Peter Pan's Revenge: Chinatown Bus Operator Fung Wah May Be Closed For Good Because the Government Won't Give it a Parking Spot
How a "big dog" bus company worked with regulators to crush a competitor.
When a Chinese immigrant named Pei Lin Liang started running buses to New York City from a street corner in Boston's Chinatown for only $10 each way, naturally the established carrier Peter Pan turned to the government for help. The state decreed in 2004, thanks to Peter Pan's lobbying efforts, that intercity bus companies like Liang's Fung Wah could only pick up and drop off passengers from Boston's South Station.
"People need to play on an even playing field," Robert Schwarz, Peter Pan's executive vice president of communications told China Daily. "What's the fairness if one operates on the street and one operates out of a terminal?" (In 2013, Schwartz left the company to become a lobbyist for the bus industry.)
"The big dog out there, Peter Pan, is dead set against [Fung Wah]," a top Massachusetts bus regulator told the Boston Globe at the time. "They don't want that kind of competition."
Eleven years later, Peter Pan's move against Fung Wah is paying big dividends. Fung Wah has long been one of the best-operated and safest bus operators on the road, and yet two years ago it was forced to halt its operations because of an incompetent safety inspection carried out by two Massachusetts state employees. That ensnared the company in federal regulatory maze of Kafka-esque proportions. Twenty-one months later, after the company had burned through $3 million buying a new fleet of buses, paying lawyer's fees, and keeping its doors open, Fung Wah finally got the OK to reopen.
Not so fast. As the Boston Globe first reported in May, the two state agencies that run Boston's South Station are refusing to give Fung Wah a spot in the facility to resume its operations. And this week, DNA Info reported that New York City Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-Dist. 1) was told by Fung Wah's Liang that he was throwing in the towel. If the company were permitted to operate from a street curb, like in practically every other city, this wouldn't be an issue.
For background on how Massachusetts inspectors botched the inspection of Fung Wah's fleet that led to the closure, read my Juy 2013 article, "Why the Government Was Wrong to Shutdown Fung Wah's Bus Company."
For the story of how federal regulators ensnared the company in a bureaucratic clusterfuck as it slowly bled to death, watch this Reason TV video from September 2014: