Archive for Buses
There must be something in the water on Staten Island that causes politicians such consternation over transit improvements. SI politicians desperately want these improvements, but when they actually arrive — as in the case of, say, dedicated bus lanes for Select Bus Service — the very same politicians complain. No one proved this point better than Sen. Andrew Lanza when, earlier this week, he followed a plea for better Staten Island transit service with a six-minute rant against Select Bus Service. He’s not the only one though.
Beginning this week, after nearly a year of Select Bus Service on Staten Island, camera enforcement of dedicated bus lanes will begin. At well-marked locations along Hylan Boulevard, cameras will be in place to catch lane violators, and the drivers will receive a summons in the mail. Cars can use the red lanes to make the next immediate right-hand turn or for quick pick-ups and drop-offs, but those driving in the line will get socked with a $115 fine. I’d prefer physically separated dedicated bus lanes, and even allowing limited car access to bus lanes will slow down travel. But this arrangement is better than nothing.
It’s also been a long time coming as DOT and the MTA have long made clear their desire for automated lane enforcement. But that didn’t stop Assembly Rep Nicole Malliotakis from calling camera enforcement atrocious and invasive. In explaining her position, she later claimed that senior citizens could grow confused and panicked over bus lanes and get ticketed for driving in the wrong lane. It’s a trap.
In reality, it’s not a trap but a way to improve travel for all. We cannot seem to reallocate street space to prioritize transit riders, and bus lane cameras are one measure that would help travel for all. Staten Island keeps asking for more transit, but then, its representatives don’t like the answers. Pick a side.
Last Thursday, as the legislative session in Albany stumbled to a close, the august State Senate finally got around to considering Tom Prendergast as the next MTA CEO and Chair. Eventually, he sailed through the confirmation hearing, but not before a bunch of state senators had the chance to grab the microphone. None were as jaw-droppingly amazing as Senator Andrew Lanza, the Staten Island representative who has made Select Bus Service and its flashing blue lights his Moby Dick.
For ten minutes on Thursday, Lanza railed about transit options on Staten Island, and an eagle-eyed reader found the uncut video on YouTube. You can fast forward to the 1:26 mark if you’d like to watch the Senator in all his glory. The sound quality, with someone coughing in the background, isn’t all that great, and the first five minutes are all about Verrazano Bridge tolls. He really gets rolling at the 1:31:30 mark when buses take center stage. When he’s done — five minutes later after defending car lanes, worrying about desensitizing Staten Islanders to flashing blue lights, and showing little sympathy or understanding for the SBS fare payment process — he allows Prendergast a whopping 30 seconds to respond before interrupting him. The hearing isn’t about the qualifications of the person nominated to the MTA Chair spot; it’s about giving Senators a chance to complain.
As an exercise in something — pain, perhaps — I transcribed Lanza’s five-minute bus rant and offer it to you here with my own commentary. It’s a thing to read as, on the one hand, he complains that Staten Island has few transit options while, on the other, he spends the entire time slamming bus improvements. It’s hard to see how he can have it both ways, but that’s the beauty of Albany. We keep voting for these guys, and they keep failing to understand the way transit should. Let’s dive in. The indented text are Lanza’s words as I could catch them from the video.
The select bus service on SI. So we don’t have many routes to begin with. The vast majority of the population of Staten Island doesn’t really have access to public transit on Staten Island to begin with. So this is a corridor where we did have local service, and there’s also express service into Manhattan. So one day the people of Staten Island woke up…and we found that 50 of the 70 stops were going to eliminated to have … express service. I’m all for augmenting local service with express service where it makes sense…but this was for a savings of seven minutes…
The city came in and painted. We had so few lanes for traffic…so few roads for the number of cars. So in order to facilitate this new service, we took one lane out of service, we painted it red (by the way a year later, the quality of the painted started chipping and fading). So we told people who need to be in cars because they don’t have service that a third of the road space on the major roads is not available. By the way, the buses are often in the second lane. It’s not the driver’s fault; people are making turns in front of them. So cars cannot travel in those lanes and yet buses are still traveling in those other lanes anyway.
