Melbourne's buses continue to act as important feeders for the fixed-rail public transport network. Buses first appeared in Melbourne streets in the form of horse buses, provided by hotel-keepers in search of custom. In 1844 two Brighton publicans had horse buses on the run between Melbourne and Brighton. Other publicans did likewise, and by 1860 Melbourne had 28 horse bus lines radiating from Bourke Street to various suburbs. The Melbourne Omnibus Co., under the promotion of F.B. Clapp, Henry Hoyt and William McCulloch, brought a new standard to the city's horse buses in 1869, using a new type called the Broadway Stage. At first it imported these but it later made them at its own stables in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Most of its lines had their city terminus at Flinders Street Railway Station. The company continued in public transport when it replaced most of its horse bus services with cable trams. In Town life in Australia (1883), R.E.N. Twopeny commented that 'Nowhere do omnibuses drive a more thriving trade than in Melbourne, and they deserve it, for they are fast, clean, roomy and well managed'.
Motor buses reached significant numbers in the early 1920s as ex-servicemen with transport experience began running on any route they thought would provide patronage. Keen competition between rival operators and between bus and tram crews sometimes led to fisticuffs. Government regulation (and taxation) began with the Motor Omnibus Act 1925, when almost 50 routes within Melbourne were recognised.
The Melbourne Metropolitan Tramways Board also ran buses on some routes, including the double-decker buses that replaced Melbourne's last cable trams, on the Bourke Street-Northcote route. Those buses ran from 1940 until 1955, when they were replaced by electric trams.
With the creation of The Met in 1983, private buses were incorporated into the one-ticket system but continued in private ownership, retaining their names and local identities. One of the longest-established was Ventura Bus Lines, which Harry Cornwall started in 1924, with a 14-seater bus running between Box Hill and the city. Among bus operators to retain the founder's name were Dysons, started by Laurie Dyson, who in 1952 bought four clapped-out buses and a run between Regent station and Janefield Sanitorium. Other surviving family names in 2004 were Davis, Driver, Grenda, Kefford, McHarry, Mackenzie, Martyr, and Mee.
After the election of the Kennett Government in 1993, some government bus services were sold to private operators. As well as providing services within the Melbourne metropolitan area, some proprietors also operated buses on interstate, provincial and rural services. In the 1980s and 1990s, buses replaced train services on many routes to and from Melbourne.