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Double-Decker Bus, New York City, 1938

Double-Deck Bus on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York City
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_Dn_NC66
 
Document Description
Passengers boarding a double-decker bus on Fifth Avenue near 42nd Street in New York City, July 1938.
 
Questions
Which company operates the bus in the photograph?  What is special about that company?
What forms of transportation did the motor bus replace?
What role did New York City play in utilizing motor buses?
What advantages does a double-decker bus have over a regular bus?
 
Historical Challenges
What was the first city in New York State to replace all streetcars with buses?
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Approximately how many miles does each bus cover in the five boroughs of New York City? (Hint: Use the numbers in the Historical Background passage to find your answer.)
Science: Investigate the differences and similarities of gasoline-powered and electric-powered vehicles.
English Language Arts: Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the horse-drawn omnibus and the motor bus.
 
Resources
Owen, Ann. Taking You Places: A Book about Bus Drivers. Minneapolis, MN: Picture Window Books, 2004. ISBN: 1404800905
Wood, Donald. American Buses. Osceola, WI: MBI Pub. Co., 1998. ISBN: 0760304327
 

Historical Context
The first bus line in the United States started in 1905, when the Fifth Avenue Coach Company began operating gasoline-powered double-decker buses in New York City.  The motor bus quickly replaced the horse-drawn omnibus, which had been used for public transportation since the late 1820s.  Buses became an increasingly popular form of public transportation over the next several decades.  By the 1930s and 1940s, buses had replaced most of the electric trolleys in New York City, as well.  Today, New York City has approximately 5,000 buses and 3,000 miles of bus routes.
 
Essential Question
How does the availability of transportation affect the economic and cultural aspects of a society?
 
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of this technology on the local communities.