Thursday, March 28, 2013
The U.S. Department of Transportation has again formally ordered Fung Wah Bus company, one of the most well known "Chinatown bus companies" credited with helping to pioneer the now popular business model of picking up passengers outside of bus terminals and charging very low fares.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered Fung Wah bus to halt operations between Boston and New York in late February after Massachusetts inspectors found cracks in the frames of many of the company's buses. Within days that order was escalated to a total shut down of the company.
Longtime riders bemoaned the loss of the discount bus they'd come to love and fear all at once. One even composed a music video tribute for the New Yorker.
Today's action from the U.S. DOT rescinds the previous shut down order and replaces it with another one that is more permanent. The original order was because the company would not cooperate with the investigations into poorly maintained fleet.
This shut down order cites "the absence of an effective systematic maintenance program," "fraudulent or intentionally false entries on inspection" and maintenance records, failing to monitor drivers to make sure they aren't on the road too long, not testing drivers for drugs or alcohol.
"Individually and cumulatively, these violations and conditions of operation substantially increase the likelihood of serious injury or death to Fung Wah Bus tarnsportation Inc. drivers, passengers and the motoring public," the order states.
The FMSCA investigation found that Fung Wah didn't just have a bad maintenance program, it had no maintenance program at all. "Indeed, to the extent that Fung Wah maintains vehicle inspection records and reports, these records and reports cannot be relied upon with any certainty because they purport to show that vehicles were inspected on dates for which the mechanic whose signature appears on those reports was not actually working."
If Fung Wah addresses all of that, the FMSCA could rescind the shut down order. But considering the "blatant disregard" for safety rules, it seems like a stretch to assume that will happen soon.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013
By Kate Hinds
The entire passenger fleet of Chinatown bus company Fung Wah has been ordered off the road for an immediate safety inspection.
This news comes a day after the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities found cracks in many bus frames and asked the federal government to declare the company an "imminent safety hazard."
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Fung Wah - which operates between New York and Boston for about $15 each way -- must cease transporting passengers on its 28 vehicles, which must be immediately taken off the road for inspection.
But, says a DOT spokesman, "the company, if it chooses, has the prerogative to rent or lease other vehicles; the company is not shut down."
A phone call to Fung Wah's New York offices earlier Tuesday afternoon would seem to bear this out, as the woman who answered the phone said the company was still operating buses between New York and Boston every hour.
From the DOT:
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered Fung Wah Bus Transportation, Inc., to immediately cease passenger service and provide its entire fleet of 28 motorcoaches for thorough and detailed safety inspections by qualified inspectors. Going forward, FMCSA will continue to work closely with its state law enforcement partners in Massachusetts and New York to ensure the safety of the traveling public.
FMCSA’s safety investigators are continuing their examination of Fung Wah’s operations, including examining the safety records of its vehicles, drivers and other company safety performance requirements prescribed by federal regulations, and may consider additional actions against the company if warranted.
Beau Duffy, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, said in an email: "We are working with our partners at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the state of Massachusetts to ensure Fung Wah’s buses are not put back in service until they are inspected and any deficiencies are corrected."
Friday, June 01, 2012
The popular East Broadway stop under the Manhattan Bridge — typically abuzz with ticket sellers, passengers and idling sparsely labeled motorcoaches — was no more than a quiet side street Friday afternoon, a day after the federal government shut down 26 bus operators in the single largest safety crackdown of the industry.
Two blocks away, he Chinatown office of New Century Travel, one of the operators shut down in the sweep, was shuttered on Friday afternoon. The company operated routes to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., leaving no clear option for a Chinatown to D.C. bus trip. That route was one of the first to become popular -- originally with college students and other very price sensitive travelers -- a key step in helping the curbside bus model spread from a cheap alternative to Greyhound for supercommuting members of the Chinese community and into the a mainstream mode of travel it has become. Curbside buses are the fastest growing mode of travel in the nation.
Speaking in Chinatown Thursday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that over the course of a year-long investigation, his agency learned these companies were "blatantly and repeatedly" violated federal safety laws, including using drivers without valid commercial licenses and failing to do drug and alcohol testing.