We spent millions of dollars painting the roads to save some people seven minutes. We don’t talk about the thousands of people in their cars who know how 10, 20, 30 minutes added to their shuffle because now they’re at choke points because where there was once a lane for them it is no longer there….It’s just a parking lot now and it’s because there’s a red lane. There’s hardly ever a bus there. Hardly ever. I’d like to revisit it that with you…
You can’t just talk to the people on the bus. You can find that one person who now has an express stop in front of their house who now saves seven minutes, they’re going to like it. Old people who have lost access because they’re too far from any stop, they’re not going to like it…For the people stuck in cars, it’s really creating a horrific situation.
In this section, Lanza creates a new reality for the people of Staten Island. It’s true that the MTA took a series of S79 bus stops along Hylan Boulevard and eliminated them. The new S79 SBS routes stop every half mile and connect Staten Islanders to the R train in Brooklyn. Bus the S78 still runs local. Bus servie has been augmented. Some riders can take the faster buses to improve their commutes, and many of those can give up their cars. Others — the aged and infirm — still have local service. Lanza simply overlooks that because the cars have lost some space.
Meanwhile, Lanza smirks at the improvement. He finds seven minutes of average travel time barely worth it because in his worldview, without the studies to back it up, everyone else is sitting in mind-numbing traffic. Furthermore, the buses can’t move faster because cars are turning into the bus lane. Yet, Lanza says they can’t use a third of the road. That’s some logic.
After this rant, he shifts to the issue of, as he puts it, “blue flashing strobe lights,” and his voice grows higher and higher:
It’s the law that blue lights…we hand out thousands of summonses to young people who soup up their cars with blue flashing lights. Those are reserved, as you know, by law to emergency vehicles. I happen to think it’s a great law. People are conditioned when they even sense a flashing blue light that you got to get out of the way, and that’s how we save lives…So it’s not only a law but it’s a good law, and I believe that by having flashing blue lights on buses, we are desensitizing people to the notion that this is an emergency vehicle.
I’ve heard from so many people who have said initially they got out of the way, and I don’t want a generation of drivers and pedestrians to now believe that they’re going to see a blue flashing light and not get out of the way. So finally we walk away from that policy, and I must say that I was a little disappointed that you claimed the people of Manhattan liked them.
[Recently,] I was approached by the people in the MTA to support purple lights. You know, I think it’s ridiculous. I asked where or not they’re going to be darker or light purple. It’s kind of ridiculous…it’s public safety policy that’s worked for so long in this state. If you see flashing blue lights…lights that are close to blue, you get out of the way. Do we really need flashing purple lights on buses now?
At this point, Lanza rested and allowed Prendergast a few sentences. “In other boroughs where we used them customers were able to differentiate an SBS bus vs a regular bus. I am looking to some other means of doing it but a flashing light is one they can see from a long distance away.”
After this explanation, Lanza continued, citing his own experiences riding an express bus to NYU years and years ago. “On that part, people are smarter than you give them credit for,” he said. “If I saw a bus that had an X on it, they can figure it out. People can figure it out. Done. Listen. I knew a bus that came with an X on it, that [it cost more]. People can figure it out. Period.”
What he failed to understand here, as Prendergast pointed out, is that the SBS buses require, in other boroughs, a different type of payment. In Staten Island, this is less of an issue, but elsewhere, SBS riders need to pre-pay. Without the flashing blue lights, many scramble to receive their proof of payment receipts as they cannot identify the bus until it is a block away. This is a key element of a successful bus rapid transit network, and if New York can’t even get that right, what will SBS bring?
In the end, this is a mess. Staten Island has developed such a car-dependent mentality that it cannot live with improved bus service for many people who need it the most, and such a development comes after the MTA seemingly failed to read the state’s motor vehicles law before adding flashing blue lights to their buses. Right now, the bill to allow for purple lights instead is stuck in committee where it will languish all summer, but it clearly has no ally in Senator Lanza. He represents the people of New York but not the transit network that allows for better travel. He wants more transit for Staten Island until it actually arrives, and then he doesn’t want it at all. That’s Albany for you.
As Albany’s legislative session winds down for the summer, New York City’s transit advocates had hoped to see movement on an issue surrounding Select Bus Service. As Staten Island representatives objected to flashing blue lights on legally strong but practically dubious grounds, state representatives have struggled to find a suitable replacement color, but as of last week, they had settled on purple. Now, this effort’s future is in doubt.
Since we first heard of the purple light initiative, the bill has undergone some changes. Its current version is even more restrictive in that only bus rapid transit — or Select Bus Service — vehicles that use only pre-board fare payment may make use of the flashing purple lights. Astute readers may note that this would, of course, exempt the Staten Island S79 SBS service as this route still employs on-board fare payment.
Still, the concessions have not been enough to assuage Senator Andrew Lanza’s concerns. Matt Flegenheimer of The Times has the report:
“At first I thought they were joking,” said Senator Andrew J. Lanza of Staten Island, who had pressured the authority, along with Councilman Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island, to do away with the blue lights. “This is the best you come back with? Flashing purple?”
Mr. Lanza raised the prospect of other colors, arguing that residents had become conditioned “in an almost Pavlovian way” to pull over at the site of bluish lights, sensing an emergency.
Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner, the bill’s sponsor in that chamber, said purple had been designated by the State Department of Motor Vehicles — which deemed it “the only option,” according to Mr. Kellner, given the existing functions of colors like green, yellow and red.
So not only does Lanza object to light blue flashing lights on a giant bus, but he too believes anything “bluish” is a concern. Perhaps Sen. Lanza needs to be reminded that this is blue and this is purple. Ultimately, it still seems as though this is a ploy by Staten Island representatives to make bus improvements as difficult as possible. The bill remains stuck in committee.
Postscript: Hilariously enough, Flegenheimer quotes Joe Lhota in his article. “Why do they need them?” he said of the flashing lights. “I can differentiate a bus.” SBS riders have been complaining to me, to the MTA and to anyone who will listen that it’s challenging to tell the difference from great distances between local and SBS service, especially at night. This point should be obvious to the former MTA Chair I would hope.
As the legislative session in Albany winds down for the summer, there’s been a flurry of activity relating to the MTA. Unfortunately, that activity, despite a stridently-worded editorial from the Daily News, hasn’t yet involved a confirmation vote from the Senate for Tom Prendergast, but a recent Newsday story says that Senators are pushing for action on the nomination before next week is out. Still, there’s transit news aplenty so let’s dive in.
Transit Lockbox (S3837)
The transit lockbox is back. Since the late-2000s raid on the MTA budget, transit advocates in Albany have been pushing for legislation that would make it hardly and politically inconvenient for the state’s executive and legislative branches to reappropriate money that’s supposed to go to transit. The Senate first passed the lockbox concept in 2011, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo later stripped the bill of most protection.
The Senate is at again. With only three votes against — including one from the same Bill Perkins working to roll back the 125th St. bus lane — the lockbox bill moved out of the Transportation Committee on Tuesday and was approved by the full Senate on Wednesday. If passed by the Assembly and signed by Cuomo, the bill would require a memo with every mass transit funding diversion outlining the total amount taken, that amount as the volume of current fare revenue, the cumulative amount taken over the previous five years, and a detailed statement of impact on service, maintenance, security and the capital program.
Streetsblog penned a piece yesterday on this legislation, and its supporters are guardedly optimistic. The Assembly should take it up early next week, and then Cuomo will have to make a decision. “I don’t think the Governor can water the bill down this time,” Gene Russianoff said to Stephen Miller. “For Cuomo, the option is only yes or no.”
Purple Lights for Select Bus Service (S5703)
It’s been nearly five months since a bunch of Staten Island politicians threw a fit over the MTA’s Select Bus Services’ flashing blue lights. The buses are no longer easily identifiable from great distances, and riders have called upon action from Albany to permit the MTA to employ some form of flashing lights. Slowly, legislation is winding its way through the halls of government that would allow for colored lights on Select Bus Service vehicles.
This new bill would amend the state’s vehicle and traffic law to permit buses owned and operated by the MTA or New York City Transit as part of the Select Bus Service to use flashing purple lights to indicate such service. The bill has the support of Jeffrey Klein in the Senate and Micah Kellner in the Assembly and so far has been referred to committee by each chamber. I’ll keep an eye on this one. Hopefully it can move forward.
Assessing the Impact of Service Cuts (A6249)
Finally, we have another intrigued bit of policy: The Senate and Assembly have both passed a bill requiring the MTA to issue a report detailing service cuts. The bill would require the agency to report detailed information on all services eliminated since 2008 and would be due by December 31. The report would require info on the following:
- The number and geographic breakout of all customers impacted by such service reductions and eliminations, for each route;
- The actual revenue savings versus the anticipated savings from such service reductions and eliminations, for each route;
- The costs to fully restore such service reductions and eliminations, for each route; and
- A detailed plan for full restoration of services that have been eliminated or reduced since January 1, 2008; or, alternatively, a detailed plan for equitable restoration of subways, buses, and commuter rails that substantially mitigates the negative impacts of such service reductions and eliminations and fairly restores the services across all impacted neighborhoods and regions.
