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How to Read a Bus Schedule

Posted by Chad Cushman
May 11, 2015 10:15:33 AM

A bus schedule comes in handy when trying to figure out your trip’s starting point, connections, destinations, and estimated times. Although not every schedule includes a map for you to visualize your route, each will include the times and location of arrivals and departures. Many schedules seem overwhelming at first glance, but they are actually quite simple to read – and even easier to use. Here’s a quick guide to how to read a bus schedule.



  Route Name. The name of the route is the first thing you will see on a bus schedule. The route will be the names of cities or areas the bus is traveling to and from.

  • The schedules in this route cover the cities of Bay City, Flint, Pontiac, Southfield and Detroit.

numbers-02Schedule Number. You will always find a schedule number to go along with the route name. The schedule number is often confused with the run number. Many different buses operate under the same schedule number; but, each of these buses has a different run number.

  • This schedule number is 1492.

numbers-03Run Number.  The run number is used for many reasons but primarily for tracking and dispatch purposes. For the bus company this number allows dispatchers to track the location of the bus at all times. For passengers run numbers show the different arrival and departure times.

Runs on the left read from top to bottom. Runs on the right read bottom to top. Schedules in italics are connecting schedules to other buses.

  • Example: Bus with run number 43 will leave Flint, MI at 4:20 p.m., and arrive in Pontiac, MI at 5:10 p.m. Route 41 will leave Flint, MI at 9:30 a.m., and arrive in Pontiac, MI at 10:20 a.m.

numbers-04Location. As with any bus route, there are multiple arrivals and departures along the way. Locations tell passengers where they are leaving from or headed, and are usually in the “City, State” format. Locations that are in bold caps and/or have an upward facing triangle to the left of the name are full-service stations. Locations that are in light title caps are full-service stations with limited hours.

numbers-05Arrival or Departure. Next to each location (on this schedule, found on both the left and the right), you will find either “Ar” or “Lv.” These abbreviations are used to designate when the bus is arriving or leaving the specified location.

numbers-06Time. Times are noted for locations where the bus will make a stop. You will find a series of dots in the time column if a bus is not scheduled to stop at a location along the route.

  • Example 1: Run number 43 will leave St. Ignace, MI at 8:50 a.m. and arrive in Alpena, MI at 11:12 a.m. Run number 42 will leave Alpena, MI at 9:13 p.m. and arrive in St. Ignace at 11:33 p.m.
  • Example 2: Bus with run number 41 starts in Flint, and leaves Flint at 9:30 a.m. With multiple stops in between, the bus will arrive in Detroit – where that bus schedule ends – at 11:15 a.m. From there, passengers have the option of connecting with Greyhound to Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and other destinations.
  • Note: Not all connections are listed on the schedule and passengers can always connect to any other transit company with service to their desired destination.

numbers-07Connecting Schedules. While some bus routes only travel to certain locations, many locations offer connections to other routes so that passengers can reach their destination of choice. Connecting schedule times are shown in italics.

numbers-08Key. Schedules that use abbreviations and symbols likely include a key at the bottom of the schedule. The key helps the reader understand different abbreviations that are used to help keep the schedule brief and concise.

  • This key uses light and bold type for a.m. and p.m., and abbreviations for different connecting bus lines, and on-call and discharge-only schedules.

Companies do their best to maintain scheduled times although occasionally there are changes. Reading a bus schedule might seem intimidating at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. With a schedule in hand and the necessary details at your fingertips you’ll be prepared to schedule your next bus trip.

View our map and schedules here.

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