Wednesday, February 27, 2013

1141 Throwing the Chinatown Bus Under the Bus

1141 Throwing the Chinatown Bus Under the Bus

News Item:  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has ordered the Fung Wah Transportation of New York and Massachusetts to suspend operations until after complete safety inspections of all 28 of its buses.

Massachusetts transit people urged that and thus put the brakes on the largest of the discount carriers running between Chinatown in New York and Boston.

More than 150 safety violations found on 21 of the 28 rolling sardine cans.  

No worries, travelers, there are more competitors than there are fortune cookies on Mott St.  Someone will fill the Boston/New York run before you finish reading this page.

And each of them is iffy.  Alert transit folk picked the biggest and one of the oldest for its first swing at life-saving. But each of those cookies will be cracked open and the data read eventually.  And it’s about time.

The Chinatown bus from State College PA to New York takes four hours and costs $25.  That’s about half the time and half the price of the corresponding Greyhound.

Rail and airplane fares are much higher and no faster when you include the time you use getting to the train station or the airport and then on to your final destination.

So this being America, it’s natural there would be competitors galore.

And in Chinatown, you don’t make reservations, you walk down the street and the first driver standing outside his bus that sees even a hint you want to travel (like maybe you’re carrying or pulling a suitcase) will cut you off in mid-walk to get you on board.

Every state has strict maintenance standards, strict documentation and strict driver training laws.  But also, every state has less than half the inspectors it needs.  So if Bus #27 hasn’t been inspected in awhile, who’ll notice?  Unless of course it crashes into a guardrail somewhere on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Long distance bus drivers are overworked and under rested no matter who they drive for.  Sometimes they have “assistants” like international pilots.  Most times those assistants are perfectly capable and in most cases have actual and legitimate licenses to drive.  

But these guys are paid by the trip or by the mile.   And when there aren’t enough of them, everyone stretches the miles and the hours.

Data collection?  What office has time for data collection.  If they kept figures accurately, how could they stiff their employees?  And what fun would it be if your gambling trip to Atlantic City didn’t start the moment you boarded the $12 dollar ride?


Shrapnel:

--First it was Maker’s Mark, now it’s Bud.  Are they watering it down their beers to save a buck?  Several lawsuits in several states say “yes”  but offshore owners of this once great American brew deny it.

--At some point, someone is going to water down their water.  How are they going to do that?  Probably with air.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

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