Most, if not all, of this information is available piecemeal in MTA budget and board documents, but this report would be a cohesive summary of the past five years’ worth of transit rollbacks and a way forward. It’s unclear if Gov. Cuomo will sign this bill into law.
Can you believe there exists a State Senator who thinks NYC DOT moves too quickly in implementing Select Bus Service improvements? Can you believe there is yet another Manhattan community intent on suffering through crippling crosstown traffic rather than enjoy a realignment of street lanes that would better prioritize transit? In the public farce of New York City, you better believe it.
This time, the corridor in question is the M60 via 125th St. Ostensibly a bus route that feeds Laguardia Airport, most of the M60 ridership uses the bus as a crosstown connection along 125th St. while some use it to access Astoria and Queens. A small portion — some travelers, some airport employees — use it to reach Laguardia. It is absurdly slow as it inches along the congested corridor at 2.7 miles per hour and spend approximately 60 percent of the time at a standstill.
To better accommodate the bus, DOT has proposed a series of changes. Streetsblog summed them up in March:
DOT is proposing off-board fare collection to speed bus boarding, transit signal priority to hold green lights for buses, and converting the M60 to a Select Bus Service route serving six stops along 125th Street. A one-mile stretch of 125th Street between Morningside and Third Avenues would be remade with camera-enforced, offset bus lanes, located between the parking lane and the general travel lane, much like the set-up that has significantly improved bus speeds on First and Second Avenues.
Along with the reduction of general travel lanes in each direction from two to one, DOT will introduce left-turn restrictions at most intersections between Morningside and Third Avenues. Left turns would still be permitted at Madison Avenue, to allow access to the bridge across the Harlem River.
DOT also proposed adding parking meters on 125th Street west of Morningside Avenue and east of Fifth Avenue. Between St. Nicholas Avenue and Lenox Avenue, the agency is also considering extending meter hours until 10 p.m. Putting a price on the curb speeds buses because it cuts down on double-parking and cruising for open parking spots.
It all sounds sensible and progressive — which, apparently, is cause for concern. In a letter to DOT, State Senator Bill Perkins urged the agency to “slow down.” (It’s hard to imagine DOT moving any slower on SBS rollouts while still making forward progress, but I digress.)
Despite community meetings and a public comment period, some people don’t like the plan, and they have Perksin’ ear. These folks argue that implementing metered parking along a small section of 125th St. would make parking unaffordable to public housing residents (who can otherwise afford to own a car in Manhattan anyway). And they’re annoyed at the inconveniences turn limits would place on drivers.
DOT has since revised the plan. The bus lane will run only from Lenox Avenue to Third Avenue. The turn limits will be rescinded, and no parking meters will be implemented along the corridor. Yet again there is no balance between the experts and the amateurs as another busy street has decided it prefers the congested status quo to a smoother ride for all.
DNA Info spoke to one person — Detta Ahl — who understood. “It was an holistic approach that would have made things safer for pedestrians and transit users. It’s not just people using the M60 that would have benefited,” she said. If only everyone else would understand as well, then, we wouldn’t have to suffer through sub-par bus service from Manhattan to its closest airport.
Considering Staten Island’s lukewarm embrace of Select Bus Services and the fits SI politicians threw over flashing blue lights, the news that camera enforcement is coming to SBS bus lanes should raise an eyebrow or two. As the Staten Island Advance reported yesterday, DOT crews are installing cameras along the bus lane on Hylan Boulevard and expect to activate them by month’s end. Those drivers found cruising down the SBS lanes during certain hours will receive a $115 summons in the mail.
According to the Advance, drivers can make only an immediate right-hand turn or pick up and drop off passengers, but continued travel in the dedicated lane will result in a fine. Already, Staten Islanders are concerned that “drivers unfamiliar wth the area could be at a disadvantage,” but these residents recognize the benefits. “I think overall, for the intention that they are trying to do in keeping motorists out of the lanes, it will work,” Michael Reilly said to the paper.
Lane enforcement is the next step in improving the bus system. Without it, SBS lanes are nothing but painted strips of asphalt, and the cameras will help clear the lanes of cars while keeping the buses moving. DOT plans to add signal prioritization to Staten Island later this year, and by then, we’ll know how accepting the prickly borough has been of camera lane enforcement efforts.
