Most of Johannesburg’s black population lived in townships, situated on the edges of the city and far from their places of work. They relied on public buses, which were often over-crowded, ran late, and were prone to changing routes with little warning. Travellers would have to wait in long queues, and would often spend up to four hours each day commuting. Buses often stopped at a single point, from where commuters had to walk long distances. Despite these discomforts, transport was often the second biggest expense in the family budget, after food.
The first Alexandra Bus Boycott took place in 1940. When the bus company tried to raise fares by a penny, commuters exercised their power in the only way they could – by refusing to use the buses. By 1945, three more bus boycotts had taken place.