NY bus line's closure hits riders, business

Updated: 2013-03-13 10:50

By Liu Yuhan in New York (China Daily)

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 NY bus line's closure hits riders, business

The ticket office of Fung Wah Bus Transportation in Chinatown of New York has been closed since it failed to meet safety requirements of US authorities. Liu Yuhan / China Daily

For Thoufique, who works at a Dunkin' Donuts on Canal Street in lower Manhattan next to Fung Wah Bus Transportation, it has meant a loss of hundreds of customers. To Xiaofeng Wan, a second-year graduate student at Boston College, it may mean fewer trips to New York City.

Last month's order by the US Department of Transportation that Boston-based Fung Wah had to take its buses off the road because of safety violations has hit not just the company, but thousands of people who paid $15 for a one-way ticket of the carrier's New York-Boston route and businesses near the company's Chinatown office.

The safety violations included cracked bus frames, oil leaks and faulty lights and drivers who used excessive speed. The order was issued almost one year after federal officials closed 26 other discount-bus companies in a crackdown after a series of accidents, including a crash in the New York City borough of the Bronx in 2011 that killed 15 people.

Fung Wah's $15 one-way ticket can be about three to four times cheaper than other major bus carriers such as Greyhound or Peter Pan. Only one Chinatown-based bus service, Lucky Star, around the corner from Fung Wah, still provides roundtrip New York to Boston service. It charges $25 for a trip to Boston and $20 to New York.

"For me, it's indeed bad news because I simply don't want to spend 50 bucks every time to New York City," Wan said. "As a student who has limited money to spend on travel, I'd prefer the $15 bus service. If they cut off all cheap bus services, I might travel less to New York City."

Wan said the majority of his Chinese and American friends at Boston College and many other colleges and universities in Boston, choose Chinese bus services, either Fung Wah, or other low-priced companies.

"From Friday to Sunday, we usually have about 300 to 500 customers every day, many of whom are passengers waiting for their buses," said Thoufique, the Dunkin' Donuts worker, who declined to give his last name. "But since it's closed, the number of our customers also goes down to about 200 on those days."

Other Chinatown-based bus operators said they are afraid that more strict safety inspections from the Transportation Department will hurt their operations.

"We're already under inspection," said Wang, who declined to reveal his full name and that of his bus company. My biggest fear is that the whole Chinatown industrial chain will be facing thorough inspection."

He said his company was started in 2003, and operates 10 to 12 buses each day from New York to Washington and Virginia.

"They can punish a driver for his furious driving or other irresponsible behavior, or the few companies that don't comply certain rules, but it'll be unfair to revoke all our licenses," he said.

Fung Wah may still have a chance to resume operations if it passes the federal safety inspections, but Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for the US Transportation Department's Federal Motor Coach Safety Administration, said the bus operator is still under investigation and will have very high threshold to show it can comply with federal regulations.

Meanwhile, some bus operators said they have seen business increase since Fung Wah was ordered off the road.

"We have had more passengers looking to travel, especially on the days after Fung Wah shut down service," said a staff member of Peter Pan Bus Lines, a Massachusetts-based long-distance carrier operating in the Northeast, who declined to give her name.