The Government's Cheap, Dishonest Campaign Against the Chinatown Bus Industry: Jim Epstein in The Daily Beast


Customers line up in NYC's Chinatown to board a Lucky Star bus. |||

I have an article up at The Daily Beast looking at how the government's forced shut down of two Chinatown bus companies was based on fabricated evidence. Here's how it begins:

On May 20, 2013, a passenger motor coach run by a Chinatown bus company called Lucky Star departed New York City for Boston's SouthStation. Shortly after hitting the road, the driver heard a strange bang come from under the bus. The bus seemed to be functioningnormally, so he kept going.

Upon arriving in Boston, the driver was shocked to find a New York City manhole cover lodged in the vehicle's luggage compartment. Apparently, the bus struck the loose cover in the streets of Manhattan, sending it darting up into the vehicle's undercarriage. Lucky Star immediately took the bus out of service and sent it to the garage for repairs.

The following month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ordered Lucky Star to cease operating on the grounds that its buses and drivers posed "an imminent hazard to public safety." One of the primary reasons the FMCSA gave for the shutdown was the manhole cover incident. But the out-of-service order, which is the official document revoking the company's operating license, incorrectly states that after discovering the damage, Lucky Star's dispatcher kept the vehicle out of the garage and continued sending it on passenger trips in an act of willful negligence.

The false account of the manhole cover incident is just one of many distortions and inaccuracies that appear in the out-of-service order, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. (FMCSA spokesperson Duane DeBruyne declined to comment for this article.) The case of Lucky Star, a well-run company with a nearly spotless accident record, is the latest example of how the government's stepped-up safety regime is destroying small bus companies to the benefit of large, politically-connected corporate carriers, and in the process making American travelers less safe.

Read the whole thing.

And watch my recent Reason TV collaboration with Naomi Brockwell, The Feds vs. The Chinatown Bus:

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  1. No bureaucrats fell into the open manhole? What a waste.

    1. They already live down there.

      I’m here all ze veek.

  2. Nothing stimulates the economy quite like banning economic activity.

    1. If you like your bus service, you can keep it.

  3. It strikes me as unbelievable that leftists tell us how necessary a cheap, energy efficient mass transportation system is, and then when a cheap, energy efficient mass transportation system comes into being as a result of the market, they try to regulate it out of existence.

    It’s almost like their primary goal is government power and they don’t actually care about a functioning mass transportation system.

    1. The right people didn’t think of the Chinatown buses. The right people weren’t running the Chinatown buses. The right people were patronizing the Chinatown buses.

      Therefore, banned.

      1. Also, the Right People don’t like asians because they work hard and don’t depend on government handouts, so they must be punished.


    2. LA has a weird relationship between buses and light rail. We’ve got the Bus Riders Union (BRU) that advocates funneling as much money into public bus transit as possible at the expense of light rail because light rail is bourgeois and buses are for the workers. One of their reps explicitly advocated diverting Federal grants explicitly earmarked for light rail to improving bus lines.*

      Not poor liberals in LA want light rail because it’s just what one has in a modern american city.

      The infighting is fun to watch.

      *This happened in a meeting I was sitting in on, I don’t know if it’s explicit in their public literature.

      1. We will have that here in Tucson soon. A worthless 4 mile light rail system will come online next year. They haven’t figured out where the subsidy funds will come from to run and maintain it. They are gonna have no choice but to divert some of the bus money. I can’t wait for the fun to begin.

        1. Several years ago I was in Tucson visiting my father and we went to some expo where a guy had a booth up shilling this light rail plan.

          I asked him why you would run a quasi-bus system tied to special rail tracks in the road and all the attendant costs over simply increasing Tucson’s already pretty fabulous bus system.

          His answer was that the light-rail was gong to be tied to a new economic development zone that would bring prosperity to a part of Tucson (that is already pretty prosperous).

          Still didn’t answer why this was preferable to buses though.

      2. They have a point – a lot of these lines are helping suburban riders at the expense of city riders where there is more demand and worsening service. If only there was some means of taking the politics out of it.

        1. Absolutely. I don’t disagree with their point. Particularly in the much lower density LA, buses make more sense as they’re more flexible and lines can be scrapped or added as needed (although the BRU would like to see no line ever scrapped no matter how little ridership it has).

          My problem with the BRU is that they explicitly want the city to defraud Federal grants, not just turn them down so we aren’t committing money to light rail, but to take the funds and then sink them into buses.

          1. Well, since it’s all political, isn’t there someone they can lobby to turn the Federal grants into something more useful for the region? I know, stupid question.

    3. The left wants everything to be controlled by authority. Emergent order is abhorrent to the left. It is akin to anarchy or chaos. Everything must be tightly controlled or… well… or someone might do something without asking permission and obeying orders from authority.

      The left hates it when someone says “Why says I can’t? it’s a free country!”

      They prefer to be the ones saying “Who said you could do that? I’m calling the cops!”

      1. Where do you think you’re living? Somalia?

    4. I think it’s more because it competes with their precious light rail projects.

      1. Yeah, but the light rail they love so much has to be heavily government subsidized. That’s exactly my point.

  4. So how pissed are the people who used to use this bus for years now that they’ve become popular and thus attracted regulatory attention?

    1. Who cares?

      /union bus drivers and the politicians they vote for

  5. Funny I thought the Hound was supposed to serve power, not the other way around.

  6. That girl does not look Chinese.

  7. OK I say we have to roll that beautiful bean footage. I am likeing it.


  8. “But the out-of-service order, which is the official document revoking the company’s operating license, incorrectly states ”

    When the government lies, it’s for your own good, so it’s really the truth.

    Fuck you, that’s why.

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