Picking up on the idea that the MTA needs permanent leadership as well as the ongoing confusion over Select Bus Service in light of the MTA’s move to turn off the flashing blue lights, an interested party sends the following missive:
You note that the MTA has essentially been rudderless in the water for 100 days since Joe Lhota left. One of the consequences of that is that the MTA exercised exceedingly poor judgment, and also failed adequately to cover its legal flank, when it issued a press release stating that it was turning the lights off “in response to specific concerns”. Four months before Mr. Lhota received a letter from a couple of Staten Island politicians opposed to exclusive bus lanes on Hylan Blvd., in which the safety of the flashing blue lights was speculatively called into question — despite the fact they had been in continuous use with all kinds of other vehicles without incident since June 2008. Moreover, this announcement came from out of the blue as there was no prior notice and no public hearing that followed. This, naturally, led to speculation that MTA had been doing something illegal for all those years (although that was not something specifically admitted to in the press release).
This contrasts with the years of public outreach since SBS was announced in 2004, a partnership with NYC DOT, and consultations with NYPD and FDNY about the safety of the new technologies being introduced – i.e., bus priority at traffic signalsl and flashing blue lights on buses. Moreover, the legislature got into the act, passing a law that permits automatic camera enforcement of exclusive bus lanes (but only for the first group of SBS routes).
So, one wonders if the MTA hadn’t thought about its possibly needing additional permission to use these lights? We do not know the answer to that.
Nevertheless, the MTA has now discovered the existence of VTL § 375, subdivision 41, and seems to have reacted in panic. Meanwhile, there is great deal of demand for the blue lights to be turned back on. Without leadership, the MTA shows no enthusiasm, or initiative, for developing a strategy to help its beleaguered bus riders.
I should note: there has never been a traffic summons issued to a bus driver for using the SBS lights. Also, nobody has ever sued the MTA to stop using them. Therefore there could never have been a judicial determination that the MTA’s use of blue flashing lights on SBS buses is wrong. (The MTA decided this entirely on its own, and also decided, in effect, to “plead nolo contendre”.) In hindsight, until a judge stopped the MTA, they should have continued to use the blue lights as they always had.
While we await remedial legislation (which may or may not be passed) to carve-out another exception from the volunteer firefighters’ over-reaching monopoly on the color blue, the MTA might consider giving itself legal cover to turn the lights back on by challenging the constitutionality of VTL § 375, subdivision 41 — because the 2002 law was over-broad — giving unnecessary monopoly control over anybody’s use of an important primary color to one group (whose own use of this power is strictly limited by that same statute).
Regardless of such a case’s outcome, the MTA should have affirmative steps to defend its course of conduct over the previous five years (of using the lights for the public’s benefit), as well as its continuing to use them. And, politically, it comes across as fighting for its ridership, instead of trying to remain invisible until Governor Cuomo puts a strong leader in charge of the entire operation.
Another argument in favor of adopting a litigation strategy is that it would be absolutely ridiculous for this cash-strapped agency to spend a large sum of money to replace a system that is in good working order across its growing fleet of specially fitted-out buses. (This seemed to me to be suggested by the press release.)
By the way, I live along the M15 SBS route, and it is anxiety-provoking for me — and everyone who uses it with me — to be unable to distinguish SBS from non-SBS buses. Also (would you believe?), it appears MTA had never asked for legislative relief from VTL § 375, subdivision 41. FYI A06076 (which incorrectly describes the lights) was introduced March 14th in response to constituent concerns like mine, but so far, it has no counterpart in the Senate.
Now, I don’t think the MTA has been as rudderless as this reader makes them out to be. As I said earlier today, Fernando Ferrer and Tom Prendergast have kept things moving along as a steady clip. But the SBS issue has raised a series of eyebrows from those belonging to East Side politicians on down. A number of riders have raised concerns over the inability to ascertain if an approaching bus is a Select Bus or a local bus, and with stops at opposite ends of the block — or on other blocks all together — boarding properly and in time becomes stressful.
The MTA hasn’t publicly addressed the issue in months, but Community Board 6 in Manhattan is taking up the cause tonight. They’re going to vote on a (non-binding) resolution 1) supporting legislative curative action, and 2) calling on the MTA to examine all options for turning back on its iconic pair of simultaneously flashing blue lights on SBS buses. (The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in Alumni Hall B at NYU Langone Medical Center at 550 First Ave., and anyone can speak.)
