Government safety officials swooped down on more than two dozen curbside bus operations that mostly ferry passengers in the busy East Coast transportation corridor between New York and Florida, shuttering them for safety violations in the largest-ever single federal crackdown on the industry.
Teams of officials for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, armed with legal orders declaring the bus operations imminent hazards to public safety, fanned out to 26 companies based in six states: Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Officials withheld details about the operation until Thursday.
The crackdown is a blow to curbside buses -- companies that sell tickets online and pick up and drop off passengers on street corners, rather than at terminals. Curbside operators' cheap fares, made possible in part by low driver salaries and minimal overhead, have upended the economics of the long-distance bus industry over the past decade. They also have a fatal accident rate seven times higher than other types of interstate bus operators, federal accident investigators said in a report last year.
The shutdown orders were carried out at the headquarters and at bus pickup locations of 26 curbside companies. A majority of the 233 bus routes serviced by the companies either departed from or ended in New York City's Chinatown district, transporting an estimated 1,800 passengers a day mostly along the busy Interstate 95 corridor.
Besides the shuttered bus operations, 10 people -- company owners, managers and employees -- were ordered to stop all involvement in passenger transportation operations, including selling bus tickets, the Transportation Department said.
The shutdowns are the culmination of a yearlong investigation by the safety administration that focused on three primary companies: Apex Bus Inc. and I-95 Coach Inc., both of New York, and New Century Travel Inc. of Philadelphia. Each of the three companies oversees a broad network of other bus companies, officials said. The other bus operations targeted in the crackdown are companies affiliated with one of the three primary companies, but have different names. They include A One Bus Inc. of Rochester, N.Y.
The shuttered companies are "very, very bad actors," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters. "By ignoring safety rules, these operators put both passengers and other motorists at serious safety risk, and shutting them down could save lives."
On March 12, 2011, a bus returning to New York's Chinatown from an overnight trip to a casino in Connecticut hit a barrier in the Bronx, toppled on its side and slid into a sign pole with such force that the bus was sheared in half at the window line from front to back. Of the 32 people on the bus, 15 were killed, and the rest were injured, some severely. The driver has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.