Open main menu

Night service (public transport)

  (Redirected from Night bus service)

A night bus operated by Kowloon Motor Bus in Hong Kong

A night service or an owl service is a public transport service which operates through overnight hours, while most people are asleep. Many cities operate such services, mainly using buses but in certain cases using trams (or streetcars), either in addition to or in substitution for ordinary daytime services or rapid transit rail services which may shut for maintenance or due to lack of passenger volumes at night.

Night-based services may be differently branded compared to daytime services, such as in London, where overnight buses are prefixed with an "N" for "night". Another common way of distinguishing them from their daytime counterparts are dark-colored line numbers. Some cities apply a different fare structure from their daytime services. There are also services that allow users to alight at a requested place of stopping rather than at specific locations, in deference to passenger concerns about safely walking long distances in the dark.


A tram operating a night route in Prague

24-hour, continuous rapid transit operation is practiced in some cities, most notably the subway in New York City, which essentially renders night services unneeded. Many of New York City's buses also have 24-hour operation; and around the world, night services may be provided by virtue of 24-hour services on daytime routes, as does Berlin on its "Metrotram" routes.

Where they exist, night service is generally much more limited in geographic coverage than daytime services, with fewer lines and routes over entirely different paths to daytime services; or the night terminus may be in a different place. Networks may run longer routes than daytime services, sometimes combining two or more daytime routes, which may use interchanges to reach the same outlying districts. Night services usually also run less frequently. For example, according to the MTA New York City Transit Service Guidelines Manual, New York City buses are required to operate at least every 30 minutes all times except late nights. Local bus frequencies during late night times (defined as 1 a.m.-5 a.m.) are required to operate at least every 60 minutes. [1]

Because of much longer intervals between services than during the day, night routes often offer guaranteed transfers to other lines or transit modes (such as regional and intercity rail). To ease planning, many cities use a central hub where all lines converge at a specific time. This makes the line map of many night services look like a wheel with radial lines to the center and some additional lines connecting the outer ends (or running along a ring road outside of the city center).[example needed]

In popular cultureEdit

  • London night buses were the inspiration for the Knight Bus found in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter book and film series.
  • The Chicago Surface Lines owl service was mentioned in a number of poems by Carl Sandburg:
    • "Old Woman" (1916): "The owl-car clatters along, dogged by the echo..."
    • "Blue Island Intersection" (1922): "The owl car blutters along in a sleep-walk."
    • "Nights Nothings Again" (1922): "A taxi whizzes by, an owl car clutters, passengers yawn reading street signs..."
  • In act II, scene 2 of the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Mitch tells Blanche how he'll get home: "I'll walk over to Bourbon and catch an owl-car."
  • The 1997 Swedish film Nattbuss 807 depicts an incident in a night bus.[2]
  • A 2007 Italian noir-comedy film directed by Davide Marengo was entitled Night Bus.
  • The Randy Travis song "Three Wooden Crosses" depicts a night bus travel.[3]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Nattbuss 807". Svensk filmdatabas. 1997. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  3. ^ Joyce Mancinelli (20 December 2017). "Religion in Modern Music by Ian McDonald". Saint Oswald's Anglican Church. Retrieved 2 November 2018.

External linksEdit