"Shutting them down will save lives," LaHood said.
Teams of officials for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, armed with legal orders declaring the bus operations imminent hazards to public safety, swooped down Wednesday on companies based in six states: Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Officials withheld details about the operation until Thursday.
The shutdown orders were aimed at the companies' headquarters and at bus pickup locations. Most of the 233 bus routes serviced by the companies either departed from or terminated in New York City's Chinatown district. The DOT says the routes shut down served 1,800 passengers a day.
Not all companies were shut down, Fung Wah bus, arguably the most well known brand of Chinatown bus which serves trips between New York and Boston, continued operations unchanged, as did other lines serving Boston, and at least two serving trips from New York to Virginia, South Carolina and Baltimore.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Double Happyness - a Philadelphia-based bus company -- now can add a restraining order to its growing pile of legal notices from the federal government.
Last month the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered the company to immediately cease operations after declaring it an "imminent hazard to safety." On Thursday, the feds put some teeth into that order: the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the company from "operating in or affecting interstate passenger transportation service."
DOT head Ray LaHood said in a statement: “We will not tolerate irresponsible bus companies that jeopardize the safety of bus passengers and other motorists.”
The DOT says it sought the temporary restraining order "based on evidence that Double Happyness was selling bus tickets and conducting bus trips in direct violation of the agency’s previous orders to immediately cease all transportation operations. "
The company runs buses from Albany, Baltimore, and Wilmington, Delaware, to midtown and Chinatown in New York City.
TN MOVING STORIES: LaHood Defends Auto Bailout, Christie Ready to "Get My Arms" Around the Port Authority
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
Joe Lhota, The MTA’s Rider/Chairman, Uninimously Confirmed (Link)
Transit Advocates: Where’s the Money for a Direct Train to New Convention Center? (Link)
Severe Weather Events Continue to Cost US: Big $$ to Alabama, Vermont, NY, NJ (Link)
New York’s Night Riders Unhappy with Subway Sleep (Link)
Rick Santorum, as Senator, Preached the Gospel of Transit (Link)
NJ Governor Christie says he and NY Governor Cuomo are ready to work together on the Port Authority: "It's my time to get my arms around this agency now." (NorthJersey.com)
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood kicks off the Detroit Auto Show; defends government bailout of automakers. (Detroit Free Press)
And: automakers are flooding the auto show with new hybrids, but with gas prices below $4 a gallon, consumers are not buying them. (New York Times)
Chinatown bus company Double Happyness -- under federal orders to stop operating after being deemed an "'imminent hazard' to public safety"--has continued to sell tickets, violating a cease and desist order that was issued last week. (DNA Info)
Canceling the ARC tunnel last year cost NJ Transit nearly $300 million, according to an audit. (The Record)
DC's Metro is proposing a 5% fare increase. (WAMU)
Detroit's light rail project may yet live again, just .. shorter. (Transport Politic)
Want a state road for free? A Nevada transportation official said Monday that there has been "zero interest" in his agency's offer to give counties and cities 903 miles of state-owned and maintained roads. (Las Vegas Review Journal)
Monday, June 13, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) Federal legislators and regulators talked tough today at a Congressional hearing on strengthening bus safety. Anne S. Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, took the occasion to make a pitch for greater power to crack down on the fast-expanding long distance bus industry. But first, she delivered some chilling stats related to the recent spate of bus crashes.
"This year has been the worst period in recent history for motorcoach safety with six crashes resulting in 25 deaths and numerous injuries," she said.
Her statement came after a weekend during which her agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, declared three bus companies "imminent safety hazards" and shut them down.
One of those companies, Haines Tour in Michigan, was caught carrying passengers in cargo holds at the bottom of their buses. Another, United Tours in North Carolina, was using unqualified drivers.
New enforcement measures proposed by Ferro at the hearing included inspecting every long distance bus at least once a year, doing surprise safety stops while buses are en route and raising the fee for a company to obtain an operating license from DOT. Right now it's 300 hundred dollars -- 50 dollars less than it costs a street vendor to sell hot dogs in Washington, DC. Ferro said she'd also like to see the fine for a bus safety violation raised from $2,000 to $25,000.
