Thursday, May 31, 2012

Federal Government Shuts Down 26 "Chinatown Bus" Companies

It was one of those sultry, DC days. All the passengers huddled inside the tiny, but air conditioned lobby of our cheap bus company, waiting for our ride from Washington's Chinatown to the one in New York City. Suddenly, an angry 50-something man starting yelling in Chinese at the bored-looking 20-something behind the desk. Getting no response, the older man pulled out a gun and continued his harangue, the weapon gripped tightly at his side.

All the passengers froze. After what felt like hours, but was likely just seconds, a mother next to me silently picked up her toddler and walked out to the street. Trying to be inconspicuous, we all filed out after her. When I got around the corner, I called the police.

I would have though that that experience three years ago was the most dangerous these cheap bus lines got. But it turns out I may be wrong.

Today, in the largest crackdown in the history of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Feds shut down 26 bus operators. Of those, 16 were based in New York City, the other 10 in Philadelphia. They covered routes in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.  Transportation officials, discussing today's actions, cited such safety violations as drivers without valid commercial driver's licenses; buses in need of repair and inspection; and the violation of federally mandate driving time limits by the bus drivers employed by these firms.

Apex Bus, New Century Travel and I-95 Coach were the largest operators among those taken off the highways today. The three owned many of the other companies that were shut down.

According to Bloomberg News, bus travel had been the fastest growing segment of commercial transportation in the United States. A year-long investigation, punctuated by a growing number of fatal crashes, underlay the actions of Federal Transportation officials.

Its important to note that neither BoltBus nor MegaBus were affected by these actions. There's been no implication, whatsoever, that these two larger companies are allowing the same types of violations that the so-called "Chinatown Bus Companies" have.

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