While CB6′s vote carries only some symbolism and garners some press, what’s the answer? Maybe the MTA should turn those lights back on, and maybe someone in Albany can lead a charge to secure the proper exemption. The lack of lights does the Select Bus Service and its riders no favors.
The MTA and DOT Select Bus Service initiative is a rather fragile and frail imitation of real bus rapid transit, and even a slight shift in the way the service is set up can have deep ramifications. When two Staten Island politicians more concerned with space for cars rather than the letter of the law raised a stink over SBS’ flashing lights, I figured turning off the blue indicators would have an impact on the service, and a recent article by Dana Rubinstein confirmed as much.
According to unnamed bus managers who oversee Select Bus Service, turning off the lights has resulted in slower buses that don’t move as quickly as they used to. “It’s really affecting the quality of service,” one said to Capital New York. The reasons are twofold: First, riders not accustomed to the system cannot easily distinguish between SBS buses and local buses, thus delaying boarding and travel times. Second, cars are not as quick to vacate supposed bus-only lanes as the blue lights no longer signal approaching vehicles.
In January, the MTA vowed to find another color for its flashing lights — one that wouldn’t violate state law — but results has been slow in coming. Recently, two City Council members have urged the agency to restore the flashing lights, but all the MTA has said is that they’re working on it. “We’re aware of customer concerns about being unable to distinguish between regular and SBS service, which is why we’re intently studying the best alternative to flashing blue lights,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said to Rubinstein. Only action though will speed up the buses again.
The MTA’s goal of rolling out BusTime to all five boroughs by April of 2013 is a bit off schedule, the agency announced today. With all of the Bronx and Staten Island bus routes already equipped with the real-time bus location service and some Brooklyn routes enjoying it as well, Manhattan buses will soon follow suit. After Manhattan will come Brooklyn, followed by Queens before the end of next April. In other words, within 13 months, the city’s bus riders will be able to track every single bus then in service.
“Bus Time has proven extremely popular among bus riders on Staten Island and the Bronx – and I can tell you that because customers have come to me on buses in the Bronx and said we did a really great job on Bus Time,” Fernando Ferrer, MTA Acting Chairman, said in a statement. “They find it useful and easy to access, and I think that’s a tremendous endorsement of what we have been doing. Bus Time is so helpful to our customers that we have scheduled an extremely aggressive timetable to introduce it to three other boroughs.”
That extremely aggressive timetable is actually less aggressive than it was 17 months ago, but that doesn’t obscure the fact that BusTime will aid bus travelers. No longer will we stand frustratedly at bus shelters with no vehicle in sight, and the decision to grab a snack, walk or wait will be a much easier one to make. Absent real bus network improvements — dedicated rights of way, faster fare payment methods — the ubiquitous nature of BusTime should continue to stem the decline in bus ridership we’ve seen over the last few years. The debate, however, between BusTime’s location-based tracking and countdown clocks remains a hot topic.
The Chinatown buses that have proliferated over the past few decades maintain an interesting place in the scheme of regional transit. Operating out off the sidewalks of northeast Chinatowns, these buses are not known for their safety, but they provide cheap rides between New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., and points further afield. Some may scoff at the way the chaotic boarding process crowds the sidewalk and frown at the way idling buses pollute the neighborhoods. But these vehicles serve a purpose if we want, as Cap’n Transit has shown, trips at every price and level of luxury.
Yet, even as we acknowledge the Chinatown buses, these vehicles pose serious problems. With low cost comes low safety, and many Chinatown buses have pulled off the roads by federal safety regulators. Today, Fung Wah, one of the more popular low-cost providers for the Boston-to-New York route, was ordered off the road by the feds due to serious concerns over vehicle integrity. With that move, very few big-name Chinatown bus companies remain untouched.
The coverage of the Fung Wah safety story has been peculiar from certain corners. J.K. Trotter, writing for The Atlantic Cities wrote a post that seemed to be mocking the Chinatown buses and deriding any remaining riders. Now, safety is a serious concern, but so too is maintaining the array of intercity travel options if we are to encourage transit usage. Somehow, we have to figure out how to provide cheap, reliable and safe intercity travel without looking down upon those who opt for the least expensive solution.