The Indomitable Chinatown Bus

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has shuttered dozens of budget-bus operators, including, recently, the pioneering Fung Wah, whose $15 Boston–to–New York route turned the Chinatown bus from a scrappy van service into a fearsome (and hair-raising) competitor to Greyhound. But despite their dicey records, the lines have remained a mainstay of intercity travel. Below, some of the cheapskate shuttles of yore, plus those still plying I-95.

Illustrations by Remie Geoffroi

Left, Dragon Coach; Also operated as: Tomorrow Travel and Tours.
Right, New Century Travel; Also operated as: Fujian Tourism, Black Leopard Travel, Eagle Bus, Super Luxury Tours, Antai Tours, 2003 Coach, Wahoo Tour and Charter, Red Eagle Tours.

The Road Ragers
Shootings, sabotage, and a government crackdown.
In 2002, Dragon Coach driver De Jian Chen backed his bus into the New Century owner, crushing his pelvis. The next year, Chen was shot dead near his home; two New Century buses were torched, allegedly in retaliation. In 2008, a New Century bus struck a 92-year-old woman. The FMSCA finally revoked New Century’s license in 2010, but the company continued operating illegally until 2012.

Left, Fung Wah.
Right, Apex; Also operated as: New Egg, Asia Tours, A-One Bus, All State Travel Bus, and Universe Bus.

The Dangermobiles
Cheap, out-of-control, and now out of business.
Before its right to operate was yanked on March 4, Fung Wah had an NYC-bound bus catch fire; another bus roll over on an I-290 ramp, injuring 34 passengers; another crash into guardrails on the Mass Pike; and another beach itself on a divider. One of Apex’s solution to its safety problems was new logos. The company applied for operating licenses under six names before the Feds shut it down in 2012.

Left, Eastern Travel.
Right, Lucky Star; Also operated as: TravelPack.

The Last Shuttles Standing
Spotty safety records offset ever-lower prices.
One of the first New York–Washington buses to go uptown, Eastern Travel has managed to best its downtown competitors and stay in business, as has Lucky Star, despite poor safety reviews. The latter adopted the pricing structure of Bolt and Megabus, which offer $1 fares to early ticket-buyers.

Left, BoltBus.
Right, Yo! Bus

The Opportunists
Big Travel keeps the vibe, at least, alive.
In the late aughts, the traditional bus companies got in on the action. Coach USA launched Megabus in 2006, and Greyhound followed with BoltBus in 2008. This past December, Yo! Bus, operated jointly by Greyhound and Peter Pan, tried more explicitly to cash in on the Chinatown bus mystique; its coaches feature Chinese characters and passengers are picked up on Pike Street.

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The Indomitable Chinatown Bus