi. The city of Vlotho, for example, started building a minibus network in 2001 that serves all parts of the town by phone only. Almost all regional bus lines were broken or replaced by call lines. This created a clear city network and the costs for the city fell considerably. However, the offer lost a lot of its attractiveness due to regional transfer connections and the additional call effort, and passenger numbers fell overall. In 2010, the network was renewed again, the minibuses were again used largely without prior notice, and the connection to the train station was improved.


A major difference between urban and regional bus is traditional in the line design: city buses as diameter lines of the outskirts through the center to another, or combine as a ring line a plurality of areas with the center. Because of the longer routes in the region, regional buses mostly end at central inner-city transfer points ( ZOB , train station ).

City bus systems are generally only designed to serve an urban area, their task is the inner-city basic supply by a public transport. Traditionally, however, the networks often do not end at city limits, but naturally include the surrounding area. The development of modern medium-sized city bus systems has in some cases led to the thinning of local traffic or its replacement by special forms ( call lines ) - as a result of decreasing passenger numbers but also to organizational responsibilities. Today, these new city lines also increasingly operate across borders and thus take on regional tasks (e.g. in Soest ).

Regional and city bus networks can also be merged. The Osnabrück model has been integrating regional buses into the existing city network since 1998. This can shorten the intervals and increase the bus utilization, at least within the city. The disadvantage, however, is that this increases the travel times of regional traffic due to the intensive use of all urban stops. The regional traffic should be a high-speed traffic because of the long routes (Osnabrück therefore also uses "X" buses with limited entry and exit options in the city area).

Midibus of the city bus Lauf

In the evenings and on weekends (off- peak hours ), large buses are often replaced by smaller vehicles ( midi or minibuses ), and sometimes call lines or shared taxis are used . The line routes can also be adjusted, e.g. B. with ring lines. This creates different line networks for the different traffic times (day, late, early, weekend, night networks). Larger vehicles - including articulated buses or bus trailers - with changed routes are often used in school transport.

City bus systems are always related to regional lines (regional trains, S-Bahn , regional bus lines ): the passengers have to be brought to the train station / central bus station and picked up again from there (establishment of direct connections). In some cities, however, the transition to regional transport is made more difficult, for example to prevent purchasing power from migrating. Only individual lines in the Vechta and Minden systems serve the station; the bus meeting point is far away in the city center. When a modern city bus system was introduced in 2003, the city ​​of Herford (with a frequent train service to the city of Bielefeld ) severely restricted bus service at the station and shortened city and regional lines.

Special features of modern mid-town systems

Bus meeting point Kölner Tor in Erkelenz

The basic concept of modern city bus networks includes a clear operation of all districts or parts of the city and the most direct connections possible in all directions at a transfer point located in the center of the city. As a basis for the implementation of these requirements, the meeting point bus platform was built as a starting point for all lines. It is mostly operated with radial networks based on the model of the urban night bus networks from the 1980s. The aim is to give all branches of the line their own names; this means that all lines start and end at the meeting point. In order to create non-stop connections without having to change trains, a reference to continuous connections can be made in the information system. Alternatively, a bus can also have two names; individual branches can then be combined as required. For example, in the Westphalian town of Rheine , two of the twelve lines running clockwise from the “Busreff” are linked with one another. This is indicated in the timetable notices and the colors in the route network map for the linked routes are always the same.

The prerequisite for these concepts, however, is that there is only one central transfer point in the city (e.g. no remote train station as a second transfer point).

Rendezvous systems

Rendezvous at the Old Market in Herford

Direct connections offer rendezvous concepts based on the clock node principle, also known as all- round connection , collective connection , central connection or night star or night node in night traffic . All vehicles drive to a central transfer hub at the same time. This is often called the Central Transfer Point ( ZUM ), in Lindau and Neu-Ulm, for example, it is called the Central Transfer Point ( ZUP ).

This can involve direct connections within bus traffic or between bus and rail traffic ( rapid transit trains , trams ; ideally with shared platforms). A distinction must be made between rendezvous as a transition from regional to city traffic, as connecting traffic in the suburbs (e.g. rail traffic or Metrobus to suburban lines ) and city bus meeting points. The starting point for rendezvous concepts in medium-sized city networks is the assumption of large volumes of traffic between suburban areas and a high diversification of the traffic flows into many areas that have to be approached separately. High passenger numbers with destinations in the urban core area, as well as a high proportion of short trips in this local area, are bad prerequisites for this (avoidance of broken connections ). Further requirements:

  • there is only one central transfer point (e.g. no train station outside the city center),
  • Connections to regional traffic ( regional train , S-Bahn ) can be guaranteed,
  • the lines are used roughly equally,
  • there are no parallel branches.

If there is a continuous main line (diameter line) - which mostly also serves the train station - many passengers lose time waiting for connections. The rendezvous should then be limited to the secondary lines whose cycle times are based on the main line.

