The earliest bus companies often actually used large automobiles or limousines, and were often known as "auto stage" companies. These were often sole proprietorships owning only one vehicle, or partnerships or family companies. And over the years, these companies were acquired or merged into the larger Greyhound or other companies. Information is not always easily available for the early bus companies. But between 1914 and 1929, all states except Delaware began regulating motor transportation. A bus company could only operate a route, if it was granted a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity by the regulatory commission in that state.
Early Certificates of Convenience and Necessity
The state regulatory commissions generally issued reports, identifying each Certificate of Convenience and Necessity issued. Although the availability of such reports varies from state to state, and the availability of such information in the reports also varies. This link only offers such information for a few sample states. But nevertheless, the information does provide an interesting picture, on how the bus networks evolved. The various state regulatory commissions also regulated railroads and utilities. Each Certificate of Convenience and Necessity often was assigned a number, the numbering systems generally varied between states and were sometimes also used for railroads and utilities.
For many states however, such information is not available beyond the 1920's. One interesting resource for later information is the 1952 "Mass Transportation's Directory", offering an interesting "snapshot", of what obscure bus companies had existed then. And that resource is referenced on a few pages at this section. Many of these lines came and went, and the listings in a Mass Transportation's Directory for a different year presumably will have a number of differences.
Another resource is the American Guide Series, the series of state guidebooks published in the late 1930's and early 1940's as part of the WPA Federal Writers Project.
Another great resource listing obscure bus companies, is the Transit Badges web site. Transit badges are the main focus for that web site. But there are listings of many additional obscure bus companies, especially from the 1920's and other decades, whose existence might otherwise remain unknown.
The state regulatory commission reports and the Mass Transportation's Directory also mention local bus services, along with bus services of a suburban or interurban nature. In certain densely populated areas, the distinction is not always clear between suburban, interurban and intercity.
While intrastate motor transportation was generally all regulated by 1929, interstate motor transportation was not regulated until passage of the Federal Motor Carrier Act of 1935. This act gave the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) the authority to regulate bus routes providing interstate service.
In some situations, multiple bus companies might have operated along a same given highway. But only one company might have had local intrastate authority from the state regulatory agency. Other companies might have operated "closed door" over certain route segments, or had only interstate authority from the ICC.
In 1927, as the intercity bus industry was developing, Russell's Guides began publishing the monthly "Russell's Official National Motor Coach Guide", primarily for bus travel and ticket agents, and containing all intercity bus schedules throughout the United States and Canada. This was the bus equivalent of the "Official Guide of the Railways". Various issues of the Russell's Guide were used for information on historic bus companies, since the 1940's. For many independent bus companies, the assumed years in operation are based on when they were listed in the Russell's Guide. Unfortunately, some companies were not always consistently listed in the Russell's Guide.
Many early bus lines evolved from and replaced electric interurban railways, which had been developed in many parts of the country. Many interurban railways were basically extensions of the local streetcar systems, and their replacement bus lines were of a more local nature. While some interurban railways, and their replacement bus lines, were more of an intercity nature.
Included at each link below is an overview map for each state, showing the intercity bus routes listed in the January 1976 Russell's Guide. Not shown are certain bus systems listed, which were of a more suburban or metropolitan nature. This was several years before passage of the Bus Regulatory Reform Act of 1982. This federal legislation deregulated the bus industry, resulting in the discontinuance of many routes, especially of a more local nature. This deregulation has made it possible for the bus route network to evolve more dynamically, and making the history in more recent years too complicated to further document here.
The overview maps are followed by links covering the histories of the bus companies. Generally for the Trailways and independent bus companies, scanned maps from various issues of the Russell's Guide are included. The Russell's Guide did not include such maps from most of the Greyhound companies. But route histories for most Greyhound companies were well documented in articles in various issues of the magazine "Motor Coach Age", published by the Motor Bus Society. And this information provides the basis for the descriptions of the main historic routes for the Greyhound companies. Including the most significant earlier companies, which became part of the Greyhound companies.
Information on the Russell's Official National Motor Coach Guide.
To provide a complete history of intercity buses, would be a project too huge to undertake. So this information is provided more as an overview. Many bus companies added routes and discontinued routes throughout their histories. For independent bus companies, generally their original routes routes are mentioned. Some bus companies evolved throughout their histories, to where they ceased operations with route networks completely different from how they started.
The smaller companies included are generally those which are included in the July 1942 Russell's Guide or the 1952 Mass Transportation's Directory, and their predecessor and successor companies. Included are the years of operation, which before 1942 are usually not known. Bus companies were not always listed in the Russell's Guide with consistency, possibly resulting in some inaccuracies.