Wednesday, June 19, 2024

NEW YORK CITY’S FIRST PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: THE OMNIBUS

In the early 19th century, New York City was a city where everything was developing rapidly. New transportation and houses were appearing, as well as roads and bridges were built. In addition, the first public transportation was introduced to New York City in the early 19th century. In the 21st century, New Yorkers have no idea what their ancestors used to get around the city. Read more at new-york-future.

Traveling by omnibus

The word omnibus is almost unknown in the 21st century. In the first half of the 19th century, the omnibus was called public transportation. It began to appear in the 1830s in various countries of the world. This form of transportation was very popular in the territories of England, France, the Russian Empire, and America.

In particular, the omnibus was a horse-drawn cart. This transportation was designed to accommodate 15 to 20 people. Apart from the cabin, people were often transported on rooftops. The driver of the omnibus sat in the front on a bench.  In its own way, the omnibus was the forerunner of such modern public transportation as the bus. Eventually, the tram, which was a more convenient form of transportation, replaced the omnibus.

People who wanted to get on the omnibus waved their hands. If they wanted to get off the vehicle at a specific place, they would pull a small belt placed in the vehicle’s interior. This belt was attached to the ankle of the omnibus driver. Accordingly, the driver slowed down when he felt the passengers were pulling on the belt.

Omnibus in New York

The omnibus appeared in New York City in 1829. That was the first public transportation in the rapidly developing city. The initiator of creating such public transportation in New York City was local entrepreneur Abraham Brower. Previously, he was involved in the successful organization of volunteer fire brigades in New York City. The very first route of the omnibus was straight down Broadway.

In the middle of the 19th century, carriers had to obtain the appropriate permission from the city authorities to carry out transport by omnibus. In addition, the government issued permission to organize omnibus transportation along a specific route. For the most part, in 19th-century New York City, omnibus transportation was handled by companies that had previously operated freight transportation.

In a short time, such public transportation as the omnibus has become an integral part of New Yorkers. It was hard to imagine life without it in the middle of the 19th century. 

New York City became the first American city where such public transportation as the omnibus emerged. After the successful launch of the Broadway public transportation line, the omnibus appeared:

  • In 1830 in the city of Philadelphia
  • In 1835, in the city of Boston
  • In 1844, in the city of Baltimore.

In parallel with the omnibus, another type of public transportation was launched in New York City in 1832. That was a horse-drawn tram. It was running in Manhattan.

The tram ran along the first railway built and followed a strict route. Unlike omnibuses, the tram was a more capacious public transportation. Moreover, traveling by tram was not as bumpy as traveling by omnibus.

For a long time, omnibuses and horse-drawn trams were the only public transportation in New York City. But technological progress in New York City has never stood still, so shortly after, this form of transportation disappeared from the city streets forever. It was replaced by new, modern public transportation, such as steam locomotives, trolleybuses and subways.

The last time New York City’s horse-drawn public transportation ran down Broadway was in 1917.

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