Rendezvous concepts require a lot of space, as each line needs its own stop. This means that bus stations are often required in narrow inner cities. If buses run staggered in time, for example at 5-minute intervals, one stop is sufficient for up to twelve line branches. The environmental pollution (noise, fine dust ) from many buses driving one behind the other at the same time is high. In addition, normal traffic can be impaired, for example by blocking traffic lights for minutes.

Line networks

Feldkirch city bus stop

A city bus network comprises the sub-area of ​​urban public transport (ÖPNV) that is served by buses . These include not only city buses and express buses , metro buses , direct buses , sections of (eg shuttle buses.) Regional bus lines , night buses , minibus - and call lines . City buses are part of the regional transport systems. Their networks and service offerings must therefore fit into the surrounding system of rapid transit systems , regional trains and buses.

In medium-sized cities, new, clear city bus systems with a few lines, easily noticeable regular operation and direct transfer options have recently developed. These systems are predominantly city-oriented: their main task is the transport within an urban area, for example in a core area and from there to suburbs. However, strong links with surrounding communities require continuous lines out of the urban area. Regional buses can also be integrated into city bus networks and take over inner-city bus transport tasks on sections of the route. The integration of regional bus traffic in city networks avoids parallel operations and can serve to condense cycle times (an example of a complete integration is the " Osnabrück model ").

The distances covered by city buses are often short, especially in inner city areas. Since transfer connections are very unattractive for short trips, diameter lines offer great advantages over lines with end points in city centers (e.g. radial networks that are often used in night traffic). Thinly populated parts of the city are served by minibuses (often as call lines). Additional options for attractive offers or special transports (to exhibitions, city festivals) are offered by direct or shuttle buses, express buses and night lines.

Passenger information

City bus Lemgo: information boards at the central meeting point

For information about the offers there are, among other things, network and tariff plans and timetable cards . Electronic passenger information systems provide information at stops and in the vehicles about destination, stops, connections, delays ( dynamic passenger information , DFI).

Line names

Line names are part of the passenger information and provide information about the structure and, in part, about the quality of the offer.

Today, one to three-digit numbers are mostly used, sometimes in combination with letters. In the city bus sector z. B. a "C" Citybus, "CE" CityExpress, "M" Metrobus , "S" / "SB" express bus , "X" Expressbus. The Aachener Verkehrsverbund abbreviates the names of some cities with two letters, for example "EW" for Eschweiler ("EW1" to "EW4"), "HZ" for Herzogenrath and "WÜ" for Würselen .

The lines are color-coded in the line network plans . In the case of star-shaped city networks, a color combination of several line branches (which are then often operated continuously) can provide a better overview. Example: two lines lead from suburbs to the city center; in order to emphasize the star-shape for reasons of clarity, z. B. the line designations 4 and 11 are used, but the operation is (mostly) continuous.

Today city networks are mostly seen separately from regional networks. Within a network area, it should be avoided that different cities use the same line designation. The aim is to achieve quality labeling, better memorability and clarity.

Network plans

For passenger information there are separate network plans for rapid transit trains and all other means of transport in the city area (this sometimes also includes ferries , mountain railways , public lifts, etc.). Since metro buses are intended to complement the rapid transit system and serve districts away from the rapid transit railway, they are included in Berlin's U- and S-Bahn plan . This is also due to the 24-hour operation of the metro buses.

Also in the operation rest propelled the daily lines night buses are part of the city bus service. There are also separate line network plans for these lines, which usually start in a star shape from the city center.

Network plans often contain additional information - e.g. B. cycle and travel times, park-and-ride places ( bike-and-ride ) or tourist offers.

Operational flow

Compared to regional buses, city buses offer a more dense cycle and acceleration measures (e.g. bus lanes, ticket machines , special traffic lights ). Easily noticeable departure times at transfer points - based on regional traffic - facilitate use. Highly frequented lines can be divided qualitatively: parallel express or direct buses only serve selected stops.

As a result of the conductless operation in the 1970s / 1980s, many transport companies in larger cities switched to free entry and exit at all vehicle doors. This freedom of movement led to an increase in the number of fare dodgers . The balance between a return to the flow of passengers with only boarding at the driver and ticket inspection and a fast train-like transport with high effort for frequent ticket inspections is increasingly decided in favor of passenger flow. This creates a big difference between bus and train services ( tram , light rail, etc.) in the operational process, which limits the attractiveness of city bus routes compared to railways.

Corresponding developments also had comparable results in the GDR . From the end of the 1970s, the payment box system was replaced by the exclusive sale of tickets in sales outlets and punching machines in order to counter high numbers of fare dodgers . However, you could no longer ride spontaneously, but had to get tickets (mostly multi-trip tickets) beforehand.

Frequency and operating times

A distinction must be made between operating, cycle and departure times and timetables. There are pure lines everyday, Breakfast buses, commuter traffic -, school bus , tourist routes, night buses (disco, culture buses), Night lines. A clear range of city buses for all tasks with long operating times improves the possibilities of use and the level of awareness is more likely in large cities. A 12- or 40-minute cycle is unfavorable, as the respective departure time is not easy to remember. The integration in an integral interval timetable (ITF) optimally links the rail and city bus traffic.

