The National Building Museum tweeted this morning “Mathematician Blaise Pascal organized the first public bus line in 1662.”
Neat! But awfully vague. I went looking for more details, and found them in a 2008 article from Wired, which explains:
“The system started with seven horse-drawn vehicles running along regular routes. Each coach could carry six or eight passengers. Some sources specify three routes; others say there were six, and that one of them was a circular route.
The Carosses à Cinq Sous, or Five-Penny Coaches, were popular at first, but the novelty soon wore off. The system proved an idea ahead of its time. France was still a feudal society, with the Sun King at its apex. Nobility and gentry were allowed to ride the coaches, but not soldiers and peasants. The bus routes were out of business by 1675.
Regular bus service didn’t return to Paris until the early 19th century. Stagecoaches running short routes also began service around that time in London and New York City.”
So there you have it: Urban bus service in Paris 250 years before anybody thought to try it elsewhere. I wonder if the routes are mapped anywhere, or if that information is lost to history.