Even as a new law to crack down on bus companies awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature, some locals have complained that the government is unfairly targeting low-fare Chinatown buses, and fear that shutting them down would hurt Chinatown businesses, according to a Downtown Express article by associate editor Aline Reynolds.
The law would subject curbside bus operators to new rules, permitting and fines, as well as leaving pick-up and drop-off locations up to the city. The legislation comes after the federal government closed 26 bus lines last month, run by three companies in Chinatown, after a year-long investigation — the largest single safety crackdown in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s history.
A chain of fatal accidents triggered the bill, including the Chinatown-bound bus crash on I-95 in the Bronx that killed 15 passengers in March 2011. Investigators found the driver had suffered from a lack of sleep due to long shifts.
Some Chinatown organizations have voiced concerns over how the “crackdown” could hurt local businesses, as reported in a recent World Journal article that we translated. On the other hand, Sam Kwang, a customer service representative for Chinatown bus company Fung Wah, voiced his company’s support for bus regulations and the steps they take to ensure safety for drivers, and in turn, passengers, Downtown Express reported.
“I think the rules are fine — it’s good for the bus companies, as long as they follow the regulation[s],” said Kwang.
While Fung Wah hasn’t breached any federal laws, he said, the company racks up an average of 70 fines per month in city parking violations, with each fine ranging from $65 to $115.
“Sometimes when we’re dropping off or picking up a customer, we’ll get a ticket from the traffic cop,” explained Kwang.
To ensure passenger safety, Fung Wah staff holds monthly meetings with drivers and hires mechanics to inspect the buses prior to use. The company also makes sure its drivers have at least a two-hour break between driving shifts, said Kwang.
“We don’t let the same driver go back and forth,” he said. “When they come in from one place and don’t get enough break to rest, or they don’t have enough sleep…that’s [when] things happen.”
Meanwhile, in Queens’ Chinatown in Flushing, some bus operators are pleading for more regulation and enforcement to prevent new “$1 buses” from moving in on their turf. In another article for the World Journal, reporter Yin Xiao Yu described the scene at a curbside bus stop in Flushing, Queens where large buses charging $1 a ride from Queens’ Chinatown to Manhattan’s Chinatown have descended, muscling out smaller shuttle buses that have manned the routes for years. The excerpt below comes from an article originally written in Chinese.
Yesterday on Main Street, dozens of people were standing at the bus stop across from the library. No one got on the shuttle buses though. Instead, they were responding to the “one dollar, leaving immediately,” calls by bus drivers and other company employees. Soon after, almost 50 people lined up to get on the large bus. The bus company had hung attractive signs to lure passengers. The bus would leave immediately once it filled up. Another set of passengers, who wanted to save money and did not mind waiting, would be standing at the same spot waiting for the next bus.These types of incidents happened out of the sight of two groups of people: reporters and police. As long as those groups were present, the bus company staff would stop selling tickets and have the passengers wait. Reporters would have to ask other people for assistance with photographing the situation.
Yesterday during peak hours, when the police came by, the large bus immediately left after picking up only ten passengers. Not only did the situation cause a traffic jam, it also left behind a large group of clueless passengers, which got in the way of foot traffic on the sidewalk.
A management company formed by five small bus companies sent a letter of protest to the New York State Department of Transportation. It also sent a letter to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and provided information in hopes that law enforcement agencies will resolve these improper competitive practices.