Updated 05/31/2012 10:06 PM
Federal Officials Shut Down 26 Unsafe Discount Bus Companies
Federal officials have shut down 26 discount bus companies that carry more than 1,800 passengers between New York and Florida each day, after finding the companies pose an imminent threat to public safety. NY1's Tina Redwine filed the following report.
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In March of 2011, 15 passengers on route to Chinatown died in the Bronx after their bus traveling from a Connecticut casino crashed on I-95.
Two months later, four people died when their bus veered off I-95 in Virginia on route to Chinatown from North Carolina.
Those and other fatal accidents involving cut-rate buses sparked a federal investigation. Now, the government has shut down 26 bus operations, most of them operating between New York City and Florida along I-95.
"It serves as a warning to unscrupulous carriers," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. "If you float the rules, if you cut corners, put profit ahead of passenger safety, you are going to get caught and you are going to be shut down."
The investigation found all of the carriers had numerous safety violations, including using drivers without valid commercial licenses and buses that were not regularly repaired.
"People ought to be able to get on a bus that is safe with a driver that is well-trained and well-rested," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
Three primary companies operate the 26 lines. Two of the three, I-95 Coach and Apex, are in Chinatown. I-95 Coach told NY1 that they would speak with us in person but had no comment for our cameras.
The federal government said the company had been shut down but was operating under another name.
On Thursday, Apex Bus was shuttered, as was Black Leopard Travel in Brooklyn. Passengers left on the curb seemed more upset about their missed ride than their safety.
"I have to go to Virginia Beach today but there are no tickets," one rider said. "I don’t know what to do."
Legislation in Congress would fine companies $25,000 per day for buses that operate without a valid license. It would require safety ratings in each bus window and wherever tickets are sold. It would make it harder for companies to change names without correcting violations.