Penny-pinching travelers may want to think twice — actually, 21 times — before hopping aboard the infamously, almost impossibly cheap network of so-called Chinatown buses, which transport passengers daily between the Chinatown neighborhoods of Manhattan, Boston, and other cities on the East Coast. The popular bus company Fung Wah decommissioned 21 of its 28 buses on Saturday after the Department of Public Utilities in Massachusetts discovered extensive cracking in some of the fleet's metal frames. Though the cracks were found only in Fung Wah's older buses — their newer ones appeared to be fine — this isn't even the worst of the company's recent safety incidents. Earlier this year, a Fung Wah bus hit two pedestrians on Canal Street in New York, sending both to a nearby hospital.
This weekend's incident throws even more light on the safety standards of Chinatown bus lines, which in the past few years been involved in a string of crashes, many of them fatal. In March 2011, a bus owned by World Wide Travel of Greater New York crashed on a stretch of I-95 in the Bronx, killing 15 passengers. (An investigation found that the driver had not slept in 3 days.) Two days later, another Chinatown bus crashed on the New Jersey turnpike, resulting in the deaths of two passengers. Two months later a bus enroute to New York careened off a highway in Virginia, ending in the death of four passengers. The carnage got so bad that the Department of Transportation ordered 26 bus companies to shut down in May 2012. So while grounding most of Fung Wah's fleet is likely devastating for the company's bottom line, it could be the new norm for Chinatown bus companies going forward.