Posted in Early Montclair, History

The First Bus lines in Oakland

New Service to Montclair
From Ac Transit Time Sept 1961

In May of 1921, The Key System began to operate motor coach service. The first line opened up on May 16, 1921, to Mills College and a week later on May 21st, service to Montclair began.¹

The Realty Syndicate purchased and paid the bills for the motor coaches, to provide transportation for potential customers to Montclair. The coaches were painted to match the street cars.

There is a little dispute as to which line was first, the Montclair or the Mills College lines  My feeling is a tie that both started in May 1921.

The first tract office was a tent and later it was a small building. The tract office was later moved the triangle piece of land at Mountain Blvd, Antioch St, and Antioch Ct.  Antioch Ct.  The building later became the offices of Winder Gahan, real estate agents in dealing with Montclair.  The original site as seen in photo was located on the opposite side of Moraga Rd (at LaSalle) which is now in the middle of the Warren Freeway (Hwy 13).¹

Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Feb_25__1940_ (1)
Offices of Winder Gahan at Antioch St and Antioch Ct. circa 1942

 The Schedule

During the commuting hours 6am-9am and 5 to 7pm every 20 minutes. During the remainder of the day a 40-minute service. The fare was 6¢ with transfer privileges to street cars.  In 1924 they offered service to run until midnight. Before this bus transportation had been confined to out-of-town service along the highway.

New Terminal – October 1928

In 1928 a new $18,000 Terminal was built in Montclair.  It was located at the corner of Mountain Blvd and La Salle, a short walk to the Sacramento Northern station.  The Spanish Style building was designed by local architect  Hamilton Murdock and was the first building structure in Montclair.  An Architectural Guide – Pg. 276 

The building is still standing and is located at 6206 LaSalle Ave. 6206 La Salle

A Reunion

In September of 1961, a forty-year-old photo led a reunion between to former drivers who pioneered local motor coach service in the East Bay.

J.L. “Marty” Martin started working in May 1921 and C.E. Pehrson started in September of that same year.  The met in Montclair at the approximate site of the first terminal and discuss new verses or coaches and how much things had changed.

AC Tansit newsletter
Sept 1961 – Reunion – Please see link ( 2) below to read online version of this

Various from the Oakland Tribune

    1. Historic Photo of Early Bus Found  Transit Times April 1975
    2. Reunion of early drivers  Transit Times September 1961
    3. More on AC Transit – Transit Times September 1963


I have been an Oakland history buff since going on an Oakland Heritage Alliance Tour of the Fernwood Neighborhood in the Montclair District of Oakland, in the mid-80's. On that tour, I learned that there use to be a train (Sacramento Northern) that ran through Montclair, in the early 1900's and that people lived the area as early as 1860's. I have been hooked ever since. Since then I have spent a lot of time looking into the history of Montclair and I have learned a lot. I feel this will be the best way to get it out of my head and onto paper.

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