How do you pronounce a bus route number?

The other week somebody on Facebook made a divisive comment – “If you refer to a bus number as its numerical value rather than as single digits, you’re what is wrong with this world”. So how do you pronounce a bus route number?

Updated signage at the Sunshine station bus interchange following the introduction of route 429

I posed that very question on a bus spotting discussion group years ago.

How do people pronounce route numbers – for example 215 as “two one five”, “two fifteen” or “two hundred and fifteen”?

And came to the following conclusions…

They’re normally spelt out as digits, like “two three seven”.

Transdev buses #1157 BS05DP and #705 1762AO on route 237 at Southern Cross Station

Four one one“.

Westrans bus #102 rego 5932AO on a route 411 service along Buckley Street in Footscray

“Six oh five”.

CDC Melbourne bus #123 7513AO on route 605 crosses Queens Bridge

Or “seven three three”.

Ventura bus #1049 BS00NS southbound on route 733 along Clayton Road, Clayton

But for round numbers, it’s “two hundred”.

Transdev bus #1133 BS05AI on route 200 along Johnstone Street, Fitzroy

“Two fifty”.

National Bus #526 4036AO northbound on Queensbridge Street with a route 250 service

Or “Four twenty”.

Sita bus on route 420 along Glengala Road, Sunshine

Out in the sticks

Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo bus route numbers are all low numbers, like “one”.

Trio of CDC Geelong buses at the Moorabool Street interchange

And “twenty five”.

CDC Geelong bus #168 BS04MG on route 25 at Geelong station

And on trams

The same logic applies for one and two digit tram route numbers, like “eight”.

Passengers swarm Z3.223 on route 8 outside South Yarra station

And “forty eight”.

A2.272 heads east on route 48 at Victorian Harbour

The exception being the three digit route “one oh nine”.

C.3026 arrives at the route 109 terminus at Port Melbourne

Further reading

There is a logic to the way route numbers are assigned to Melbourne buses and trams.

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6 Responses to “How do you pronounce a bus route number?”

  1. Peter Parker says:

    I’ve heard 411 and 412 pronounced as ‘four eleven’ and ‘four twelve’.

    This may be because eleven and twelve have their own words (like zero to ten) as we don’t call them firsteen & secondteen.

    Thirteen to nineteen also have their own words but are a bit less unique. However they are still one word (ie nineteen versus twenty nine).

    Haven’t done any surveys but I wouldn’t be surprised if you find that routes ending in n11 – n19 are less likely to be pronounced in individual digit form.

    Hence ‘four nineteen’ rather than ‘four one nine’. Or ‘five thirteen’ rather than 513. Although this pronunciation also sounds like a time.

    Hence route numbers with teens might be pronounced treated like other single word numbers (eg your 250 example).

    Obliquely related is that in some cases (Eg Brimbank and Wyndham) where there have been large scale bus network reforms, routes ending in 0 have tended to be more frequent all day or at least more direct than the others (eg 150, 160, 170, 180, 190, 420). That was deliberate. Some older routes eg 220, 250, 510, 630, 670 & 800 also fall into this category. Ditto for former routes like 560 & 700.

    Would also be interesting to see if anyone uses zero rather than ‘oh’ in numbers. It would sound like something a robot would do.

  2. Mick says:

    Always pronounced route numbers like 767 as seven six seven. One round number such as 701 it was pronounced seven o one. With two zeros,ie 700 it was pronounced as the seven hundred. Remember a few bus route numbers from where I grew up. 822 767 821 811 812 635 824 636 700 701 702.

  3. Jimmy says:

    I’ve always have called xxx as
    3 11, 3 22, 4 59, 7 24, 2 16, 2 oh5 and if 2 digit 25,16,75

  4. I’ve never thought about it and it is quite interesting. When we had a bus service, we might catch a two one six home, or a two twenty or if there wasn’t a bus, we would catch a much busier seventy two tram. While we may have once caught the one oh nine, we also could one one two, which I guess is the same.

    Are you making a joke about how bus and tram route numbers are allocated? There may have once been. But how can you have can route 3, no 4 (I know the historical reason), route 5, route 6 then route 72 and then route 8? Just because Camberwell tram depot ran route 7 but also ran route 70 and 75, it was changed to 72. The whole tram route numbering system needs to be sorted out into something logical and meaning to users, as does the ridiculous stop number system.

    • Jimmy says:

      Base the tram numbering system from the city streets

      Swanston 1-19
      Elizabeth 20-29
      William 30-39
      Flinders 40-49
      Collins 50-59
      Bourke 60-69
      La Trobe 70-79

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