For operation in the late evening, after midnight and early morning (on Sundays often until 8 a.m. or even 1 p.m.), the network is limited to a few lines - a late-night service line combines several daily lines. Night buses often only run on the nights from Friday to Saturday and before Sundays and public holidays between midnight and 3 a.m., and longer in larger cities. In some cities, early buses are on the way before normal day-to-day operations start. In late and weekend traffic, minibuses , taxis (AST) or dial-a-ride buses can be used.

Bus stop in Zwickau


Central bus stations are comparable to stations: canopy, seating, information systems, departure schedules, information centers, etc. The simple station should also seating, trash, information board, a clear roadmap (design) and possibly a shelter possess. The catchment area of ​​a bus stop can be enlarged with bicycle stands for bike-and-ride - especially used by schoolchildren. Raised curbs are also standard. Stops must be adequately lit in the dark, this also applies to line names and route information on the stop signs.

For modern city bus systems in medium-sized cities, roofed bus platforms are built as a meeting point in a central location. These allow a direct change without wasting time for rendezvous systems . Crossing lanes between stopping buses (see picture Herford) is thus avoided. However, the space requirement is high.


Full advertising on an Aachen city ​​bus

A high level of awareness among the population is important for a city bus network. The buses must therefore be immediately recognizable as city buses and have as high a presence as possible in the cityscape. Large-scale advertising on the vehicles opposes this. For this reason, many transport companies do without vehicles that are completely “taped up” with advertising. This is also considered a quality criterion for tenders and the award of the bundle of routes by the cities. Some municipal transport companies or municipal utilities precisely specify the appearance of the vehicles using color and pattern specifications and logos. The trademark of the Lemgo city bus is, for example, the sky-blue color of the buses and stops.

Special vehicle types of different sizes (articulated, midi, minibuses) are used as city buses - cf. see the article Stadtbus (vehicle) . Particularly noteworthy features are: low entry height and space for luggage, strollers, wheelchairs (extendable or foldable ramp), bicycles, skis (in winter sports areas).

Tariff systems

City bus systems are mostly included in tariff associations . Compared to municipalities in rural areas, however, urban areas are considerably larger. A honeycomb or zone tariff comes up against limits if clear and uniform city tariffs are sought. For larger cities there are therefore often special tariff features, e.g. B. slightly higher individual tariffs ( Münster ) or zone splits only for season tickets ( Hamburg ). The success of city bus networks in Bad Salzuflen or Detmold , for example, is also due to the reduced season tickets offered by the cities ( environmental subscription , 9 o'clock monthly tickets).

Further development

The further development of the city lines leads

  • to special late-night, night and leisure networks (Saturdays from approx. 3 p.m., Sundays)
  • for the integration of regional lines in city bus networks - regional buses take over the tasks of city buses (e.g. city bus Osnabrück )
  • for the qualitative structure:
    • Express or express bus lines (parallel to the normal city bus)
    • Direct buses (e.g. shuttle buses to the exhibition grounds, airport, train station)
    • Metrobus lines as a convenient addition to rapid transit networks or direct connections to the city center (frequent intervals, long operating times: MetroBus Hamburg , Berlin , Munich )
    • Call lines ( taxi bus, call bus, etc.) for lines with little demand in sparsely populated areas at the normal rate or with surcharges,
    • Call collective taxis (AST, ASTax) as a replacement for buses at low-traffic times

The city bus in historical events

Montgomery bus boycott

In 1955, the refusal of American African American civil rights activist Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama to vacate her seat on a city bus for a white passenger led to long and successful anti- segregation protests on US public transport . The Montgomery bus boycott was a key event in the fight against general racial segregation.

Gladbeck hostage drama

In August 1988, the Gladbeck hostage drama lasting several days achieved notoriety in Germany. In this robbery and hostage-taking, two hostage-takers took control of a Bremer Straßenbahn AG city ​​bus and later killed two passengers.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: City bus  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Archived copy ( Memento of the original from April 24, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ". A new name, an innovative concept and a lot of comfort for the passengers: On November 1st, 2003 the joint local transport project of VMR and the city of Herford starts. The Herford city bus takes up seven city bus routes. ” Source: History of VMR (requested on June 20, 2010)
  3. ↑ Run in parallel refers to the catchment area of ​​a line (stops can be reached by walking within five minutes)
  4. In Minden up to 13 buses leave the bus station at the same time. All buses use the same entrance, the lines separate at the intersection in front of the ZOB. This leads to extreme environmental pollution and affects normal traffic.
  5. This procedure is used for the Minden city bus, but there continuous connections going beyond the central bus station are not visible in the timetables (including lines 4/6) [1] .
  6. z. B. Schlossberglift in Graz
  7. See archive Stadtwerke Lübeck 2004: Stadtverkehr Lübeck introduces “controlled entry” .