The first bus routes in the Canberra area commenced around 1922, and were from camps to worksites, and school services for the transport of school children to Telopea Park School.
The first defined bus route in 1925 was between the two residential areas – Ainslie and Eastlake – and the only available shopping centre at Queanbeyan.
In February 1928, a new consolidated route system was introduced, with a route numbered system. All routes travelled between the terminus at the Canberra Railway Station at Kingston, and Corroboree Crescent in Ainslie. The routes were:
- Route 1: Via Capital Theatre, Griffith, Arthur Circle, Westlake, Acton, Doonkuna Street, and Hotel Ainslie.
- Route 2: Via Griffith, Hotel Wellington, Canberra Post Office, Hotel Canberra, Doonkuna Street, and Hotel Ainslie.
- Route 3: Via Wentworth Avenue, Hotel Kurrajong, Canberra Post Office, Hotel Canberra, Doonkuna Street, and Hotel Ainslie.
- Route 4: via Wentworth Avenue, Brisbane Avenue, Hotel Kurrajong, then per Route 1.
In 1931, an experimental service was introduced to Duntroon.
In 1937, the Ainslie (Northern) Terminus was extended to Cowper Street, North Ainslie.
In May 1947, an extension of the Southern end of the run to Narrabundah was completed.
In March 1948, new routes were introduced, together with a revision of existing services. The routes remained as a Kingston to Ainslie route, with seven intermediate routes on the south side of the City centre, and four variations on the north side. The route variations, with their designations, were:
- A – via Acton
- B – via Commonwealth Avenue Bridge
- F – via Farrer Street, Braddon
- R – via Euree Street, Reid
- T – via Turner
- 1 – via Manuka, Forrest, Deakin, State Circle
- 2 – via Manuka, Forrest, National Circuit, Barton
- 3 – via Griffith, Manuka, Forrest, National Circuit, Barton
- 4 – via Griffith, Manuka, Forrest, Deakin, State Circle
- 5 – via Griffith, Manuka, Barton
- 6 – via Manuka and Barton
- 7 – via Wentworth Avenue
South routes commenced, in some instances, from Narrabundah, the Causeway, or the Railway Station before arriving at Kingston Shopping Centre. As before, the terminus of a particular journey was shown on the side destination indicator only, and the code for the trip shown on the front. For example, a bus displaying 2AR on the front would be travelling from Kingston to the spot nominated on the side (usually Ainslie), via Manuka, Forrest, National Circuit, and Barton (Route 2) to Civic via Acton (A) then via Reid (R).
In addition, school runs operated to the COtter River, and trips were worked to Westridge (Yarralumla) and Duntroon, with peak hour trips twice daily from Barton direct to the Commonwealth offices on the opposite side of the Molonglo River, via Scotts Crossing.
In May 1956, the area being built up as a residential district between Reid and the Royal Military College at Duntroon, up to then known by the general name of Duntroon, was renamed Campbell. The bus service continued to use the name Duntroon as its destination, as most trips continued through Campbell to the Military College. In January 1959, the industrial service to Fyshwick was diverted through Campbell to augment the service to this area.
With the advent of the AEC Reliances in the bus fleet in March 1956, a new system of route numbering had been introduced. The new system replaced the alphabetical codes with numbers. There were about 30 numbers in use, most referring to a combination of route variations on the north and south sides of the river. One of the exceptions was Route 13, which ran from Deakin to Yarralumla and Kingston.
O’Connor, previously on a route variation of Ainslie, was served by a bus that usually terminated on Scrivener Street in O’Connor. The route numbers were 29, 30, 31 and 33, depending on the route traversed on the south side of the river. In December 1958, this group of routes was extended from the terminus in Scrivener Street into the new suburb of Lyneham, terminating in Wattle Street, adjacent to the present shopping centre. This was the first deviation from the basic Ainslie to Kingston system.
Concurrently, the Ainslie Route 27 was diverted from Ainslie shopping centre into another new suburb, Dickson. The outer terminus remained at Hawdon Street in Ainslie, with Ainslie shops continuing to be served by Routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 20.
August 1959 saw two more extensions to the route network. Lyneham routes 29 and 30 were extended to Archibald Street, the furthest extent of that suburb. Route 31 was altered to a limited stop service to the City. A new terminus was established at Red Hill, and was used as a departure point for buses to the City, via Monaro Crescent and Kingston.
In 1960, routes were extended from Ainslie to the developing suburbs of Downer, Hackett, and Watson.
Work associated with the construction of Lake Burley Griffin removed Acton (Canberra Hospital) from the through routing system in 1962, with the area later receiving its own bus service.
