The paper provides a novel perspective for the examination of urban public transport (UPT) systems based on a literature review of new institutional economics (NIE). New institutional economics is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary economic perspective which seeks to explain the role of institutions in the performance of socio-economic systems. It encompasses various economic theories including transaction cost economics, agency theory, contract theory and property rights economics. Although NIE-based approaches have been utilised in different sectors and policy areas, management and organisation of UPT systems is a policy area where the implications of NIE-related theories have not been thoroughly explored. UPT systems are complex and involve a variety of transport actors such as transport authorities, regulators, operators and passengers. These actors interact with each other as embedded in an institutional environment which structures the rules, hence determines the incentives, roles and liabilities for the actors. However, previous studies have generally taken this institutional environment as given and have not problematised it. This paper seeks to provide a concise literature review of UPT through the perspective of NIE to delve into the institutional configuration of UPT systems so that an institutional account of UPT is given. An institutional framework is proposed to help structure the current literature on UPT. To explore the applicability of NIE in conceptualising and problematising the issues concerning the management of UPT, the paper attempts to delineate the institutional landscape of UPT. The informal and formal institutions, governance structures and contractual relationships in UPT are examined through the lens of NIE. These institutional levels constitute the building blocks for the institutional arrangement of the UPT systems, and the proposed institutional framework for the analysis of UPT systems reviews and examines each institutional level in a systematic way. The paper explores the potential added-value that NIE provides, identifies the research gaps in the literature, and finally, shows the future avenues for NIE-inspired UPT studies.