Feds Killing Off Private Bus Lines Based on Fraudulent Study

The story of the coming demise of Chinatown bus lines in New York City is a tale of multiple failures in both government and the media and shows that both have a bias against entrepreneurs that kills new, start up ideas with unfair regulations, faux public advocacy, and dismal reporting.

A “Chinatown buss” was a new idea in the late 90s pioneered by Chinese immigrants in the Big Apple. These were private buses that cruised the streets looking for fares like cabs do, picking customers up at curbside, not having fixed bus stops or routes, and going where ever the customer wanted to go within a defined area of the city. Because they originated in New York’s Chinatown area, they became known as “Chinatown busses.”

Unfortunately, their success led to their downfall when nosey politicians like Senator Chuck Schumer began to take notice of them. Schumer and other New York pols began to call for a crack down on the busses and started looking to hit them with an avalanche of stifling regulations meant to “save lives.”

To assist Schumer in that jobs-killing endeavor the National Transportation Safety Bureau jumped to conduct a “study” of the safety records of Chinatown busses and purported to have found that these busses had a death rate “seven times higher” than that of other services.

The NTSB study was used to fuel Schumer’s attack on the bus companies in New York and new, expensive regulations were brought down like a hammer on these small businesses.

Naturally, the progressive news media establishment was quick to flock to Schumer’s side and swallowed his press conferences and the NTSB’s report whole without any critical look at either.

But it turns out that practically everything in the NTSB study is a fraud.

In an extensive investigation into the NTSB report, Reason.com’s Jim Epstein found that practically every finding in the study is simply wrong.

First it must be noted that Epstein was denied any access to the government’s methods of the study. Even though it is an official, taxpayer supported study, the NTSB refused to allow Epstein to see any of its work. Worse, the NTSB has also refused to accede to Epstein’s Freedom of Information Act requests.

Just what is the NTSB trying to hide? Apparently a lot.

According to Epstein, “The study is bogus. Not only is the ‘seven times’ finding incorrect, the entire report is a mangle of inaccurate charts and numbers that tell us virtually nothing meaningful about bus safety. There’s no evidence that curbside or Chinatown buses are any less safe than any other kind of bus.”

Epstein discovered that the study didn’t actually look at Chinatown busses as a stand alone subject. It looked at all busses including Greyhound, Peter Pan, and other professional bus companies and lumped them in with Chinatown bus lines as if they were all one in the same.

Starting from that fraudulent metric, Epstein found that the NTSB report only went downhill from there.

Unfortunately, this thing served as the basis for Chuck Schumer and other politicians to come down like a ton of bricks on these cost-saving, customer-friendly transportation companies.

Finally, all of Sen. Schumer’s efforts to “save lives” by crushing the Chinatown bus companies may actually drive people back to their own cars. This, Epstein properly notes, will likely put more people in danger as autos are far and away more dangerous than any type of bus travel.

“Ironically, the regulatory crackdown that followed the release of this dreadful study may lead to more highway deaths,” Epstein points out. “The shrinking of the industry has caused bus ticket prices to spike considerably in the last year. That means fewer travelers will be enticed to leave at home a far greater threat to their safety, which is sitting in their driveways.”

That’s government for you.

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  • herddog505

    Anybody willing to bet that Trashcan Chuckie (or friends / relatives) have a funancial interest in the demise of the busses?

    • meizhong bai

      I am a bus operator in Chinatown. We (Chinatown bus companies) all know that Greyhound and Peter pan are behind this. They sent lobbyist directly to the DOT office. Someone from Bloomberg news confirmed this. On the day they shut down all the buses going to philly, Greyhound was selling tickets for 1 dollar. Absolutely no one but the DOT was supposed to know about the shutdowns before hand. Not even the bus companies that were being shut down themselves. But Greyhound somehow “found” like 50 drivers all happy to come in on their off day and drive. Then, they moved into Chinatown and started doing philly regularly, which was what they had been trying to do for years. And after Fung Wah was shut down, Greyhound started doing Boston the same day. My company has been shut down since last year, we’ve never been in an accident ever, and the worse thing the DOT could find on us was that a driver had gotten 2 speeding tickets in 1 month, and I, the owner, had driven the bus at least once before taking a drug test. After 6 months of potetioning with no response from the government, I hired a lawyer and now that they’ve had motions filed against them and nothing substantial to back their reasoning, they have finally responded and we are reopening next month.

      • Commander_Chico

        Thanks for giving us an inside view.

      • If I could, I’d buy a ticket to help you out, though I don’t live in either Boston or New York. Good luck!

      • herddog505

        Good luck to you. Sorry that your business plan nust now include budgetting to pay off corrupt politicians.

      • warnertoddhuston

        This is the sort of corruption I was aiming at. Thanks for your note, sir, and good luck.

  • Par4Course

    Typical liberal equation: Good intentions trump good results. See also gun control, banning DDT, mandatory increases in auto fuel economy, etc.

  • Commander_Chico

    I am totally with Warner on this one. There were a few problems with the Chinatown buses – years ago.

    Since then they upgraded their safety and provide a cheap way to get around.

  • stan25

    The China bus company was giving the MTA a lot of competition, so they complained to the powers that be.

  • jim_m

    This reminds me of the courtesy rides in Quincy, IL. The local government (coincidentally, dem controlled) shut down someone providing a safe community service in favor of monied interests.

  • Paul Hooson

    Check out Portland, Oregon TV station’s KOIN Website today. They’ve been doing an expose on Trimet. While cutting back on service and raising fares, the directors quietly gave themselves $900,000 in pay raises to some of the highest levels in the country. Further, there was a special tax that small business like myself had to ,pay Trimet, although small businessmen are far more likely to drive to work than a big business who has employees who sometimes ride the bus to work. Larger businesses don’t have to pay this special TriMet tax.

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