1962 saw the first of the south western suburbs, Hughes, being occupied. By June 1966, homes were occupied in Hughes, Curtin, Lyons, Garran, Chifley, and Mawson. The bus service followed into each of these suburbs, reaching the Chifley terminus in September 1966. It was extended to Pearce in March 1967, and Torrens in August 1967.
During March 1967, a new route numbering system was introduced:
- Route 1: Red Hill – Manuka – City
- Route 2: Red Hill – Manuka – Kingston
- Route 3: Narrabundah – Kingston – City
- Route 4: Causeway – Kingston – City
- Route 5: Acton – CIty
- Route 6: Narrabundah – Kingston – City (via Canberra Ave)
- Route 7: Kingston – City
- Route 8: Narrabundah – City via McMillan Crescent
- Route 9: Narrabundah – Kingston via Route 8
- Route 10: Narrabundah – City via Tallara Parkway
- Route 11: Narrabundah – Kingston via Route 10
- Route 12: Yarralumla – Manuka – Kingston
- Route 13: Yarralumla – Kingston – Manuka
- Route 14: Yarralumla – City
- Route 15: Garran – Hughes – Deakin – City
- Route 16: Garran – Hughes – Deakin – Manuka – City
- Route 17: Chifley – City via Curtin
- Route 18: Pearce – City (became Torrens – Pearce – City in August 1967)
- Route 24: Watson – Downer – City
- Route 25: Watson – Dickson – CIty
- Route 26: Lyneham – City (via Tate St)
- Route 27: Ainslie – Dickson – City
- Route 28: Hackett – Ainslie – City
- Route 29: Lyneham – City (via Boldrewood St)
- Route 30: Lyneham – City (via Barton Hwy)
- Route 31: Lyneham – City (via Wattle St)
- Route 32: Russell – Campbell – CIty
- Route 33: Kingston – Kings Ave – Ainslie – Watson or Hackett
- Route 34: Fairbairn – Duntroon – Campbell – City
Further extensions to the route network followed the opening of Woden Valley and Belconnen. The new Belconnen service, Route 40, commenced on 5 February 1968, travelling as far as Macquarie, via Aranda. This service commenced from the corner of Miller and Scrivener Streets in O’Connor, with passengers required to transfer to Route 26 or 29 to travel to the City. In March 1968, a new system of Woden Valley routes commenced, with suburban routes from Torrens and Farrer terminating at Woden Interchange. Passengers could transfer to Route 16 to travel to the City.
The Belconnen service was extended to Scullin on 23 December 1968, and in November 1970, Route 40 commenced from the City and travelled direct to Belconnen. In February 1971, Route 41 was introduced, operating from the City to Latham via Cook, Weetangera, and Higgins. Route 40 was extended to Beaurepaire Crescent in Holt, and travelled via Jamison Centre and Cook.
With the opening of the Belconnen suburbs of Evatt, Flynn, and Melba, an interchange was established at Higgins in 1970, adjacent to the shops. Routes 42 and 43 were introduced. Route 16 was extended from the City to Higgins, marking the start of the intertown route. Routes 40 and 41 continued to travel direct to the City, but crossed at Higgins. On the opening of the College of Advanced Education at Bruce in February 1970, a mini bus shuttle service operated between Aranda and the CCAE. This service was changed from Aranda to Jamison – CCAE in March 1971.
In September 1974, a reorganisation of the Belconnen bus routes resulted in two new routes. Route 44 from Higgins to Spence, and Route 47 from the City to Bruce via Turner, O’Connor, and Aranda. Route 40 was extended to Archdall St in Macgregor, Route 41 to Dalley Crescent in Latham, and Route 42 to Copland Drive in Evatt. In 1979, Belconnen’s routes were further revised, with Routes 45 (Charnwood), 49 and 50 replacing 40 and 41 beyond Higgins Interchange. With the opening of Giralang, a service to the City via Barton Highway was introduced as Route 48.
In September 1969, Route 18 was introduced to provide a service between Weston to Woden Interchange via Hindmarsh Drive. In July 1970, Route 18 was diverted to travel via Lyons, Weston, and Waramanga. In December 1970, Route 19 was introduced from Woden to Rivett. In September 1971, Route 20 was introduced, servicing Duffy, Holder, and Weston to Woden Interchange. Route 21 was introduced in 1971 from Woden Interchange to the new terminus on Hindmarsh Drive, via Lyons, Weston, Holder, and Duffy. Route 14 also commenced from Woden Interchange to the Hindmarsh Drive terminus, common to routes 14, 18, 19, 20 and 21, via Waramanga (part of Route 18), Fisher, Stirling, and Rivett.
In June 1974, with the opening of Kambah, Route 22 was introduced from Woden. Route 25 commenced in June 1975 and travelled to Woden via Weston Creek. Both routes extended into Wanniassa in February 1976.