The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today it has shut down 26 of the so-called "Chinatown" bus companies in an unprecedented sweep.
Three of those bus companies operate here in New York City: Apex Bus NY, I-95 Coach, Inc., and New Century Travel.
Apex Bus NY is based in Chinatown. I-95 Coach, Inc. operates under the name Twins Jiang Corp. Based in East Meadow, the carrier had already been shut down by the feds due to safety concerns, but continued to operate illegally as I-95 Coach, Inc., officials said.
And New Century Travel, Inc. operated under the name Black Leopard Travel, Inc. Based in Brooklyn, the company was not licensed to run bus tours, but still ran anyway.
“If you put passengers’ safety at risk, we will shut you down,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The majority of the 233 bus routes served by those companies departed from or ended in New York's Chinatown neighborhood, according to the New York Post.
The feds said they shut down the cheap buses because they pose an "imminent hazard" to public safety. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began investigating the buses after a series of deadly bus crashes last spring.
In one accident, on March 12 of last year, 15 people were killed when a bus on its way back to Chinatown after a Connecticut casino trip toppled over on I-95 in the Bronx. That bus hit a sign pole with such force that it was cut in half. In addition to those killed, 32 people were injured, some severely. It was later alleged that the driver of the bus, Ophadell Williams, was speeding at the time of the accident and his drivers’ license had been suspended 18 times over 20 years.
Today's shutdown is the largest single safety crackdown in the history of the Department of Transportation. All the bus companies used 1-95 as their main artery, carrying more than 1,800 passengers a day up and down the East Coast, from New York to Florida.
The other various bus companies were based in Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
After a year-long safety investigation, federal investigators found all of the carriers continuously used drivers that did not have valid commercial driver's licenses. The companies also failed to have alcohol and drug testing programs in place, and drove vehicles that had not been regularly inspected and repaired.
“Let this be a warning to unscrupulous discount bus carriers: If you flout the rules, cut corners, or put profit ahead of passenger safety, you will be caught and you will be shut down,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who represents New York.