Turns out they don’t just seem more dangerous … they are more dangerous. If this year’s fatal bus crashes in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia weren’t proof enough, a new National Transportation Safety Board study finds that curbside bus lines (aka Chinatown buses) had 1.4 times fatal accidents for every 100 buses, compared to the .2 per 100 vehicles racked up by more traditional bus lines, which operate out of terminals.
In 2011 alone, 28 people have died in eight curbside bus line accidents. Three of those fatal bus accidents happened in just 11 weeks on the East Coast. Such bus lines have become the fastest-growing commercial transport mode — trips were up 24% last year — with FirstGroup’s Bolt Bus and Stagecoach Group’s Megabus leading the pack, followed by Chinatown lines like Sky Express. Fares can be as low as a dollar a ride.
Massive Growth, Minimal Oversight
Curbside bus lines now number 71 nationwide, says the NTSB report, compared to just 51 traditional bus carriers. The report also notes that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lacks adequate resources to oversee the industry; just 878 FMCSA and state inspectors are charged with regulating 765,000 motor carriers. Compounding the problem, some such bus operators use multiple names and move assets and vehicles around to evade enforcement and distribute safety violations, as seen in my recent post about a reincarnated carrier. On top of all that, customers often don’t know which lines they’re buying tickets on, thanks to unregulated online ticketing services.
Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) held a news conference earlier this week in New York’s Chinatown, where he said, “For too long, some bad apples have played fast and loose with passenger safety. We’re here to say enough is enough.”