From the early 1900s, the Melbourne City Council (MCC) licensed passenger vehicles through its Hackney Carriage Vehicle Committee, both horse drawn and motorised. For motor vehicles, the various categories depended on the number of passengers the vehicles could carry. Those that carried up to 5 passengers were classified as taxis, those that carried up to 7 passengers were motor cabs, and those that carried more than 7 passengers were omnibuses.
Motor cabs came to be licensed for a variety of uses. There were “general” licences which allowed the vehicle to ply for trade through the inner Melbourne Metropolitan area but with set pick up/drop off points within the city. There were other licences to take passengers to sporting events, like the football or the races. And finally, there were motor cabs licensed to run on set routes – mostly in the inner north and west of Melbourne, with a few in the east.
Motor bus routes were largely unregulated until 1925. After that, bus routes were set and only licensed operators could run them. Where patronage was deemed to be not large enough for a bus route, there were applications for motor cab routes. One of these was Motor Cab Route 5, the Victoria Street route. Albert Deveson was an early operator of motor cabs in the area and was running Motor Cab Route 5 in the late 1920s and early 1930s with his sons. Initially, the route ran west from Sydney Road along Victoria Street to Hopetoun Avenue, West Brunswick. In 1934, it was extended east along Albert Street to Nicholson Street, East Brunswick.
Many motor cab routes became bus routes where it was economic. Other motor cab routes simply fell by the wayside with the increase in private motor cars. By 1952, there were just five motor cab routes operating in Melbourne – the Victoria Street route, the Hope Street route, the Canterbury Road route, the Union Street route and a route from Essendon Station to Parkville. All of these achieved bus route status between 1952 and 1954.
On the 8th February 1950, 2 cab licences were transferred from F Lester to John Francis Fleurie. Two weeks later, another cab licence was transferred from A C Tivendale to Mr Fleurie. When, in June 1952, the route became motor bus Route 128A, John Francis Fleurie (1891-1981) and his son, John Harold Fleurie (1916-1975) were awarded the licence.
The bus route – West Brunswick to East Brunswick – ran from Hopetoun Avenue via Albion Street, Melville Road, Victoria Street, Albert Street to Nicholson Street. Initially it ran with the motor cabs but, in 1954, two 16 passenger Cheetham & Borwick bodied Austins were purchased. One of these was sold in 1960 when two new Noreng/Ausdus-bodied Austins arrived, making three buses for the route. The livery was royal blue with a cream, and later, white roof.
The Transport Regulation Board (TRB) prescribed a minimum timetable every 20 mins from 7am to 6:30pm weekdays and 7am to 1pm on Saturdays.
In the route renumbering of 1971, Route 128A became the 507.
When “young” John Fleurie died suddenly while working November 1975, and with his son Kevin at university, John Snr decided to sell the business to Reid’s (6/1/76), who had helped out during a difficult intervening period. The frequency was halved to 40 minutes in the final days of Fleurie, requiring a single bus on the run. This acknowledged the large amount of duplication with Reid’s popular Route 508 (Moonee Ponds – Alphington) service. As a mark of respect Reid’s continued to use the Fleurie livery until John Snr passed away in 1981, with two Comair SB3 Bedfords repainted (although different shades). This also aided in reducing confusion between different routes on the common section of Victoria Street.
Route 507 continued until 1990. The 1987 timetable showed buses every 45 mins in peak periods, but every 32 minutes mid-to-late morning when buses carried locals down to the Sydney Rd shopping precinct. By this stage, the Saturday morning service had been withdrawn.