Fung Wah, the iconic Chinatown bus company that became famous for charging just $10 to travel between Boston and New York City, will reopen early next year.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has restored the company's operating authority, and getting its Boston to New York bus service up and running again is just a matter of logistics, says Alexander Linzer, the company's attorney.
Fung Wah was started by Pei Lin Liang, a former noodle factory deliveryman, as a local van service in New York City in 1993. Four years later, Liang extended his service to Boston, charging just $10 at a time when a Greyhound ticket between the two cities cost $50. Liang's model of picking up and dropping off passengers right off the street was imitated by companies like BoltBus and Megabus, giving rise to the "curbside bus industry," which is now the fastest growing mode of intercity travel in the U.S.
In March 2013, federal regulators ordered the company to stop operating after several of its buses were taken off the road by Massachusetts safety officials, who alleged that frame cracks in some Fung Wah motorcoaches hadn't been properly repaired. As Reason reported last year, field inspectors Steve Boleyn and Dyann Prouty
misunderstood the safety guidelines and erred in their evaluation of Fung Wah's fleet. The episode led safety officials to quietly rewrite the official guidelines with regard to frame cracks, but it had no effect on the company's standing.
Immediately after its closure, Fung Wah spent $400,000 overhauling its fleet, retraining its drivers, hiring a full-time safety manager, and retaining an outside consultant. But, like many bus companies that lose their operating authority, Fung Wah spent the next year and a half ensnared in a bureaucratic holding pattern, at one point waiting six months for the FMCSA to consider its application to resume service, only to be turned down on a technicality.
The company appealed theatdecision, which after several months led to a negotiation between Fung Wah's attorneys and the FMCSA, finally resulting in the reinstatement of the company's operating authority.
For background on how regulators botched the inspection of Fung Wah's fleet that led to the closure, read "Why the Government Was Wrong to Shutdown Fung Wah's Bus Company."
For an overview of the company's struggles with the FMCSA, watch this report from Reason TV: