Modesto Area Express
On September 19, 1927, the City of Modesto launched its first transit service (known as City Transit Company), which was a privately owned enterprise with one bus. City Transit Company ran on a 30-minute schedule and soon added two additional twenty-passenger buses to serve the entire City. In May 1928, the service also began allowing children under the age of ten to ride free when accompanied by an adult. However, the system struggled to be profitable and had difficulty keeping liability insurance as required by the City.
In September 1932, the operating franchise was transferred from City Transit Company to a new owner, now to be known as the Modesto Motor Bus Service. The Modesto Motor Bus Service operated through World War II and ridership peaked at one million rides in 1945 when automobiles and gasoline were in short supply.
In 1946, the Modesto Motor Bus Service purchased three new transit buses with the engines in the rear. With these new, more comfortable, and faster transit buses, Modesto Motor Bus Service expanded service to cover the east and west sides of greater Modesto.
In 1955, the Modesto Motor Bus Service further expanded to include additional areas without public transportation. For the first time, the Greater Modesto area now had a consolidated transportation service. The operation was set up on four routes in a cloverleaf pattern.
During this time of transit growth, local bus schedules were printed in booklet form (containing not only the timetables but maps of each route as well). Also in 1955, negotiations started with City officials for the installation of bus stop benches for the convenience of passengers. As an extra added service to its passengers, timetables were painted right on the benches.
In the late 1960s, the City became directly involved with public transit in an attempt to maintain the profitability of the private transit company. By 1968, the buses used by Modesto Motor Bus Service were old and unreliable, requiring a high level of expensive maintenance. The City obtained a federal grant to purchase four new buses, which it turned over to the private company to replace its aging fleet. The new buses reduced operating expenses and attracted new riders which enabled the company to stay in business.
However, by 1973, the Modesto Motor Bus Service could no longer continue profitably. No buyers were interested in acquiring the business and it was about to shut down when the City concluded that public transportation was too important. The City acquired the service, rebranding it as Intracity Transit (IT). At the time the City acquired the service, it was carrying only a few hundred thousand riders per year.
The City continued to invest in public transportation, and in 1990 Modesto Area Express (MAX) was adopted as the new name to replace Intracity Transit. Today, MAX serves approximately 2.6 million passengers annually and operates daily (except holidays). The total MAX Bus Fleet is made up of 61 buses; five of them are battery-electric zero-emission Proterra buses and four are over-the-road MCI commuter coaches that operate on the ACE and BART Express routes. MAX buses travel over 1.8 million revenue service miles per year.
In addition to fixed-route transit service, MAX also operates the Modesto Area Dial-A-Ride (Paratransit Service), also known as MADAR. On September 19, 2019, transit service in the Modesto area will be 92 years old.
Special Thanks To: Janet Lancaster- Historian, Research at McHenry Museum/
Laura Mesa at McHenry Museum/
Dana Sanchez- City of Modesto City Clerk’s Office