Representatives from the long distance bus companies who participated in the hearing gave their wary consent to the proposals. "I can support it if it's reasonable," said Mr. Victor S. Parra, president of the trade group United Motorcoach Association. "You have to remember that these companies create jobs and are good for the economy. You don't want to over-regulate them."
Thursday, June 09, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) The U.S. Department of Transportation says it has caught a long-distance bus company operating illegally after being shut down for safety violations. Regulators say Georgia-based JCT Motor Coach, previously taken out of service after two egregiously failed inspections, has resumed operation as JT's Travel & Charter.
The department declared the carrier "an imminent hazard to public safety" and ordered it to immediately cease its transportation services.
The practice is known in the industry as "reincarnation." A company can re-emerge from regulatory extinction simply by changing its name and address, repainting its fleet and hitting the street again.
U.S. DOT announced last week that it was investigating the Sky Express Bus Company for possibly reincarnating as a carrier called 108 Bus, even though regulators put it out of service on May 31, the day one of its buses crashed on I-95 in Virginia, killing four people and injuring more than 50 others. A spokesperson for Sky Express denied that it had taken a different name and continued to operate.
JCT Motorcoach had an exceptionally bad safety record, according to U.S. DOT, which listed some of the company's violations: "falsifying vehicle maintenance records, failing to ensure its vehicles were regularly inspected, repaired and maintained, using drivers with positive drug and alcohol testing results, using medically unqualified drivers and failing to comply with federal hours-of-service requirements for drivers."
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a department of U.S. DOT, is charged with enforcing bus safety. An administration official said inspectors pulled over a JCT Motorcoach bus last year and found so many maintenance problems that inspectors followed up with a visit to the business. That second inspection revealed a host of other problems. The carrier was then placed out of service.
A call to JCT Motorcoach late Thursday was answered by a woman who gave her name as Ala. She said she didn't work for the company "but I spend a lot of time around it." Asked about the U.S. DOT charges against JCT Motorcoach, she said, "Nobody's doing anything illegal."
TN Moving Stories: Japanese Automakers Scale Back US Production, Miami Beach Begins Bike Share, and Chinatown Bus Riders Undeterred
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Many travelers have remained undeterred from taking Chinatown buses in the wake of two deadly crashes this week involving smaller bus lines. (WNYC)
Some Japanese automakers are scaling back US production as they assess the difficulty in getting parts from Japan. (NPR)
And the NY Times reports, of life in Tokyo: "In a nation where you can set your watch by a train’s arrival and a conductor apologizes for even a one-minute delay, rolling blackouts have forced commuters to leave early so they will not be stranded when the trains stop running." (NY Times)
Transit agencies, experiencing a rider increase because of higher gas prices, would like more money - but no one wants to raise the gas tax, and Congressman John Mica says he won't support an increase in transit funding. (WSJ)
A new report says Indiana's increased restrictions on teen drivers have resulted in a steep reduction in car accidents involving young drivers. (Indiana University)
The Chinese government has halted a tree removal program for planned subway construction in Beijing after residents protested. (Xinhua)
The NYT writes about real estate developers and NY's MTA. “The MTA has learned the hard way that it is one thing to ask a developer to make an upfront capital investment, and quite another one to maintain something on a day-to-day basis over the years," says one policy analyst.
The governor of Rhode Island said the state needs to stop borrowing money to pay for transportation projects. (The Providence Journal)
Opponents of the bike lane on Prospect Park West offer up an alternative: move it a block. NYC DOT says “the ‘compromise’ doesn’t hold up.” (Brooklyn Paper)
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: the Northeast Corridor is now a federally designated high-speed rail corridor. Lawmakers are trying -- once again -- to create an infrastructure bank. And a subway artist passes away.
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Monday, March 14, 2011
Two days after a bus crash left 15 passengers dead, questions are being raised about how a lack of safety regulations on small bus carriers may have contributed to tragedy on Interstate 95.